New Process Aids Paper Recycling: Steam-Explosion Pulping Would Support Local Newsprint Minimills

By Rosenberg, Jim | Editor & Publisher, January 19, 1991 | Go to article overview

New Process Aids Paper Recycling: Steam-Explosion Pulping Would Support Local Newsprint Minimills


Rosenberg, Jim, Editor & Publisher


New process aids paper recycling

If paper recycling is good policy and good business, then cleaner, cheaper, faster, local processing should be better for both the environment and business.

A kind of pressure cooker that turns hardwoods, softwoods, mill waste and a variety of fibrous, otherwise often useless vegetable matter into pulp for paper and paperboard may sound like a good idea; more so if it is inexpensive, fast and non-polluting. An even better idea may be to apply such benefits to recycling, and do it locally, rather than wasting time, money and fuel hauling waste paper to distant paper mills.

That's just what Recoupe Recycling Technologies hopes to do, using steam-explosion technology brought to market by Toronto-based Stake Technology Ltd.

If and when "waterless" newsprint minimills now being researched are built in and around metropolitan areas, Recoupe may be able to provide them with a suitably scaled process to repulp old newspapers and other used paper products to supply usable fibers.

At a December press conference announcing the technology's latest application, Chesapeake Corp. president J. Carter Fox noted it has "great potential to strengthen the recycling movement" by changing "municipal dumps into recycling factories."

Introduced just a few years ago for hardwood pulping and successfully used in other applications, the steam explosion process will be put at the service of waste paper recycling by Recoupe, a joint venture of Stake and Chesapeake, a Richmond, Va.-based forest products company. Fox approached Stake with the recycling idea after learning that Stake intended to use its technology to pulp Canadian hardwoods (E&P, April 15, 1989).

The partnership hods exclusive worldwide rights to use the technology for converting waste paper into new paper products.

In addition to marketing the technology to North American newsprint, containerboard and tissue mills, Recoupe will also target municipal recycling facilities in densely populated areas, according to Stake chairman and president Jeremy Kendall, a Recoupe director, and Jim Nagy, Recoupe president and Chesapeake's senior director of science and technology.

"Because of its modular design," said Nagy, Recoupe equipment is suitable for use by "budget-strapped municipalities" to reduce their input to landfills "while at the same time producing a new source of income." He said the technology, "with its minimill capabilities, makes it possible for all communities to recycle."

It may also make participation in the recycled newsprint industry possible for newspaper companies not large enough to acquire the kinds of equity interests in major mills enjoyed by larger chains.

Steam explosion separates wood's lignin (which melts under high-pressure steam), hemicellulose and fiber components, which can be processed to obtain such products as fuels, sweeteners and cattle foods. Several firms already use the process for such purposes.

It can utilize other furnishes, such as straw, bagasse (the pressed remains of processed sugarcane) and many other types of what Stake refers to as "underutilized biomass."

More recently, a yearlong testing program at U.S. and Canadian universities demonstrated waste paper's viability as a candidate for steam explosion, according to Recoupe executives. Kendall said lab tests using furnishes from Chesapeake and its recycling subsidiary, Wisconsin Tissue, yielded "superior products" when compared with the companies' existing products. Paper from subsequent tonnage trials confirmed the lab results, he said.

As a generator of chemicals, fodder and high-yield pulp from various raw materials, the process offers benefits for poorer nations with limited financial and woodland resources and for developed nations with almost unlimited waste paper "resources."

Beyond using a wide array of fiber sources, however, the pulping process promises to run small, fast, cheap and clean:

* The equipment is compact. …

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