The pulp and paper industry is a key element
of the European paper and forestry sector, which generates an annual turnover
in excess of € 400 billion. Comprising more than 1,300 mills and
some 1,000 pulp, paper and board producers, this industry provides direct
employment for over 260,000 people. Indirect employment through the whole
paper and forest sector brings this total to around four million.
Europe has long been a technological leader in this
field, with a strong commitment to sustainable production. It also maintains
a strong position in the global marketplace. The Confederation of European
Paper Industries (CEPI)
reports that, in 1999, European sources accounted for 28% of world pulp
and paper output, with North America providing 32% and Asia 29%. Preliminary
figures for 2000 indicate that Europe's production volume increased by
a further 5% to approximately 90 million tonnes, which should more than
maintain its market share.
||Based on sustainable
The end products are based on a sustainable
resource: wood fibres are both renewable and recyclable for re-use
or energy generation. Currently, recycled fibre meets about 40%
of the total raw material requirement, but the European
declaration on paper recovery, in Brussels, in November 2000
by CEPI and the European Recovered Paper Association (ERPA) pledges
that, by 2005, at least 56% of paper and board products used in
Europe will be recycled - this is a 25% increase in recycling or
an additional 10 million tonnes or more of recovered paper
Furthermore, the industry has been successful over the past 20 years
in transforming itself from a heavy polluter into a low waste, low
emission producer. It nevertheless continues to face a number of
competitive and legislative pressures that make on-going EU-level
research a vital necessity.
Already today, the pulp and paper sector provides a good example
of how research funding can be used to foster European policies,
and how new knowledge can be incorporated into working practices.
It has made effective use of several instruments available under
the European Commission Fifth Framework programme, including RTD
projects, thematic networks, industry host fellowships and CRAFT
The R&D capability within universities and institutes also remains
strong, with good contacts and a spirit of collaboration achieved
mainly as a result of such initiatives and the COST
(co-operation in science and technology) system.
reduce environmental impact
Since 1985, well over 100 pulp- and paper-related
projects - involving EU-funding of approximately € 150 million
- have been co-financed by the European Commission, particularly
concerned with environmental care and sustainability. Innovative
research solutions - such as process control electronics, process
modelling and automation, biotechnological treatment of effluents,
membrane separation and chlorine-free bleaching - have contributed
to substantial reductions in environmental impact.
For example, the use of advanced combined heat and power (CHP) plants
to generate one third of the industry's total electricity requirements
has resulted in a 35% energy saving. Extensive adaptation of plants
to switch from fuel oil to natural gas - as well as using biofuels
such as non-recyclable paper to meet 50% of thermal energy requirements
- has led to CO2 emission reductions of 17% over the past decade.
The fuel changes, plus improved process control, have also cut SO2
output by 55% and NOx by more than 85% in the same period.
The generally high dependence on fresh water - averaging 35m3/tonne
of finished product in 1999 - remains a major concern, although
polluting effects such as biological oxygen demand in effluents
and the discharge of organic chlorine compounds have been greatly
reduced. Moves towards the adoption of closed-loop processes wherever
possible will progressively decrease water consumption and effluents,
but future improvements in this and other areas will become increasingly
difficult to achieve.
to be faced
A typical problem is the fact that closed water
circuits create favourable conditions for micro-organisms and lead
to increased build-up of slime deposits that cause severe operational
problems, especially when recycled fibre is used as raw material.
New eco-efficient methods for slime control are needed, since conventional
biocides are potentially toxic to the environment.
With higher levels of recycling, manufacturers also face the need
to deal with larger volumes of residues. Some can be incinerated
to provide energy input; others are finding application as additives
in building materials. Continuing research is necessary to find
further economical uses for such by-products, or to minimise the
effects of any unavoidable disposal.
Tougher emission reduction targets to combat global warming present
yet another challenge. In this respect, the roles of forests as
sources of raw materials and biofuels, versus their capacity to
act as sinks for atmospheric CO2, require careful evaluation.
shifting product needs
The end products themselves and shifting patterns
of use form another important focus for R&D. Markets for many
traditional products are declining, due to social and technological
factors such as the growing influence of information technology
(IT) on society. As established commodities become less relevant
to consumers' evolving needs, it will become important to find new
uses for wood fibres - often with a higher added value but smaller
scale of production than is the current norm.
Today's paper and board industry, rooted in an economy-of-scale
approach, may not be best suited to making and selling such products.
Consequently, R&D must increasingly embrace the whole forest
cluster - including not only the pulp and paper manufacturers themselves,
but also their suppliers and the other upstream and downstream participants
in the value chain.
The advancement of integrated product policies linking the complete
cycle from design and production, through service until the end
of life, is therefore a major priority - as indicated in the February
2001 European Commission Green paper on integrated product policy
Community research in the pulp and paper industry
is part of the Growth programme's Innovative
products, processes and organisation key action. Successful
A competitive concept for
the paper industry towards zero liquid effluent . This CRAFT
project has enabled a group of paper industry SMEs to enlist expert
research support in exploring new techniques that can dramatically
reduce water usage and effluent output.
by gas phase surface modification of lignocellulosic fibres).
This project is developing a novel process that cuts water usage
and delivers improved paper products for hygiene applications
(Advanced water treatment technologies for kidney operating of
zero effluent water systems for paper and board production). This
project is determining the feasibility of minimising paper mills'
water consumption without compromising product quality. The technology
is already being exploited at Oudegem
Papier in Belgium.
efficient novel enzymatic concepts for slime control in pulp and
paper processing). This project seeks to eliminate the slime formation
that often creates problems for paper mills attempting to run
closed loop water systems.