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GP’s Palatka mill producing recyclable mailers for Amazon

  • Palatka’s Kraft Paper Machine 1 crew members are part of the team making paper for Amazon’s new recyclable mailers. From left are William Parrish, Justin Boyd, Samad Green, Cedric Wright and Tim Wilkinson.
    Palatka’s Kraft Paper Machine 1 crew members are part of the team making paper for Amazon’s new recyclable mailers. From left are William Parrish, Justin Boyd, Samad Green, Cedric Wright and Tim Wilkinson.
  • An example of the Amazon paper padded mailer.
    An example of the Amazon paper padded mailer.
  • Positively Putnam FL
    Positively Putnam FL

Georgia-Pacific’s Palatka mill has continued to operate at full speed during the COVID-19 pandemic to meet the increased demand for paper products nationwide.

But an older part of the mill is also seeing a spike in business thanks to e-commerce and a key customer – Amazon.

Georgia-Pacific opened a new facility in Arizona in May to manufacture recyclable paper padded mailers. And the paper made for the mailers is produced at the Palatka mill before it is sent to the Arizona plant.

“With e-commerce taking off the way it has, it plays into the products we make,” said Dallas Ellison, operations manager at GP’s Palatka facility.

“The legacy area of the mill, the part that existed before the new tissue part was built in the mid-1980s, has had some downtime during the past five years because there weren’t enough orders to fill out machines. We don’t see any of that this year as we look at the market and the microeconomics with COVID-19.”

In addition to producing the paper used for the envelopes ultimately assembled at the Arizona site, the Kraft Paper Machine team also makes linerboard for Amazon e-commerce boxes.

“For the mailers, the Palatka plant is the exclusive supplier for two Amazon plants and hopefully more as Amazon builds more plants,” Ellison said. “The advantages are the envelope is fully recyclable, replacing bubble-type envelopes.

“We’re taking a product that is not recyclable and moving it into one that is totally recyclable, which from a sustainability standpoint, is really a big deal.”

The process involves the Palatka mill turning trees into paper and shipping large rolls of paper to the Arizona plant where it is assembled for Amazon.

“E-commerce is not going to stop anytime soon and our facility here is well-positioned to take advantage of that because of the grades of paper we make here and our machines,” Ellison said. “Every machine can’t make every product. Our product range we run fits nicely with e-commerce needs and that’s not necessarily the case with other paper mills.”

GP is Putnam County’s largest employer with about 1,000 employees. The Kraft paper area has 72 employees working on machines and another 25 in shipping, Ellison said. He said producing the recyclable padded mailers for e-commerce solidifies the Palatka facility as being a top-tier mill within GP.

“The other benefit is it gives the mill flexibility,” Ellison said. “We’re very leveraged in the tissue and paper towel business, but this other business is very important to us, too.

Ellison said the Palatka mill has been fortunate throughout the pandemic with steady production demands.

“Despite it being a really tough six months (because of the pandemic), business has done nothing but improve for us throughout this,” Ellison said. “That’s very fortunate for our employees and for our company.”

Amazon introduced the recyclable paper padded mailer in 2019. GP said more than 100 million of the new mailers have been shipped to customers, reducing waste. As a major supplier of corrugated boxes for Amazon, GP said it has previously worked with the company on innovative packaging solutions.

“This padded paper mailer is a significant advancement in developing a sustainable packaging alternative to reduce environmental impacts,” said Adam Ganz, vice president of commercial development at GP. “Shipping items to consumers in a mailer that can be tossed in the bin with the rest of the paper recyclables is a game-changer.

“We’re excited to bring this to our customers at a time when e-commerce continues to grow rapidly.”

Mark Brown, public affairs manager for GP’s Palatka mill, said the local team members take pride “in being able to produce a quality product and being flexible. We’re proud to be a part of this community.”