Plant-Based Water Treatment at USFCTG Improves Sustainability & Uptime

For U.S. Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers, Inc. (USFCTG) sustainability is a guiding practice for tobacco production from seed to delivery. So when traditional chemical water treatment had proven problematic in air washers at its plant in Timberlake, North Carolina, the company thought outside the box for solutions to address a variety of issues while also supporting its sustainability goals. 

The thinking led to a trial of ProMoss™, a unique-plant based material that has shown to be effective for water treatment in industrial process cooling systems. Conducted by Southeastern Laboratories, Inc. (SEL), the trial in an air washer demonstrated the natural product would serve as a better method for treating cooling water at the plant. As a result, USFCTG opted to use ProMoss instead of chemicals in all air washers at the plant, allowing it to save 41,500 gallons of water per year. Additionally, the alternative water treatment program improves air washer and plant uptime while reducing energy consumption. 

U.S. Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers, Inc.’s plant in Timberlake, North Carolina, opted to use moss to treat plant cooling systems, allowing it to save energy and improve plant uptime. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers, Inc.)


Taking Pride in Sustainability

USFCTG’s Timberlake operation processes tobacco and manufactures as much as eight billion cigarettes per year. The grower-owned cooperative and manufacturing subsidiary of U.S. Tobacco Cooperative Inc. ( is a Sustainable Tobacco Production program member that takes pride in balancing its range of tobacco production with soil and water conservation and appropriate use of agrochemicals. 

The plant in Timberlake spans 340,000 square feet, with an adjoining 150,000-square-foot warehouse. During the high season for production, which typically runs from late-August to late-January, 300 employees are involved in 24-hour production that runs three eight-hour shifts, and in lower periods running in two ten-hour shifts, four days a week employing 80-100 employees. The primary blending and cigarette operation runs year-round.

Flue-cured tobacco derives its name from a curing process introduced centuries ago in which tobacco sticks are hung from tier-poles in curing barns. The barns had flues that ran from externally fed fireboxes to heat-cure the tobacco without exposing it to smoke. Today, the curing process is carried out through fuel-generated heat to dry the product. While the plant primarily produces flue-cured tobacco, it also processes other forms of tobacco in its primary blending and cigarette department. 


Air Washer Performance Critical to Product Quality 

Key to production at the Timberlake operation are three air washer systems used to keep temperatures and humidity consistent throughout at the plant while removing particulates from the air. 

“Air washers are used in different types of manufacturing operations, but they are particularly useful for our plant where scrubbing the air of particulates and managing humidity and temperature is extremely important to maintaining product quality,” said Scotty Young, Facilities/Maintenance Manager, USFCTG.

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