Waste from papermaking turned into useful chemicals

A US Department of Energy lab has come up with a way to recycle paper waste. From them you can get useful materials with added value.

A team of researchers from the US Department of Energy’s Ames lab have discovered a way to convert paper-making waste into valuable chemical precursors for nylon production. Compared to other methods, this process is much more environmentally friendly in terms of the solvent used and the energy consumed. If approved by the country’s authorities, it will become a useful alternative to incineration of pulp and paper waste.

Lignin is the main waste of the pulp and paper industry; the USA produces about 50 million tons per year. Lignin is usually burned to generate heat, but this process releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the environment.

The lab researchers found that when lignin is treated with aqueous sodium hydroxide at a temperature of about 200 ° C, guaiacol is formed – it is also found in products of dry distillation of hardwood and softwood. Guaiacol can then be converted to nylon precursors under even milder conditions using appropriate catalysts. This is how the researchers came to create the material using a two-step process.

“This process allows us to use lignin in new ways. For example, in the production of high value added chemicals in demand, the researchers noted. “We view this process as a low energy pathway whereby the remaining waste can be recycled into other chemicals in an integrated recycling plant.”