Ground-breaking project turns paper waste into bio-plastic

A new approach to sustainable waste management could lead to paper waste being turned into bio-plastic, which would significantly lower the carbon footprint of the chemical industry.

Waste removal company Network Waste has been working with the Adapt Low Carbon Group at the University of East Anglia on a new project involving paper crumb – the waste from paper milling.

Currently, the waste is spread on the land but this is an energy intensive process which in the first instance requires removal of large amounts of water. Network Waste asked Adapt to investigate whether the paper waste can instead be turned into feedstock to be applied in the bio-based production of molecules which are the building blocks for bio-plastics.

“We are a business which is always trying to find practical solutions for our customers in waste management and we are always looking for something innovative,” said Network Waste’s national account manager Stuart Towler.

“We recognise that working with Adapt allows us to tap into cutting edge academic research. This is an option that very few businesses in the waste management world have and we believe that the paper crumb project could be something special.”

Added value

The company, based at King’s Lynn in Norfolk, is working in co-operation with an existing unnamed Network Waste customer which produces up to 7000 tonnes of damp paper crumb waste per year at its mill.

Adapt Group’s business innovation manager Dr Agnieszka Krzyzaniak said: “We are investigating if the paper waste can be used as a source of substrates to be applied in the bio-based production of chemicals, which in turn would contribute to lowering the carbon footprint of the chemical industry.

“Looking to use this bio-processed material in the chemical industry is a fine example of adding extra value to the paper waste. We believe that the sugars found in the paper waste can help to replace traditional processes based on fossil fuels.”

Luke Nicholls

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