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Turning paper waste into plastic

Network Waste has been working with the internationally renowned Adapt Low Carbon Group at the University of East Anglia in Norwich on a ground-breaking approach to sustainable waste management which could lead to paper waste being turned into bio-plastic.

The company, based at King’s Lynn in Norfolk, is in partnership with the University’s Adapt Low Carbon Group on a project involving paper crumb – the waste from paper milling. This is in co-operation with a Network Waste customer which produces up to 7000 tonnes of damp paper crumb waste per year at its mill.

Currently the waste is spread on the land but this is an energy intensive process which in the first instance requires removal of large amounts of water.  Network Waste asked Adapt to investigate whether a more sustainable commercial use could be found for paper crumb.

Network Waste National Account Manager Stuart Towler said: “We are a business which is always trying to find practical solutions for our customers in waste management and we are always looking for something innovative.

“We recognise that working with Adapt allows us to tap into cutting edge academic research. This is an option that very few businesses in the waste management world have and we believe that the paper crumb project could be something special.”

Paper crumb short 1

The paper waste is composed of complex sugars and research is focused on their effective recovery and ways to turn them into a valuable commodity known as feedstock.

Dr Agnieszka Krzyzaniak, Adapt Group Business Innovation Manager, said: “We are investigating if the paper waste can be used as a source of substrates to be applied in the bio-based production of chemicals, which in turn would contribute to lowering the carbon footprint of the chemical industry. One of the possibilities that we are currently exploring is to turn paper waste into feedstock to be applied in the bio-based production of molecules which are the building blocks for bio-plastics. 

Looking to use this bio-processed material in the chemical industry is a fine example of adding extra value to the paper waste. We believe that the sugars found in the paper waste can help to replace traditional processes based on fossil fuels.” 


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