In the paper industrial district of Lucca several paper mills produce paper using pulp as raw material thus representing a crucial link in the recycling chain of paper materials.
Despite waste separation is becoming increasingly efficient, paper waste still contains a part of non-reusable materials, which are discarded from the process as pulp waste.
Currently pulp waste is disposed of in landfills or burned off in incinerators with high economic and environmental costs that strongly affect the competitiveness of enterprises.
In this context, LUCENSE has initiated a research aimed, in the first phase, to the mapping and selection of the most interesting innovative technology for the pulp waste treatment, and then, to test the gasification of pulp waste at high temperature with plasma torch as a potential solution. The project has realized in collaboration with Serv-Eco, a consortium gained by local paper mills with organizations, associations and institutions interested in the topic. The technological support was provided by the company Hera Plasco, joining a Canadian group leader in plasma gasification technology. The piloting activity has allowed to validate the technology as a possible solution for the treatment of pulp waste, and brought to the establishment of project, including a business plan, for the development of a plant shared by the companies joining the Serv-Eco consortium.
In parallel to the feasibility study of the plasma torch technology for the treatment of pulp waste, LUCENSE, as manager of the INNOPAPER cluster, has followed in performing of technological research about cold treatment technologies of plastic waste, aiming to study their potential application to pulp waste and to evaluate the economic and technical feasibility. The approach of “material recovery”, avoiding the sole "energy recovery" approach applied with the plasma torch, could result in a more effective and flexible management of the pulp waste, thus making the overall process more reliable. In this context, cold technologies have been identified for the treatment and processing of pulp waste in order to transform it into secondary raw material, with the trademark "Plastic Second Life", to be used for the production of plastic products. Testing activities, involving companies potentially buyers of this secondary raw material are actually ongoing.
Moreover, R & D activities aimed to the identification of innovative technologies for the recycling paper mills waste, have brought LUCENSE, in collaboration with the INSTM Consortium to start the PulPlast project which aims to achieve the following general objectives:
- to analyze the mixed plastic contents present in pulp waste and materials developed during the REACH project following requirements of the European regulation (identification of new substances, safety data sheets, statements on raw material, etc.)
- to produce new materials and new products made by recycled plastic from pulp waste mixed with other recycled plastic, identify market sectors suitable for the introduction of new products;
- to gradually reduce the amount of pulp waste disposed in landfill and incineration process by paper mills, and in long term allow to avoid pulp waste treatment process thus skipping all direct and indirect environmental impacts resulting from this process.