April 18, 2005

Canadian process to be part of U.K. paper mill sludge recycling test

The KDS Micronex technology developed by Vancouver-based First American Scientific Corporation (FASC) will be incorporated into a British project whose aim is to develop opportunities for recycling paper mill sludge into new products. Located at Aylesford Newsprint in Kent, the demonstration sludge processing plant is the first of its kind in Europe. The project is being funded by the U.K. government's Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

Paper mill sludge is the main waste product from the manufacture of white recycled papers, and can represent as much as 40% of the material input in the production of higher quality paper grades. As U.K. mills generate a total of nearly one million tonnes of sludge annually, managing this waste material poses an increasing challenge because end uses for the sludge have to date been limited. Consequently, most of it is landfilled, land-spread or incinerated.

"With higher quality requirements for paper, and rising landfill costs, the volume and cost of sludge disposal is becoming an inhibiting commercial factor for the further expansion of recycled paper manufacture," said David Powlson, WRAP's technical manager for paper. "This WRAP project will use new technology to explore the potential for overcoming this barrier and improving the economics of producing new paper products from recycled fibre."

Up until now, the composition of the sludge has limited its recycling potential. Typically, it is made up of 50% fibre and 50% fillers (minerals used to increase smoothness, gloss and opacity). These components can be recycled more easily individually than in combination. FASC's technology will dry the sludge cost-effectively into a "fluff," instead of a compacted residue, allowing the fibre and fillers to be separated out.

The project consists of three stages. In the first stage, the KDS Micronex will reduce the moisture content of the sludge from 50% to 10%. The resulting sludge fluff can then be split into its fibre and filler constituents using screening equipment, and the materials assessed for their recycling potential.

Potential end uses for the fibre include insulation, lower grade paper applications and fuel briquettes, while the filler material has properties which could be beneficial in the manufacture of a range of products, particularly for the construction sector.

FASC president Brian Nichols is confident that the demonstration will deliver positive results. "The stringent environmental legislation, high disposal costs for waste and high energy costs in the U.K. and the European Union create a significant opportunity for this type of technology," he said.

Expected to be running at full capacity in June, the KDS Micronex and associated equipment will be installed and initially operated by RB Plant, a company with extensive experience in this field. The company will also carry out the market development phase. The project should be completed in November 2005, and the results will be disseminated throughout the industry.

If they are positive, the impact on the industry could be significant, as Chris White, commercial manager at Aylesford Newsprint, explained: "This project could address one of the major challenges facing the paper recycling sector and Aylesford Newsprint is excited to be part of the project team."

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