Environmental impact analysis of pulp and paper production

Term Paper 2012 54 Pages

Environmental Sciences





1 Introduction
1.2 Statement of the Problem
1.3 Aim
1.4 Objectives


3 Pulp and Paper Manufacturing Processes
3.2 Pulp
3.2.1 Chemical pulping
3.2.2 Mechanical pulping
3.3 Bleaching
3.4 Paper Production

4.Environmental Impact Analysis
4.2 General Organic Pollution and Suspended Solids
4.3 Acidic Compounds
4.4 Environmental Impact of Chlorine Compounds
4.5 General Organochlorine Products
3.5.1 Chlorophenolics
4.5.2 Dioxins (PCDD) and Furans (P CDF)
4.5.3 Chloroform and Other Neutral Chlorinated Compounds
4.6 Other Environmental Issues Relating to Effluent Discharge
4.7 Impact on Forest
4.8 Impact on Biodiversity
4.9 Impact on the Atmosphere
4.10 Impact onPoly Culture
4.11 Impact on water

5.1 Alternative processes of pulp and paper production
5.2 Recycled Fiber
5.3 Production
5.3.1 Mechanical pulping
5.4 Environmental impacts of the recycling process
5.4.1 Wastewater Emissions
5.4.2 Air Emissions
5.4.3 Solid Waste
5.4.4 Energy use
5.4.5 Water Use
5.4.6 Life Cycle Analyses
5.5 NonWood Fiber Sources
5.6 NonWood Fiber Types
5.7 Environmental Impacts of NonWood Fiber Pulp and Paper
5.7.1 Crop Production
5.8 The Manufacture Process

6.1 Summery
6.2 Recommendation
6.3 Conclusion



The complexity of the paper issue means that firm conclusions are hard to draw. All paper manufactures causes harm to the environment and more often than not the determining factors in a paper mills. Environmental performance is not the process, paper type or fiber source but the location, mill practice and mill operator. Hence to try to grade paper products or production techniques into some kind of hierarchy of environmental performance, based solely on the manufacture process, is extremely difficult. Yet, globally however, the environmental impact of paper is significant, which has led to changes in industry and behavior at both business and personal levels. With the use of modern technology such as the printing press and the highly mechanized harvesting of wood, paper has become a cheap commodity everywhere. This has led to a high level of consumption and waste. With the rise in environmental awareness on the pollution of the eco system by the effluent of pulp and paper it became imperative to run a clearer analysis of its environmental impact.


TABLE 1: Summary of Pulping Characteristics

TABLE 2: Paper Production by Product Category

TABLE 3: Air Emissions from the Pulp and Paper Industry

TABLE 4: Waste Paper Categories


PLATE 1: Pulp and Paper Cycle

PLATE 2: Paper Making Process

PLATE 3: Environmentally Product Logos


Globally, the environmental impact of paper is significant, which has led to changes in industry and behavior at both business and personal levels. With the use of modern technology such as the printing press and the highly mechanized harvesting of wood, paper has become a cheap commodity everywhere. This has led to a high level of consumption and waste. With the rise in environmental awareness on the pollution of the eco system by the effluent of pulp and paper it became imperative to run a clearer analysis of its environmental impact. The campaigns by environmental organizations has may have yielded a little effort with the increased government regulation in this regard, there is now a trend towards sustainability in the pulp and paper industry ( IIED1996). This environmental anomaly has necessitated the writing of this article, Environmental Impact Analysis of Pulp and Paper Production.


Historically pulp and paper production has ranked among the most resourceintensive and highly polluting of all manufacturing industries. Besides fiber, the primary inputs into the paper making process are water, energy and chemicals. In the United States, the paper industry is the largest user per tonne of product of industrial process water (U.S. EPA 2002) and the third largest industrial consumer of energy (U.S. DOE). Also, papermaking is a very chemically intensive process. The pulp and paper industry ranks fourth among industrial sectors in emissions of Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) chemicals to water, and third in such releases to air. Paper’s impact on the environment continues even after it has been thrown away. As at early 2008 in the United States, paper and paperboard accounted for the largest portion (34 percent) of the municipal waste stream, and 25 percent of discards after recovery of materials for recycling and composting. The problem with all this paper being thrown away is not just about landfill space. Once in a landfill, paper has the potential to decompose and produce methane, a greenhouse gas with 21 times the heattrapping power of carbon dioxide (UNEP). Finally, transportation throughout the system also has significant environmental impacts. Harvested trees or recovered paper are transported to pulp mills, rolls of paper are transported to converters, and finished paper products are transported to wholesale distributors and then on to their retail point of sale. Transportation at each of these stages consumes energy and results in greenhouse gas emissions ( Kerski 1995).


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1.3 AIM

The aim of this piece of work is to analyze the environmental impact of pulp and paper production, and gain understanding in the production processes. Sequel to this, the following objective will be employed to achieve this aim.


1 To identify the process of paper production
2 To identify the environmental impacts of pulp and paper production
3 To identify the possible alternatives and solutions that exist.
4 To identify the products and processes that is the most environmentally acceptable.


The work of Martin (2004) on environmental impact of pulp and paper will be capture in this piece of work. He opined that, worldwide consumption of paper has risen by 400% in the past 40 years, with 35% of harvested trees being used for paper manufacture. Logging of old growth forests accounts for less than 10% of wood pulp, but is one of the most controversial issues. Plantation forest, from where the majority of wood for pulping is obtained, is generally a monoculture and this raises concerns over the ecological effects of the practice. Deforestation is often seen as a problem in developing countries but also occurs in the developed world. Wood chipping to produce paper pulp is a contentious environmental issue in Australia. In the 1990s, the New Zealand government stopped the export of woodchips from native forests after campaigning by environmentalists. In his work, he stressed nitrogen dioxide (NO2) sulfur dioxide (SO2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) are all emitted during paper manufacturing. Nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide are major contributors of acid rain, whereas CO2 is a greenhouse gas responsible for climate change.

He asserted that waste water discharges for a pulp and paper mill contains solids, nutrients and dissolved organic matter, and unless at low levels these are classed as pollutants. Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus can cause or exacerbate eutrophication of fresh water bodies such as lakes and rivers. Organic matter dissolved in fresh water, measured by Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), changes ecological characteristics, and in worse case scenarios leads to death of all higher living organisms. Waste water may also be polluted with organochlorine compounds. Some of these are naturally occurring in the wood, but chlorine bleaching of the pulp produces far larger amounts. Paper waste accounts for up to 40% of total waste in the United States, which adds up to 71.6 million tons of waste per year in the United States alone. Paper waste like other wastes faces the additional hazard of toxic inks, dyes and polymers that could be potentially carcinogenic when incinerated, or comingled with groundwater via traditional burial methods such as modern landfills. Paper recycling mitigates this impact, but not the environmental and economic impact of the energy consumed by manufacturing, transporting and burying and or reprocessing paper products. Bleaching mechanical pulp is not a major cause for environmental concern since most of the organic material is retained in the pulp, and the chemicals used (hydrogen peroxide and sodium dithionite) produce benign byproducts (water and sodium sulfate (finally), respectively).

However he analyzed the bleaching of chemical pulps and concludes that it has the potential to cause significant environmental damage, primarily through the release of organic materials into waterways. Pulp mills are almost always located near large bodies of water because they require substantial quantities of water for their processes. An increased public awareness of environmental issues from the 1970s and 1980s, as evidenced by the formation of organizations like Greenpeace, influenced the pulping industry and governments to address the release of these materials into the environment.[6] Environmental NGO pressure was especially intense on Swedish and Finnish pulp and paper companies. Conventional bleaching using elemental chlorine produces and releases into the environment large amounts of chlorinated organic compounds, including chlorinated dioxins. Dioxins are recognized as a persistent environmental pollutant, regulated internationally by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Dioxins are highly toxic, and health effects on humans include reproductive, developmental, immune and hormonal problems. They are known to be carcinogenic. Over 90% of human exposure is through food, primarily meat, dairy, fish and shellfish, as dioxins accumulate in the food chain in the fatty tissue of animals. As a result, from the 1990 onwards the use of elemental chlorine in the delignification process was substantially reduced and replaced with ECF (Elemental Chlorine Free) and TCF (Totally Chlorine Free) bleaching processes. In 2005, elemental chlorine was used in 19–20% of kraft pulp production globally, down from over 90% in 1990. 75% of kraft pulp used ECF, with the remaining 5–6% using TCF. Most TCF pulp is produced in Sweden and Finland for sale in Germany, all markets with a high level of environmental awareness. In 1999, TCF pulp represented 25% of the European market. TCF bleaching, by removing chlorine from the process, reduces chlorinated organic compounds to background levels in pulp mill effluent. ECF bleaching can substantially reduce but not fully eliminate chlorinated organic compounds, including dioxins, from effluent. While modern ECF plants can achieve chlorinated organic compounds (AOX) emissions of less than 0.05 kg per tonne of pulp produced, most do not achieve this level of emissions. Within the EU, the average chlorinated organic compound emissions for ECF plants is 0.15 kg per tonne. However, there has been disagreement about the comparative environmental effects of ECF and TCF bleaching. On the one hand, paper and chemical industryfunded studies have generally found that there is no environmental difference between ECF and TCF effluents. On the other hand, independent peerreviewed study has found that, comparing conventional, ECF and TCF effluents before and after secondary treatment, “TCF effluents are the least toxic”.

He opined that some of the effect of the pulp and paper industry can be addressed and there is some change towards sustainable practices. The use of wood solely from plantation forests address concerns about loss of old growth forests. The move to nonelemental chlorine for the bleaching process reduced the emission of the carcinogenic organochlorines. Peracetic acid, ozone and hydrogen peroxide and oxygen are used in bleaching sequences in the pulp industry to produce totally chlorine free (TCF) paper. There are three categories of paper that can be used as feed stocks for making recycled paper: mill broke, preconsumer waste, and postconsumer waste. Mill broke is paper trimmings and other paper scrap from the manufacture of paper, and is recycled internally in a paper mill. Preconsumer waste is material that was discarded before it was ready for consumer use. Postconsumer waste is material discarded after consumer use such as old magazines, old telephone directories, and residential mixed paper. One concern about recycling wood pulp paper is that the fibers are degraded with each and after being recycled four or five times the fibers become too short and weak to be useful in making paper. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has found that recycling causes 35% less water pollution and 74% less air pollution than making virgin paper. Pulp mills can be sources of both air and water pollution, especially if they are producing bleached pulp. Modern mills produce considerably less pollution than those of a few decades ago. Recycling paper decreases the demand for virgin pulp and thus reduces the overall amount of air and water pollution associated with paper manufacture. Recycled pulp can be bleached with the same chemicals used to bleach virgin pulp, but hydrogen peroxide and sodium hydrosulfite are the most common bleaching agents. Recycled pulp, or paper made from it, is known as PCF (process chlorine free) if no chlorinecontaining compounds were used in the recycling process. Three main issues with the environmental impact of printing inks is the use of volatile organic compounds, heavy metals and nonrenewable oils. Standards for the amount of heavy metals in ink have been set by some regulatory bodies. There is a trend toward using vegetable oils rather than petroleum oils in recent years due to a demand for better sustainability. However Martin (2004) fail to chronicle the processes involve in the production of pulp and paper which will be chronicled in this term paper.


Processes and procedure of making paper is long and tedious, the modus operandi is out lined below.

3.2 PULP

According to Costello and Link (1989), pulp and paper mills are integrated with all production stages taking place on the same site. However, most mills in the UK produce paper only, relying on imported pulp. The primary raw material in paper manufacture is cellulose fibre. Wood consists of approximately 50 per cent cellulose, 30 per cent lignin (a resinous adhesive which holds the fibres together), and 20 per cent aromatic hydrocarbons and hemicellulose carbohydrates. In order to obtain cellulose in usable form for paper manufacture the wood or plant material must be pulped to separate the fibres and remove impurities. The higher the cellulose content of the pulp, and the longer the fibres, the better quality the paper. Hardwoods generally contain a higher proportion of cellulose but of shorter fibre length than softwoods, which are more resinous.

Outlined below are the principal pulping processes.


i. Sulphate (Kraft)

Kraft or sulphate pulping is the dominant method of pulp production in the world by virtue of its versatility and the high strength, long fibre, very low lignin content pulp it produces. There are no Kraft mills in the UK and so all Kraft pulp used by UK paper and board manufacturers (1,399,000 tons in 1995) is imported. In fact, the Kraft process was prohibited in several densely populated areas due to the sulphurous smell associated with the mills. Softwood chips are the principal wood source, although the process can be adapted to any tree species.

The process involves boiling wood chips in a sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) and sodium liquor. This separates the lignin and wood resins from the cellulose fibre pulp, which is then washed and, if necessary, bleached. The majority of Kraft mills operate a closed loop system whereby 95 per cent 98 per cent of the chemicals used in the process are recovered and reused. This means that, in comparison with other processes, small amounts of chemicals are needed to produce large amounts of pulp: about 20kg of sodium sulphate and 75kg of calcium carbonate are required per ton of pulp.The waste products from the process are generally burned to provide energy.

Each ton of wood chips used yields about 0.5 tons of pulp (compared to 0.9 0.95 tons for mechanical pulp). Another major disadvantage of Kraft pulp is that, due to its dark colour, it requires strong bleaching agents if it is destined to become white paper.

ii. Sulphite

Sulphite pulping uses similar equipment to Kraft but involves a different chemical process. The resulting pulp is characteristically strong, soft and lighter in colour than Kraft pulp, thus requiring less bleaching. Again there are no sulphite mills in the UK, so all sulphite pulp has to be imported (108,000 tons in 1995), its major end use being tissue products.

Sulphuric acid or hydrogen sulphite is used to 'cook' the raw material in a liquor with a reactive metal base (usually calcium, magnesium or sodium) or ammonium to produce an acid sulphite or bisulphite pulp. Whilst closed loop systems can be applied to sulphite processes, they are dependent on the base metal used. In general terms chemical recovery rates for sulphite pulping are not as high as for Kraft although in terms of energy use sulphite has the slight edge with roughly equivalent pulp yields. Water consumption for both chemical pulping methods is high.


i. Groundwood Pulping

This is the most basic form of pulping and simply involves the grinding of debarked logs or chips to separate the fibres. There are currently two mechanical pulp mills operating in the UK, producing 548,000 tons of pulp in 1995. The quality of the pulp is low as the fibres produced are broken by the grinding and still surrounded by lignin. This means the paper products produced are weak and turn yellow more quickly. As a consequence, mechanical pulp is largely used for newsprint and paper products which require little tear strength. Whilst the pulp yield per ton of wood is much higher than chemical pulping (around 0.95 tons) the amount of imported energy required is approximately double that required by the chemical process. Water consumption, however, is roughly one third of the amount required by chemical pulp mills.

ii. Thermomechanical pulping (TMP)/Chemo Thermomechanical Pulping (CTMP)

Two variations of the mechanical process are widely used in the pulp industry with the aim of reducing energy consumption by presoftening the wood chips. In thermomechanical pulping, which is used on softwoods only, the chips are steamed prior to grinding. In the chemo thermomechanical process the wood chips are first impregnated with sulphurbased chemicals which extract some resin and lignin from the fibre prior to steam softening. Both these modifications results in a stronger pulp which can be applied to higher quality end uses.


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Note: Figures are approximate; where necessary they have been converted from different units.


The bleaching part of the pulp and paper manufacture process has so far proved to be the most controversial in environmental terms. The process is dependent on the type of pulp involved and the destined end use.

a Hydrogen peroxide brightening

Mechanical pulp, being high in lignin content, is usually 'brightened' using hydrogen peroxide. This alters the chemical structure of the lignin, lightening its colour but leaving it present in the pulp. Lignin removing chemicals such as chlorine are not used because this would result in a large reduction in yield. Hydrogen peroxide is environmentally benign but the process does require quite high levels of energy and is relatively expensive. Other chemicals used to produce brighter mechanical pulps include hypochlorites and sodium bisulphite. It should be noted that approximately half the mechanical pulp produced is used for products which do not require brightening.

b Chlorine bleaching

Chemical pulp is routinely delignified to remove the 5 per cent 10 per cent of lignin remaining after the pulping process. Traditionally chlorine gas has been used for this, followed by several stages of treatment with chlorine dioxide or hyperchlorite to further whiten the pulp.50 to 80 kilograms of elemental chlorine are required to bleach one tonne of pulp. Approximately 10 per cent of this chlorine will combine with organic molecules to form a range of organochlorines in the process effluent. Most notorious amongst these are dioxins and furans.



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Title: Environmental impact analysis of pulp and paper production