NOTIFICATION: The Technology Channels will soon be discontinued.
Click here to download complimentary copies of Fastmarkets RISI’s pulp and paper newsletters.


Can the pulp and paper industry teach governments about waste?

Read so far

Can the pulp and paper industry teach governments about waste?

April 10, 2011 - 22:15
Posted in:

LONDON, April 11, 2011 (RISI) -Last year we had a change in the government in the UK where I live. Our new Prime Minister, David Cameron, has decided that the whole population - rich, poor and in between - has to pay penance for the last government's excesses, and that we all have to shoulder the burden of reducing the deficit. Taxes on everything have gone up, government subsidies have been taken away on education and transportation and massive cuts are being made which will put thousands out onto the streets. One of the most expensive places to live in Europe has suddenly become a lot more expensive.

Why am I telling you all this you may ask? A rant against the British government on the RISI Community website? What good would that do? Actually no, far from it, not a rant at all, in fact this is a pat on the back for the modern pulp and paper industry. I find it amazing that far from being the so called leaders of the world, governments everywhere are actually way behind when it comes taking action on serious issues on their home ground - they always appear to let the grass grow under their feet and then have to take draconian, painful action to cut it all back again. They are generally slow and cumbersome, mind bogglingly bureaucratic, and about as streamlined and efficient as a brick when it comes to financial matters - and waste is just an everyday, accepted reality.

No such luxuries

Industry and business on the other hand does not have the luxury of letting the grass grow; if you don't streamline, if you are not efficient, if you are slow to act or too wasteful, you are dead in the water and yesterday's news. And no taxpayer is going to keep you in your job... well, not for long anyway.

There is no doubt that industry as a whole has a lot of answers for countries and governments as we go forward into the future. Combined, manufacturing enterprises do a lot of things that are essential: providing employment, and therefore taxes, generating profits and yet more taxes, and leading the way in technology for efficiency and issues surrounding the environment. And I have to say that after exactly 10 years reporting on the pulp and paper industry, I can truthfully declare, hand on heart, that this industry is one of those showcase leaders in providing answers to big problems. Mind you, it has had to be for its very survival!

But more than anything, the pulp and paper industry leads the world in the war on waste. Just take a look at its track record, it has even made a fantastic industry out of what was once ‘rubbish' or ‘garbage' in the shape of recycled paper, and has been doing so for years. In fact we have recently featured showcase examples of how two US companies,90 year old Burrows Paperand relative newcomerFutureMarkare making huge gains out of promoting themselves as eco centric, and utilizing waste in all its forms for both products and in the reduction of energy costs.

The work never stops

However, this is no time to sit back, pour a drink and watch the grass grow, there is much more war on waste to be waged - this time within the mills' perimeters themselves. Here, the industry already has a good track record in disposing of biomass in the shape of bark and stumps, but that is not the only waste generated at mills. There are the other, much more difficult-to-dispose of elements, the slurry, the metals and plastics from recovered paper and all the rejects that come with running large industrial production units. At the moment, most of the unusable waste at these mills goes to landfill, which is not only bad for the environment, it also costs a fortune to get rid of.

So, enter yet more new answers from this go ahead industry. I have recently returned from a fact finding mission to Austria, where Andritz, technology supplier to the industry is based. There, in Graz, I met with the new division heads of its "Waste to Energy" section. It is now possible for a mill to retro fit power generation units that will basically take any kind of waste you wish to throw at it. In turn, it will generate energy in any way you choose, by burning, gasifying and even pelletizing. And even better, there are almost certainly government grants to enable the investment, giving an ROI of 3-5 years.

Can we see a time where unrecyclable household rubbish, and industrial waste is fought over as a commodity for producing energy? I think so.......