In the Eure, the green conversion of the "rotten cabbage valley"


The VPK Packaging site in Alizay (Eure), in 2015.

In the 1970s, a famous satirical weekly baptized this little corner crossed by the Seine, between the loops of Val-de-Reuil and Elbeuf, the “valley of rotten cabbage”. Clear allusion, if not poetic, to the olfactory nuisances which plagued the lives of the inhabitants of the neighboring village of Alizay (Eure) and even beyond, and which came from the textile pulp factory, then paper, installed there since 1951.

In 2022, water flowed under the bridges of the Seine, and the site has changed a lot. The pestilential emanations disappeared, driven by the bad wind of deindustrialization, carrying with them, in 1980, the Alizay Industrial Cellulose Company, its factory, its high chimney and its jobs. Below the village of Alizay, recognizable by its magnificent Norman town hall covered with half-timbering, the industrial site is undergoing a transformation after decades of difficulties.

Like what happened on the site of a another emblematic paper mill, la Chapelle-Darblay, located about twenty kilometers away, several buyers have come over the years, tried to restart production and left. The latest, the Thai papermaker Double A, which produced reams to feed office printers. A snow-white paper, made from a material that is nothing short of sustainable: wood sourced from eucalyptus plantations in Brazil or Southeast Asia and transported to Europe. Teleworking and all-digital have got the better of the business model from Thai.

In accordion

Again in difficulty, the site was bought in 2021 by VPK Packaging, a Belgian family group, created in 1935 and become a European packaging giant, posting a turnover of 1.75 billion euros and counting some seventy factories in twenty countries. The company, which is committed to preserving the 180 jobs at risk, is coming up with a project that is very much in tune with the times: it will manufacture, in Alizay, "corrugated paper", the basic material used to make then the boxes essential to mass distribution or the giants of online commerce. The Normandy factory will be the bridgehead for the manufacture of innovative boxes: thanks to their concertina design, they make it possible, for example, to optimize the size and weight of parcels and to eliminate wedging products preventing the contents from being damaged. A market which, unlike office paper, is growing continuously and offers great prospects.

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