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Why Sappi put pen to paper for a transformation in Flanders

At Sappi, paper rolls off the production line 24/7. The South African company is a global player in the wood fiber industry for a reason. The company has spared no effort to enter new business segments with high growth potential—and Sappi’s local base in Lanaken (Flanders) plays a crucial part in realizing that ambition. Through an investment of EUR 140 million, the site has been transformed into a more sustainable, competitive production hub.

50th anniversary

In 2017, Sappi celebrated its 50th anniversary in Lanaken, Flanders. In 5 decades’ time, the South African paper and pulp producer became a locally anchored player in the region’s easternmost province of Limburg and now employs 450 people. Furthermore, Brussels—the capital of Belgium and Flanders—is home to Sappi’s HQ for the whole of Europe, where the South African firm operates 7 mills and 14 sales offices.

Global investment program

Fifty years after first buying a plot of land in Lanaken, Sappi decided to give the green light for its transformation project ‘Horse’ at the end of 2016. The project is part of the South African company’s global investment program, which funnels EUR 305 million into strengthening its worldwide production: EUR 140 million goes to Sappi’s operations in Europe, most of which will be channeled into the Lanaken site.

“The global investment program supports Sappi’s new international strategy,” explains Eric Raedts, mill director at Sappi in Lanaken. “The aim? To continue our growth path of making Sappi a profitable and diversified wood fiber group, while keeping our production costs as low as possible. Transforming our Flanders-based site in Lanaken is one of the keys to succeeding in that mission.”

Maximal output, minimal waste

The transformation greatly boosts the Lanaken production mill’s output. Not only does it involve the modernization of one of the production lines, a new paper-cutting machine is added as well. In addition to expanding the site, Sappi Lanaken also uses the investment to support its sustainability goals. By deploying novel technologies, the Flanders-based site is able to recuperate more than 90% of a tree for paper production, compared to only 44% using conventional techniques.

Furthermore, Sappi is planning on developing new sustainable products. Think of biologically degradable paper for the agricultural industry, as well as food packing paper that changes color when the expiration date has been reached or surpassed.

To aid our transformation, Flanders provided support in the form of a government grant for companies that invest in large strategic transformations.

Eric Raedts
Mill director at Sappi in Lanaken

Eric Raedts, mill director at Sappi in Lanaken

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Reported by
Flanders Investment & Trade
9 January 2019

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