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The EU-funded project analyses for the first time the full life cycle of paper and makes new tools available for manufacturers.
The trump card of circular economy could be paper. Recycled paper nowadays can be found in everybody’s desks and printers, to the point that it’s become difficult to tell apart the original raw material from the recycled type. The main goal is now to make recycling more efficient from an operational point of view, so as to create new and innovative products with an even higher value compared to the original product.
A new body has been created to assess the overall efficiency of the paper recycling process in all its phases: the project, called REFFIBRE, is funded by the European Union, which developed new tools to develop a global view of the whole paper chain.
The project collects information on the potential impact of new processes, on raw material usage and on product innovations: its goal is to help paper manufacturers develop more efficient processes that can bring benefits both to the economy and to the environment.
REFFIBRE began by identifying and then testing various production and process modelling tools. As raw material selection and stock preparation can influence pulp properties, prediction tools have been developed. This means that key parameters, such as the Mean Fibre Age (number of times a fibre has been used before entering a paper mill) and the Mean Number of Uses (number of times a fibre will be used after leaving the paper mill), can now be calculated.
REFFIBRE partners have also worked on tools to help paper makers take into full consideration issues such as the impact on energy use outside the paper mill, and what happens if reduced quality recycling material is fed into the process. These tools were then tested under real processing conditions, and the results of each case study combined into a practical guide targeted at industry decision makers. In addition, it is expected that the results will be used to further develop industry standards.
Achieving recycling efficiencies is one way that the pulp and paper industry can mitigate raw material price increases, and at the same time reduce its environmental impact. There is a significant business opportunity here; Europe paper fibre is recycled as many as 3.5 times a year; world-wide the average is 2.4 times. The recycling rate in Europe reached 71.7 % in 2012.
For further information, visit the website of the REFFIBRE project
Source: European Commission