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Interview with Ahlstrom-Munskjo for SPUS 2021

In an effort to expand on the content that will be presented at Specialty Papers US 2021 we reached out to Zack Leimkuehler, Vice President, Technical Solutions Business Unit and Business R&D at Ahlstrom-Munskjo.

Zack discussed his upcoming presentation: From Plastic to Purpose – a movement beyond traditional sustainability. The world has moved forward with the sustainability initiative known as the “War on Plastic Pollution.”  The team at Ahlstrom-Munksjö is taking it a step further – by implementing our “from Plastic to Purpose” movement: going beyond traditional sustainability.


Q: What are some of the biggest challenges that the specialty papers industry is currently facing? What are some of the biggest opportunities?

A: The specialty papers industry is often facing challenges from the outside – from regulatory topics to conditions outside of our control such as the supply chain or the pulp market. Additional challenges are in how specialty assets are structured (costs associated with smaller assets). However, we like to look at challenges and opportunities. The specialty paper industry is fantastic at adding value to the product and building layers of value and performance into a product through our innovation.

Q: Why is sustainability so important to this industry and its future?

A: At Ahlstrom-Munksjo, we really look at sustainability from multiple facets. It starts with our sustainable forestry practices and maintain plant operations in rural communities throughout the state of Wisconsin and throughout the world. We contribute significantly to sustaining the health and viability of our regions where we operate.

Sustainably is imperative in terms of operating our plants in the most energy efficient way possible, reducing the overall impact we have on these communities.

But where we are seeing some of the greatest value is in our product development processes. We can eliminate material hazards, we can develop safer alternatives, and we can provide additional performance benefits above and beyond what is traditionally associated with paper. All while having a more positive end-of-life scenario by creating recyclable and compostable products with renewable materials.

Q: Your presentation at this year’s Specialty Papers US conference will discuss a movement beyond traditional sustainability with your movement of “from plastic to purpose”. What are some of the key take-aways?

A: We want participants to walk away with a call-to-action. We are not just challenging ourselves to develop renewable solutions that replace non-renewable products, we are challenging the industry as a whole to remain steadfast and committed to our goal of creating more renewable products now and into the future. Sustainably should be designed into the product with ‘purpose’ in mind.

Q: What are you most looking forward to hearing about at this year’s conference?

A: It will be great to bring our industry back together again to discuss challenges and forward-thinking activities. We have all experienced a very dynamic past couple of years, and I am hopeful we all have a renewed sense of purpose of what our industry can do to make the world a better place.