Interview with Chlorine Free Products Association Executive Director Archie Beaton

Posted on by

Archie Beaton, Founder of the Chlorine Free Products AssociationA former paper mill employee, Archie Beaton raised eyebrows in his industry and subsequently lost his job when he focused on the human health aspect of the manufacturing process. With inspiration from his niece, a computer with one disk and one program, and a tiny budget, he started the Chlorine Free Products Association. Now, as Executive Director, he travels the world educating people about advancements in positive change for sustainability.

Archie found LCI Paper while reading through my interview with Herbert Eibach from Gmund, one of LCI paper’s valued suppliers. Archie was impressed when he read about Gmund’s ozone-based water purification plant. After I put Archie in touch with Herbert from Gmund, I asked Archie if he’d like to be interviewed about the Chlorine Free Products Association.

To save the audio to your computer, right click and “save as.”

Here is a transcript of the interview:

Would you tell me about the hazards of chlorine in a manufacturing process?

When you look at a process that’s using chlorine chemistry, and we’ll take the pulp and paper industry as an example, when you use chlorine chemistry-the chlorine compounds that are being produced-there are over 1,000 different chemical compounds that are produced and released from a pulp mill. Of those 1,000 different chemicals, 300 have been identified. 700 of them have not been identified because the chemical makeup in chlorine chemistry continually changes as it’s going through the process. But of the 300 they have identified, 30 are the most toxic compounds known to man. And when you look at an average pulp mill, around 250,000 – 300,000 tons a year, that pulp mill will use somewhere close to 60 million gallons of fresh water each and every day. And by the way, they don’t have a water bill. Most people don’t seem to understand that. Water is free to the paper companies.

Ah really?

Yeah. And it’s quite amazing. And that’s why when we talk to them about water conservation, they don’t necessarily care because there’s no water bills attached. But you take a look at these chemical compounds and you look at the amount that they’re using… The reason that they have to use so much water is because when you use chlorine chemistry, it’s extremely caustic. And that caustic part of it is what they have to release it quickly. But not only is it caustic but it’s extremely toxic. Some of the compounds that are known are what are called the “dirty dozen.” The world has set up this thing called the dirty dozen. It’s 12 compounds, 8 of which are chlorinated compounds that have been asked to be phased out and every country but the U.S. so far has signed on to that.

Ok. Now tell about the slogan, “Chlorine bleaches out life.”

Well, that slogan was actually created by a college student. Every year, the Chlorine Free Products Association held a program called “Designing for a Sustainable Future.” For 5 years, we had this program at the university level and a University of Michigan student came up with that slogan. And basically, what it is, is it’s showing us that as we continue to create these chlorinated compounds and release them into the environment, that’s actually being very degregating to the human health. What’s happening is that these polychlorinated biphenyls and other chemical compounds are so similar in chemical structure, that when a child or a fetus is being developed, what happens is that these receptors are out there. And these chlorinated compounds are so similar to estrogens or testosterones that they lock themselves into these receptors. And as they do that, when ends up happening is, is that either that receptor doesn’t turn on or doesn’t turn off. And so you have issues with the very beginning of life where the fetuses are starting their very beginning development and it’s causing all kinds of human health aspects such as ADD, ADDH which are learning disabilities. Its immune systems are being devastated. There are all kinds of things that are going on right from inception.

Ok. How does chlorine free relate to sustainable manufacturing practices?

Well, when you look at just the raw resources that are necessary to produce one single sheet of copy paper. A paper mill that’s using chlorine chemistry has to use large amounts of water because the release of these chemical compounds are so toxic, or caustic I should say. They’re toxic but they’re also very caustic which means that they try to control that water and try to reuse it in the plant. They will actually eat the metal structure of the mill. To give you an example the amount of water, if you’re actually using chlorine chemistry, it takes more than 13 ½ ounces of water to make a single sheet of copy paper. Now if you’re using a chlorine-free technology, oxygen or ozone-based chemicals, what ends up happening is that this is water that you can recycle through the plant 30, 40 times if you continue to use that water in every one of those processes ’cause it’s not as caustic. It’s clean and it’s something that you can recycle through the process, reuse again and again, and a copy paper made totally chlorine-free will be less than 2 ounces of water for that same sheet of paper.

Ok. And you found LCI through our blog and reading about one of our paper suppliers, Gmund in Germany. And you were impressed with their technique that doesn’t use the level of chemicals that are in use at other mills, correct?

That is very true and in fact, I’m really looking forward to visiting with that company within the next couple of weeks and going through that process because it is quite unique that they’re actually using oxygen-based compounds and creating their own energy and their own water purification process which most paper companies don’t.

You are planning to visit Gmund on your European trip then.

I am.

Awesome!

I’m hoping to spend at least a day with that company and I understand that they make some of the most unique paper grades available in the world. I’m really excited because we work with a lot of designers and it would be awesome for me to be able to come back and talk about the mill, talk about the process, and even bring some paper samples home.

Yeah, excellent. So that’s coming up but you’re coming back from the Montpelier State House in Vermont where you attended an awards ceremony for the “Designing for a Sustainable Future” contest. Tell me about that.

Well, every year we challenge… In the state of Vermont, we’ve done this for 10 years now, we challenge the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students to design artwork based on what they see is a sustainable future. And every year the children have chosen to work on processes that are focusing on chlorine chemistry. And we’ve asked the students to put together something that shows a positive approach to a negative issue. So we felt that if a 10-15 year old can develop artwork that another 10-15 year old can understand, that maybe us older individuals might be able to understand it too. And so the students have done a great job. The Governor joins us every year, a few 100 students that join us, and it’s just a great time. People like Ben & Jerry’s provides free ice cream, the kids get a tour of the state capitol building and they get to have their artwork turned into posters which we keep and we also make into envelopes that we make available for free, and then we also give the children some money and some other prizes that we’re able to collect from sponsors.

Ok. And you also just returned from a trip to Nigeria, is that right?

That’s correct. The Chlorine Free Products Association is getting so many requests from around the world today that we’re looking at the possibility of working and taking a country like Nigeria as a focal point, who are way behind the sustainability screens, and bringing them up to speed quickly. By working with academia and the government of Nigeria, we’re hoping we can actually put an office into either Abuja or Lagos and really reach all of the African continent.

Archie, you’re traveling so much, tell me about your role within the Chlorine Free Products Association.

Well, as the Execute Director, really, I’m the individual that is the speaker on behalf of the kinds of education that we can provide. So my job, really, is to go out and to help educate. And so it is very hard to make a lot of these trips. It’s very time consuming. But I’ve got a great staff that does everything that’s necessary to get me in front of the right audiences and to really help educate everybody that’s open to advancements in positive change for sustainability.

And later this month, well, you’re traveling to four different European countries. We mentioned you’ll be stopping at Gmund in Germany. Can you tell me some of the other opportunities you’ll have on that trip?

Well, the other companies that we’re working with are companies you’d be familiar with. We’re going to be visiting with a company that makes coffee filters and in Germany there’s only one major coffee filter company, Melitta. We’re also visiting with a company that makes what they call grease-proof papers for baking and baking cups. Also for sheets that are used in the bakeries. So if you’re doing those kinds of things, we’ll be visiting with those types of companies. We’ll also be visiting with the Forest Stewardship Council and trying to work with them to do a process that will have a great chain of custody for great forestry issues and also a manufacturing component that will actually take everything from the forest into the process and to the consumer.

How long has the CFPA been active and what are some of the organization’s accomplishments?

Well, it’s kind of interesting you ask that. We got started back in 1994. I was giving a talk before the International Symposium in Pollution Prevention. And it was in 1993 in Washington, DC; somewhere close to 5,000 attendees from all around the world. And my job there was to talk on behalf of a paper mill that I was working for—a small paper mill in upstate New York that was actually totally chlorine free. My position on this was to talk about the technology and the way technology had operated but my approach was a little bit different which was kind of upsetting for a few people in the audience. My approach was to talk about how one industry was affecting our lives. And as I was giving my talk, a gentleman from one of the major pulp and paper mills came down and requested that my microphone be taken.

Really?

Then another man came down from another major company and another to the point that when… I had three gentlemen, three of the largest paper companies in the world standing in front of the podium asking me to please talk about what I was there for and not about the human health aspects. And after that meeting, I was approached by a gentleman that said, “We were really impressed with the information you provided. We would like to talk to you about how you might be able to help us.” And it was a Swedish company. And they offered the opportunity to work with us. So then I wrote an article and that was in Pulp & Paper magazine and all of a sudden we received more requests from Sweden from companies that are working on the cutting edge of advancements in pulp and paper production. And these are mills that are investing heavily in producing the cleanest, most sustainable pulp in the world. And after that meeting, they invited me to their plant, introduced me to the technologies that they were using, allowed me to speak with other clients of theirs to explain why there was a tremendous difference, and help in some market development activities along with developing of the processes themselves.

You were still working for the paper company at the time?

No, interesting enough, after I gave that presentation in Washington, DC, I went back to my boss and explained to him what it is I would like to do and he agreed as that I would no longer work for the company and that I would be on my own and so that with 3,000 dollars is how the CFPA got started back in 1994.

Gotcha. Tell me about your job satisfaction now, working for a noble environmental cause. Does that satisfaction carry over into the time when you’re not working? Does it kind of affect your personal life as well?

It was because of my personal life that actually I took this cause on. I had a niece who was 30 years old at the time and I was still working for the paper mill and I was giving a presentation in New Orleans. And prior to my going down there, my niece, Lisa, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. And so she wrote a little note for me. And in that note it basically said things like, “You may not have stopped or protected me from these chemical compounds, but I want you to protect my nieces” and “What can you do to do that?” And so she wrote a really heart-touching article for me to use. And so as I go down to give this presentation in New Orleans and hear the mothers down there saying the same thing, “We need to protect our children. You may not have protected me and I may be stricken by this, but you need to do this for our children.” And it was really heart-wrenching to hear that. And so as a man, understanding that we love women; we love our children; we need to do what we can to protect them. And with the information that I had, I needed to speak out on that. And I have to say, very sadly, that Lisa never made 33. She left 2 beautiful daughters and that story has been repeated again and again. And the passion that I have for this is such that every now and again I’ll get a little note from somebody from somewhere who I don’t know who I’ve never met and it will be, “Thanks for being.” And that’s enough to make me work harder every day.

I hear you. Wow. Would it be safe to say that you’re also the founder as well as Executive Director?

That’s correct! And it’s kind of interesting the way the founding went, you know 3,000 dollars doesn’t get you very far.

Right.

So one of the companies that I competed against, which ended up becoming one of our first sponsors, I went to them first and I sat down with them for lunch and I flew up on some frequent flier miles that I had. I sat down with them and explained to them after 4 hours of presentation that we needed around 250,000 dollars to get started. And after that luncheon, as they paid for my airfare and bought my lunch, they sent me home and said, “No, we can’t do that.” That was way more money than they spent in their entire budget. But they still supported us in other ways. So I went back to my home and at this time I had a little bit of savings. I had a little closet next to the furnace and I had a little computer. And back then, the computer was 1 disk, 1 program. So I sat by the furnace and I had 2 small children. And the children, now and again, as I would be making phone calls, would be banging on the door asking to get in because they were tired of beating each other up, they wanted to come play with me. And so here I would have a CEO from a major corporation calling me up. I’m next to the furnace, the dog is wining next to me, my children are beating on the door, and the CFPA was being born.

At ChlorineFreeProducts.org, there’s an opportunity to sign up for the CFPA mailing list. What types of mailings would someone expect to receive if they submitted their e-mail address?

The majority of what we provide are market development-type activities, trying to help to penetrate the market today so that people understand that there’s a lot of greenwashing going on. There are companies that are making some unbelievable claims when, in fact, they are not doing much themselves to make a change in their process. So one of the things you would receive from us is factual information—positive information on what you can do to make a difference either in the baking cups that you buy when you go to the grocery store to the cereal boxes that you’re buying that should be sustainable to the paper towels that you use or the bath tissue that you buy so that you understand that you are making a positive impact on the environment and on the future.

Ok, so you don’t have to be an industry insider to kind of follow what your organization’s doing. You can be a person who’s interested in health and the environment and you’ll receive useful info.

Exactly. And if you are in the industry and you’re looking for some industry help, we’ve got some key individuals that are working for us. We have 2 tappy fellows that are working with us. One of them is Doctor Norman Liebergott—50 years plus in the pulp and paper industry, more than 60 plus patents, knows the pulp and paper industry bleaching process in and out. We have Doctor Allan Springer, a retired professor from the University of Miami Ohio, also a gentleman that put together our sustainability screen for the pulp and paper industry. Two outstanding minds in pulp and paper; are willing to work with our companies on either productivity gains or product quality gains. And any audit that we do, that’s part of what we offer to the paper companies. You know, “How can I reduce the amount of energy?” “My greenhouse gases?” “How much water am I using?” “What am I doing as far as how well I am doing socially?”

Are there other things that we can do on a sustainable way that we can help with? And that’s one of the key attributes that we provide to the industry itself.

Thanks to Archie Beaton of the Chlorine Free Products Association and to his staff for making this interview possible. It was a very busy time for the organization, as Archie had just returned to the office from a trip to Nigeria, and was about to head out to Germany, Spain, Denmark, and the UK. If you’d like to learn more about the environmental efforts of the CPFA, visit their web site at ChlorineFreeProducts.org. And if you enjoy hearing from industry insiders like Archie Beaton, subscribe to LCI’s free podcast. You can also search for LCI Paper in the iTunes store.

Recommended Links:
Gmund
Forest Stewardship Council

This entry was posted in Creative Ideas. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.