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Paper Mill celebrates proud past and bright future

29 June 2012 – Birmingham’s last remaining paper mill, Smurfit Kappa SSK in Nechells, celebrated its proud past and looked forward to a bright “green” future this week with a series of community open days organised in partnership with the POD.

Over 300 visitors including school children, parents, toddler and members of local community groups took part in a range of activities designed to raise awareness the benefits of recycling and foster a sense of pride in the local environment. They also learned more about a landmark tree planting project – Growing Up in Nechells: Proud Past, Bright Future - which will see around 200 saplings given to local primary school* children to plant in schools and parks around Nechells this autumn.

Local horticulturalist and lecturer Ken Whittaker said: “There aren’t enough trees in Nechells so this project is about growing something for a future generation. That is what is important.”

Noran Flynn, director of the POD (the community base for Nechells Education Action Zone) said: “Children felt this was a very special project that would allow them to improve their environment and encourage others to look after community spaces.”

Brian Edwards, who plays an active role in regenerating the Nechells area through projects such as Nechells in Bloom said: “This is a wonderful story because it has no ending.”

This year marks the 150th year anniversary of Smurfit Kappa SSK and all visitors to the open days were invited to help plant a commemorative raised bed in a scheme which now forms the initials of the paper mill’s Victorian founders, Smith, Stone and Knight.

Noran Flynn summed up: “The schools and community have had a wonderful experience at Smurfit Kappa this week. They have learnt so much about the recycling that goes on right on their doorstep at the Smurfit Kappa SSK paper mill. Many people worked hard to organise these open days but it was well worth it as the message of recycling is now being passed around Nechells and will make a difference.”

Paul Freeman, Operations Director at Smurfit Kappa SSK said: “We wanted to engage with our community to help spread the message about the importance of recycling and to let them know what goes on behind our factory gates on their own doorstep.  In addition to this we also encouraged them to get involved in our future joint project to improve our neighbourhood by planting trees for the future.  We have a proud past, we believe there is a bright future and we want to grow up in Nechells together.”

At the heart of Nechells for over a century and a half, Smurfit Kappa SSK plays a vital role in providing local employment as well as reducing the City’s carbon footprint. Almost 40,000 tonnes of paper and cardboard (collected from the City via Birmingham City Council’s blue box scheme and Smurfit Kappa Recycling bring banks) is recycled at the paper mill every year. It employs 110 people and produces 500-700 tonnes of packaging paper every day which is then converted into cardboard boxes by Smurfit Kappa’s customers. As well as the paper machine itself, the Nechell’s site contains two Combined Heat and Power plants (CHPs) which generate nearly all of the mill’s electrical demand. A water treatment plant cleans the mill’s process water and produces methane gas to supplement the mill’s natural gas demand. The mill has become a net exporter of electricity to the national grid as a result of the installation of a gas engine which will generate power from the water treatment plant’s bio-gas. 

This week’s open day events build on the work already being done by Smurfit Kappa SSK to support educational and environmental projects in its local community. In recent years it has assisted with a regeneration project in the New Hope Community Park to brighten up a new paper and cardboard recycling bank with a unique montage and create a small garden with fencing and decking.


* St Vincent’s RC, Cromwell, St Matthews, St Josephs, Nechells and St Clements Primary Schools

Smurfit Kappa SSK and POD Community Open Day Planting June 2012.jpg

Photo: The above image shows Year 4 children from St Vincent’s RC Primary School helping Paul Freeman, Operations Director at Smurfit Kappa SSK to plant up a flower bed which commemorates the 150 year anniversary of the paper mill.

Press Information: Background to the history of Smurfit Kappa SSK and paper recycling in Birmingham and photos from the 150 year archive are available on request from Iona Communications below.

Press Contact:

Anna Dunbar or Doug Bentall at Iona Communications Ltd, Tel: 01892 512481  or 

Paper Mill celebrates proud past and bright future