We sit down for lunch in Manchester’s Northern Quarter with Jane Crowther of GF Smith. If you work in creative industries you’ll know the quality of GF Smith papers. If you work in Manchester and the surrounding areas you’ll definitely know Jane Crowther, the paper queen of the North. She’s been with the company for over nineteen years and has been with us from the start, from that initial germ of an idea to this, the second book in the series.
We explained we wanted an FSC paper for the book, to understand its provenance and see the production behind it. She suggested Munken paper by Arctic Paper in Sweden.
A few weeks later Jane had secured a trip for us to meet the people behind the paper and close the final loop on the project. Arctic Paper Munkedals, is one of the cleanest fine paper mills in the world and the majority of employees live in the nearby area around the mill. They also produce a paper that is ideal for photo books, making them a perfect fit. A train, plane and a coach trip later we arrive at Munkedal, on the west coast of Sweden just south of the border with Norway. We are met by Jonas Dahlqvist, Group Environmental Coordinator at Arctic Paper Munkedals who is ready to give us the full tour. He tells us, “The company was founded in 1871 and we are the second largest producer of bulky book paper in Europe, producing around 660,0000 tons of graphic fine paper a year.”
One of our big wants from a paper company was the FSC certification (Forest Stewardship Council) who aim to ensure forests are managed in a sustainable way. Arctic Paper actively promotes FSC and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes) certifications of paper products, and together with its pulp suppliers, strive to increase the availability of pulp from certified well managed forests. The mill is situated very close to the Gullmars Fjord, a protected area, approximately thirty kilometres long and between one and two kilometres wide. The River Örekil from where the mill borrows the water to produce the paper flows straight into it. So any water that leaves the mill back into the river has to be as clean as when it came in. Jonas says, “At the end of the tour you can drink the water that comes out of the mill, it is that clean.”
“We work in shift patterns twenty-four hours a day producing the finest quality white and cream shade paper.”
The mill itself is made up of a number of huge buildings, each handling a different stage of the process. We walk with Jonas and he takes us from pulp to paper. He says, “We work in shift patterns twenty-four hours a day producing the finest quality white and cream shade paper.” The mill is warm and is a hive of activity, machines are churning out top quality paper, robots are mechanising certain processes and people are over seeing, whizzing around on fork lifts and keeping the ‘always on’ mill running smoothly. We exit the building and leave behind the noise, heat and frantic activity and enter into what feels like a secret tranquil garden. This is the biological treatment centre that purifies the water from the paper manufacture. There is a series of ponds surrounded by a wealth of vegetation and differing plant varieties. Koi carp swim in the waters and birds and butterflies rest in the trees. It feels a world away from the industrial processes of paper making.
Jonas says, “The water leaves the mill at twentyseven degrees. The river is around eight degrees so we have to clean the water and get it back to the original temperature before it goes back.” This is done through a number of biological purification processes; the water passes through a number of ponds that are on staggered levels and works its way down to the exhibition hall we are standing in. As we look out through the floor-to-ceiling windows, Jonas points out various tropical plants that grow here. This is because the warm water coming out of the mill creates a micro climate. He turns to us and says, “I mentioned before that once we have cleaned the water, it is safe enough to drink.” He pours us a glass from the tap at the end of the purification process. We say ‘cheers’ and then drink the now clean water that has been used to produce the paper for this very book