A further closure of the water circuit in paper mills with a relative high optimization of their water network is limited by the increase of contamination in the water and runnability problems of the paper machine. Therefore, new strategies for saving water must be focussed on the treatment of final effluents of the paper mill, aiming to obtain high quality water that may replace fresh water use in some applications. An appropriate treatment train performed at pilot scale, consisting on a previous clarification stage followed by anaerobic and aerobic treatments, ultrafiltration, and reverse osmosis, made possible producing the highest water quality from the final effluent of the mill. Anaerobic pre-treatment showed very good performance assisting the aerobic stage on removing organics and sulphates, besides it produced enough biogas for being considered as cost-effective. Permeate recovery depended on the silica content of the paper mill effluent, and it was limited to a 50–60%. The reject of the membranes fully met the legislation requirements imposed to effluents arriving to municipal wastewater treatment plants.
Keywords: advanced treatments, biological treatments, closure of water circuits, membrane treatments, pulp and paper industry, reuse of effluents