The World Bank

Pulp and Paper Mills Industry - Pollution Prevention Guidelines


Courtesy of The World Bank


Pollution Prevention Guidelines to provide technical advice and guidance to staff and consultants involved in pollution-related projects. The guidelines represent state-of-the-art thinking on how to reduce pollution emissions from the production process. In many cases, the guidelines provide numerical targets for reducing pollution, as well as maximum emissions levels that are normally achievable through a combination of cleaner production and end-of-pipe treatment. The guidelines are designed to protect human health; reduce mass loadings to the environment; draw on commercially proven technologies; be cost-effective; follow current regulatory trends; and promote good industrial practices, which offer greater productivity and increased energy efficiency.

Table of Contents

  • Industry Description and Practices
  • Waste Characteristics
  • Pollution Prevention and Control
  • Target Pollution Loads
  • Treatment Technologies
  • Emissions Guidelines
  • Monitoring and Reporting
  • Key Issues
  • Sources

Industry Description and Practices

Pulp and paper are manufactured from raw materials containing cellulose fibers, generally wood, recycled paper, and agricultural residues. In developing countries, about 60% of cellulose fibers originate from nonwood raw materials such as bagasse (sugar cane fibers), cereal straw, bamboo, reeds, esparto grass, jute, flax, and sisal.

This document addresses environmental issues in pulp and paper manufacturing with unit production capacities greater than 100 metric tons per day (tpd). The main steps in pulp and paper manufacturing
are raw material preparation, such as wood debarking and chip making; pulp manufacturing; pulp bleaching; paper manufacturing; and fiber recycling. Pulp mills and paper mills may exist separately or as integrated operations. Manufactured pulp is used as a source of cellulose for fiber manufacture and for conversion into paper or cardboard.

Pulp manufacturing starts with raw material preparation, which includes debarking (when wood is used as raw material), chipping, and other processes such as depithing (for example, when bagasse is used as the raw material). Cellulosic pulp is manufactured from the raw materials, using chemical and mechanical means. The manufacture of pulp for paper and cardboard employs mechanical (including thermomechanical), chemimechanical, and chemical methods. Mechanical pulping separates fibers by such methods as disk abrasion and billeting.

Chemimechanical processes involve mechanical abrasion and the use of chemicals. Thermomechanical pulps, which are used for making products such as newsprint, are manufactured from raw materials by the application of heat, in addition to mechanical operations. Chemimechanical pulping and chemithermomechanical pulping (CTMP) are similar but use less mechanical energy, softening the pulp with sodium sulfite, carbonate, or hydroxide.

Chemical pulps are made by cooking (digesting) the raw materials, using the kraft (sulfate) and sulfite processes. Kraft processes produce a variety of pulps used mainly for packaging and high-strength papers and board. Wood chips are cooked with caustic soda to produce brownstock, which is then washed with water to remove cooking (black) liquor for the recovery of chemicals and energy. Pulp is also manufactured from recycled paper.

Mechanical pulp can be used without bleaching to make printing papers for applications in which low brightness is acceptable—primarily, newsprint. However, for most printing, for copying, and for some packaging grades, the pulp has to be bleached. For mechanical pulps, most of the original lignin in the raw pulp is retained but is bleached with peroxides and hydrosulfites. In the case of chemical pulps (kraft and sulfite), the objective of bleaching is to remove the small fraction of the lignin remaining after cooking. Oxygen, hydrogen peroxide, ozone, peracetic acid, sodium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide, chlorine, and other chemicals are used to transform lignin into an alkali-soluble form. An alkali, such as sodium hydroxide, is necessary in the bleaching process to extract the alkali-soluble form of lignin.

Pulp is washed with water in the bleaching process. In modern mills, oxygen is normally used in the first stage of bleaching. The trend is to avoid the use of any kind of chlorine chemicals and employ “total chlorine-free” (TCF) bleaching. TCF processes allow the bleaching effluents to be fed to the recovery boiler for steam generation; the steam is then used to generate electric ity, thereby reducing the amount of pollutants discharged. Elemental chlorine-free (ECF) processes, which use chlorine dioxide, are required for bleaching certain grades of pulp.

The use of elemental chlorine for bleaching is not recommended. Only ECF processes are acceptable, and, from an environmental perspective, TCF processes are preferred. The soluble organic substances removed from the pulp in bleaching stages that use chlorine or chlorine compounds, as well as the substances removed in the subsequent alkaline stages, are chlorinated. Some of these chlorinated organic
substances are toxic; they include dioxins, chlorinated phenols, and many other chemicals. It is generally not practical to recover chlorinated organics in effluents, since the chloride content causes excessive corrosion. The finished pulp may be dried for shipment (market pulp) or may be used to manufacture paper on site (in an “integrated” mill).

Paper and cardboard are made from pulp by deposition of fibers and fillers from a fluid suspension onto a moving forming device that also removes water from the pulp. The water remaining in the wet web is removed by pressing and then by drying, on a series of hollow-heated cylinders (for example, calender rolls). Chemical additives are added to impart specific properties to paper, and pigments may be added for color.

Waste Characteristics

The significant environmental impacts of the manufacture of pulp and paper result from the pulping and bleaching processes. In some processes, sulfur compounds and nitrogen oxides are emitted to the air, and chlorinated and organic compounds, nutrients, and metals are discharged to the wastewaters.

Air Emissions

In the kraft pulping process, highly malodorous emissions of reduced sulfur compounds, measured as total reduced sulfur (TRS) and including hydrogen sulfide, methyl mercaptan, dimethyl sulfide, and dimethyl disulfide, are emitted, typically at a rate of 0.3–3 kilograms per metric ton (kg/t) of air-dried pulp (ADP). (Airdried pulp is defined as 90% bone-dry fiber and 10% water.) Other typical generation rates are: particulate matter, 75–150 kg/t; sulfur oxides, 0.5–30 kg/t; nitrogen oxides, 1–3 kg/t; and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), 15 kg/t from black liquor oxidation. In the sulfite pulping process,
sulfur oxides are emitted at rates ranging from 15 kg/t to over 30 kg/t. Other pulping processes, such as the mechanical and thermomechanical methods, generate significantly lower quantities of air emissions.

Steam- and electricity-generating units using coal or fuel oil emit fly ash, sulfur oxides, and nitrogen oxides. Coal burning can emit fly ash at the rate of 100 kg/t of ADP.

Liquid Effluents

Wastewaters are discharged at a rate of 20–250 cubic meters per metric ton (m3/t) of ADP. They are high in biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), at 10–40 kg/t of ADP; total suspended solids, 10– 50 kg/t of ADP; chemical oxygen demand (COD), 20–200 kg/t of ADP; and chlorinated organic compounds, which may include dioxins, furans, and other adsorbable organic halides, AOX, at 0–4 kg/t of ADP.

Wastewater from chemical pulping contains 12–20 kg of BOD/t of ADP, with values of up to 350 kg/t. The corresponding values for mechanical pulping wastewater are 15–25 kg BOD/t of ADP. For chemimechanical pulping, BOD discharges are 3 to 10 times higher than those for mechanical pulping. Pollution loads for some processes, such as those using nonwood raw materials, could be significantly different. Phosphorus and nitrogen are also released into wastewaters. The main source of nutrients, nitrogen, and phosphorus compounds is raw material such as wood. The use of peroxide, ozone, and other chemicals in bleaching makes it necessary to use a complexing agent for heavy metals such as manganese.

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