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Milan Marković, General Manager, Smurfit Kappa Belgrade

Returning Treated Water to the Danube

Here Milan Marković, General Manager of Smurfit Kappa Belgrade, shares his insights about the company’s legacy and innovative strides in environmental protection

Founded in 1921 as the first paper mill in Serbia, Smurfit Kappa is now leading the way on the introduction of new technologies and solutions that boost production and safeguard the environment. Its cutting-edge water treatment system exemplifies the company’s continuous investment in sustainable production and products, with significant upcoming investments planned to reach the goal of producing 200,000 tonnes of recycled-based packaging paper.

Your company last year opened its first wastewater treatment plant. Was this a significant investment?

— Upon our establishment in Serbia, one of Smurfit Kappa’s primary missions was to create the conditions necessary for environmental protection.

As a socially responsible company, we are committed to ensuring that the natural resources we utilise are preserved for future generations in at least the same condition that we found them. Given the unique circumstances and the state of the Danube in Serbia, we currently return water to the river that’s cleaner than what we extract. The wastewater treatment plant constructed last year represents an investment of approximately five million euros. Despite the lack of immediate financial benefits, we internally aspire to achieve net-zero by 2050, which is the goal that drives our environmental initiatives.

Will Smurfit Kappa continue seeking even more innovative water treatment methods?

— This facility is one of the most modern and complex in Serbia at the industrial level. The water treatment project is the first of many planned projects that will have a direct positive impact on the environment.

We process 150,000 tonnes of waste paper annually, basing our production process entirely on recycling, which makes us one of the largest recyclers in this field in Serbia and the region

Upcoming investments include boiler plants, biogas and solar energy. We hope to soon utilise biogas, which is obtained as a by-product of the existing water purification process, and use it to reduce the amount of natural gas we consume in the coming period.

What plans did Smurfit Kappa have when launching its operations in Serbia?

— When Smurfit Kappa arrived in Serbia in 2019, it set three key goals for the paper mill. The first was to increase workplace safety and employee welfare, the second was to double production capacity, and the third was to accelerate the alignment of all technological processes with those of other European plants, with the aim of protecting the environment. The global goal of the Smurfit Kappa Group that we believe we will achieve locally is achieving net zero emissions by 2050. We currently process 150,000 tonnes of waste paper annually, basing our production process entirely on recycling, which makes us one of the largest recyclers in this field in Serbia and the region. We consider achieving this goal both realistic and attainable.

Through investments in technological processes, personal protective equipment, employee education and partner education, we are already well on our way to making safety a core value. We intend to continually create conditions under which our employees are satisfied and motivated to meet the challenges ahead.

When it comes to the second goal, we have improved efficiency significantly, increased our production volume by 20% and enhanced product quality to the satisfaction of over 100 customers in 17 European countries. Our paper from Belgrade is used in packaging to protect and promote some of the world’s largest brands. Upcoming investments planned for the next two years will bring us significantly closer to our ultimate goal of producing 200,000 tonnes of packaging paper.

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