Canadian Consulting Engineer

Blue Box Syndrome

The use of blue box and other recovered paper waste to feed pulp mills is one of the most important environmental thrusts taking place in the pulp and paper industry. This in spite of the fact that ma...

June 1, 2000   Canadian Consulting Engineer

The use of blue box and other recovered paper waste to feed pulp mills is one of the most important environmental thrusts taking place in the pulp and paper industry. This in spite of the fact that many producers were opposed to the idea when municipal paper recycling programs first got off the ground in the late 80s.

Gilles Dorris of Paprican in Pointe-Claire confesses that 10 years ago he was as sceptical as anybody about the merits of using waste paper, and that he even helped to spread the “myth” that it would do more environmental harm than good because the rejects could be toxic. The idea that de-inking produces a very harmful toxic sludge, Dorris believes, grew out of the 1970s when inks contained heavy metals. That is not the case today.

In fact, the industry has found that there are many economic and environmental advantages over standard production. Recovering the fibre from waste paper, Dorris says, takes only 20 per cent of the energy it takes to pulp virgin wood chips and most of the separation can be done mechanically.

De-inking is really a very simple process, says Dorris. It involves mostly alkalis, hydrogen peroxide and soap. The rejected ink and adhesive glues (from sticky labels) from the recovered paper make up a very small amount (2% by weight) of the total waste of a pulp mill operations. The remaining waste consists of benign rejects such as clay and fibre, plus plastic and metal contamination. This reject material is disposed of in the plant’s effluent treatment plant, incinerated, landfilled or even used as land spread.

“You get permission from the government for land spreading this material,” says Dorris, “because it is usually more benign than municipal sewage sludge.”

Most of the industry’s current expansion activity is in mills for recycled papers. Eighty per cent of these mills are converted facilities, and the vast majority are in eastern Canada close to blue box supplies from urban centres and where they can serve the large U.S. market demand for recycled content paper.

71% of the fibre used to make pulp and paper comes from sawmill residues and recovered paper.

In 1999, 42% of the paper consumed in Canada was recovered to make new paper and paperboard products. This supplied 55% of the recovered paper source. The rest (two million tonnes) was imported from the U.S.

A decade ago there was only one newsprint mill in Canada that could use recycled content newsprint. Today there are over 25 such mills.

Since 1990 the industry has invested $2 billion to build de-inking facilities and improve the screening processes in mills for recovering paper.

— Source: Canadian Pulp and Paper Association website


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