The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland recently announced that it has demonstrated new industrial applications for the sludge and fly ash generated by the paper and board industry, including as feedstock for plastic composites manufactured by injection molding or extrusion.
Up to half of oil-based polypropylene can be replaced with paper industry side streams. Plastec Finland Oy and
Wiitta Oy made a trial batch of floor tiles and storage containers, of which side-streams accounted for 30%.
(VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland)
In a press release from the research center, it was explained that laboratory tests proved that sludge and fly ash could replace as much as 50 percent of oil-based polypropylene rather than ending up in landfills or being incinerated.
“Side streams could be used to lower composite manufacturing costs, reduce the environmental impacts of production, and lower the total amount of waste,” the release stated. “This would also reduce the production of oil-based plastics.”
It added, “The amount of side streams has an effect on the product's properties: strength, stiffness, heat resistance, appearance and the texture of the surface.”
To demonstrate the effectiveness of these findings, the VTT Technical Research Centre partnered with Plastec Finland Oy and Wiitta Oy to produce floor tiles and storage containers that were composed of 30 percent side stream material. Pallets and crates are examples of further applications.
This research was part of the European Union’s Reffibre project, which seeks to find new production processes, product innovations, and recycling options to increase the sustainability of the paper and board industry.
According to the website, the industry needs to “focus on resource efficiency and creating innovative products and value out of the streams discarded from the main production line due to resource efficiency reasons.”
The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is one of 10 institutions across Europe working on the Reffibre project.