‘The opportunities are excellent across the board,’ said Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, impressed by the presentation at Koehler Paper Group. The parliamentary state secretary for the federal ministry of environment was in Oberkirch at the invitation of the company to get an idea of the family business’s activities.
In a short presentation, Kai Furler, CEO of Koehler, and representing the company's eighth generation, explained the company’s strategy, which has focused consistently on sustainability for several years. He not only focused on the paper side of the business, but also on innovation, renewable energy and the new business areas that Koehler is tapping into.
The area of paper for flexible packaging is of particularly great importance and is a driver for the company’s large scale investment at the Kehl site. Koehler is embarking on the production of this type of paper and is developing barrier paper, which, thanks to the application of substances, can replace the function of plastics in packaging. ‘The advantage of this paper is that they can be recycled as waste paper,’ said Kai.
Paper plays an important role in closing material cycles. Paper has always been a material that is superbly suited to recycling. There are effective and well functioning paper recycling systems in this country. In Germany, around 75% of total paper consumption is recycled. Paper can be successfully recycled multiple times. Paper that is based on recycled waste paper fibre have an additional environmental benefit and is used to good purpose where 100% virgin fibre content is not required (ie applications not having direct contact with foodstuffs). Furthermore, paper production uses an unlimited source of renewable raw material that does not compete with the acreage used in food production.
Koehler also has many exciting approaches in the area of renewable energy. Not only was the company recently able to lay the foundations for another biomass combined heat and power plant, but the two fossil fuelled power plants at the Oberkirch and Greiz sites are also taking promising steps towards turning their backs on coal power, thereby supporting the achievement of national
The energy sector is particularly dear to the parliamentary state secretary’s heart, as she herself entered politics through the anti nuclear power movement. The Social Democrat’s constituency is in Waldshut-Hochschwarzwald and she has been a member of the German Bundestag since 2005. She is also the first woman to head the Board of Trustees of the German Environmental Foundation (DBU).
The Koehler Paper Group is not only one of the world’s leading manufacturers of special paper; with its new PM8 paper machine, it is also active in the area of paper for flexible packaging. The goal is to replace non recyclable plastic with paper and recyclable or compostable composite materials.
At its four locations, Koehler’s 1800 employees produce more than 500,000 tonnes of various special paper, while at the same time operating a range of power plants so that, in the medium term, the energy for paper manufacturing can be derived 100% from renewable sources.
The company has a large research and development department, whose achievements include the development of the first thermal paper approved for contact with food. One of its current challenges is to develop functional surfaces whose barrier properties will enable them to replace plastic in packaging.