Chip yard at the Mercer Rosenthal pulp mill, Rosenthal am Rennsteig, Germany

Being a Good Neighbour Means Taking Care of Our Neighbourhood

Beate Schnitzer | Environmental Manager

Far away from metropolises in a dreamy landscape of greenery, rolling hills, and a lazy river, lies Rosenthal am Rennsteig. People who appreciate a high recreational value in their free time live in this idyllic location where there is something for everyone.

But this harmony is sometimes interrupted by unpleasant smells, industrial noise, or wood dust that settles on the garden furniture in unfavourable weather conditions. This is because the Mercer Rosenthal pulp mill is located in the direct vicinity. From time to time, our neighbours will notify us of their concerns. For us, being a good neighbour is important. 

We needed to find a sustainable solution.

In an interdisciplinary project team focusing on the topic of “dust, noise, odour,” we first looked at our mill from the perspective of the neighbourhood. What do neighbours most often feel disturbed by? Are there locations from which we receive a remarkably high number of concerns? 

At this point, we became aware of a discrepancy in the database data entry process. There were several different ways in which concerns were brought to us, and depending on which employee received the concern, we reacted differently. Since then, we have systematized our procedures for managing concerns into one process. Regardless of whether a neighbour calls or seeks contact with us through our website, the information ends up with the appropriate office. Once received, our team then contacts the individual directly.

To obtain more reliable information despite the gap in our historical database, an employee survey was initiated. The goal of the survey was to determine in which vicinity of our neighbourhood our pulp production was noticeable in terms of dust, noise, and/or odour. In this way, we were able to narrow down our impact radius. In addition, we asked some of our employees to record during a 4-week duration how they felt about the environmental impact in the immediate vicinity where the greatest impact was noticed.

With this data, we were able to identify patterns or trends in weather and operating conditions that produced a higher likelihood to cause disturbances to the neighbourhood. With knowledge of the main contributors to increasing disturbances, we have a better chance of tackling the problem at its root. Technical and organizational measures are currently being implemented to become quieter, less dusty, and less odorous. 

Decreasing Dust

At Mercer Rosenthal, we are currently modifying the wetting system for the wood chips. Wood chips are delivered as a byproduct from sawmills, transported via long conveyor belts to a height of around 35 meters, where they spread by a flinger onto large chip piles. The dust that is created in the process can be bound to the wood chips by optimal wetting. 

Minimizing Noise

One source of noise our neighbours experience results from the transport of wood trunks to a building where the wood is debarked and crushed to be used in our pulping process. The debarking and crushing processes are very noisy, which is why the building opening is now to be reduced to a minimum to help contain the noise. A sound specialist is working with our construction department to develop the optimum compromise between noise protection and process requirements. 

Addressing Odours

We understand the importance of ensuring our neighbours can enjoy their activities without any negative impact, which is why we are working to ensure our mill odours decrease. To do this, we have focused on the optimization of the system we use to collect odorous gases so that they can then be thermally neutralized – i.e. incinerated. For the extraction of these “odours,” a permanent negative pressure is necessary. Our specialists check whether this is optimally present at all points of the system thereby helping to ensure negative odours are contained.

For us, being a good neighbour means listening and responding to all concerns carefully. After implementing these and other measures, we continue to follow up and check whether our solutions have achieved the desired effect to minimize disturbances. In this way, we hope to achieve a continuous improvement process for our mill neighbours. 

We also know that we will never smell as good as a chocolate factory. Nevertheless, we appreciate that our neighbours continue to provide valuable advice to us on how to improve our processes and continue to be their good neighbours. 

At Mercer, we are Sustainable. By Design.