Waste from the pulp and paper industry should be diverted from landfills and reused for road construction.

That’s the goal of researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Okanagan in Canada, who are particularly focused on pulp mill fly ash (PFA), which is a non-hazardous commercial waste.

Recycled PPE could make roads to fight waste

The North American pulp and paper industry is said to generate over a million tonnes of ash per year by burning wood in electric boilers for power generation. When they go to landfill, the producer pays between $ 25 and $ 50 a tonne, so factories are looking for other uses for these by-products.

“Whenever we can redirect waste to a sustainable alternative, we are going in the right direction,” said Dr. Sumi Siddiqua, associate professor at UBC Okanagan School of Engineering and head of the testing laboratory. of advanced geomaterials, where researchers find different reuse options for industry. by-products.

This new research, co-published with postdoctoral researcher Dr Chinchu Cherian, investigated the use of untreated PFA as an economically sustainable low-carbon binder for road construction.

“The porous nature of PFA acts as a gateway for the adhesion of other cement materials, allowing the overall structure to be stronger and stronger than materials not made with PFA,” said Dr. Cherian. . “Through our material characterization and toxicological analysis, we have found other environmental and the societal benefits that the production of this new material was more energy efficient and produced low carbon emissions.

Chinchu Cherian, postdoctoral researcher at UBCO, and associate professor Sumi Siddiqua, examine a road-building material created in part with recycled wood ash (Image: UBCO)

According to Dr. Siddiqua, the construction industry is concerned that toxins used in pulp and paper mills may leak out of reused materials.

“Our results indicate that the carburizing bonds developed through the use of untreated PFA are so strong that little or no release of chemicals is apparent. Therefore, it can be considered as a safe raw material for environmental applications.

Dr Cherian said more research is needed to establish guidelines for AFP modifications to ensure consistency, but she is confident their research is on the right track.

“Overall, our research affirms that using recycled wood ash from pulp mills for construction activities such as building sustainable roads and cost-neutral buildings can yield huge benefits. environmental and economic, ”she said. “And not just benefits for the industry, but for society as a whole by reducing waste going to landfill and reducing our ecological footprint.”

The research was published in the Cleaner Production Journal.

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