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New technology combats paper mill pollution
BY Liang Chao (China Daily) Updated:2005-07-27 09:04

  Pressing the start button on the pulping machine, Li Chaowang, president of Beijing Doo Research and Development Centre, set the centre's newest pulping production line, into operation this month.

  With the roar of machines ringing in their ears, Li ushered visiting paper-making experts, officials and entrepreneurs along the factory's production line in Dandong, Northeast China's Liaoning Province.

  When they reached the end of the production line Li showed the visitors the fresh wet pulp the process had produced.

  According to Li, the line can produce 30,000 tons of straw pulp each year without discharging waste water and polluting environment.

  Invented by Li and two of his colleagues, Li Keshi and Li Gangrong, the newly patented technology could be the answer to the pollution, energy consumption and raw material supply problems that have plagued China's papermaking industry.

  At the moment even the world's most efficient pulp manufacturing systems need 20 tons of water to produce just 1 ton of pulp.

  But, with their new technology, only 6 to 8 tons of water is needed to produce each ton of paper pulp, the three inventors say.

  "The water, electrical power and coal consumption of the new technology used for producing the same amount of paper pulp only account for 40, 53 and 20 per cent respectively of the traditional paper-making industry," they said.

  Furthermore, during the entire paper-making process, no polluting alkali, sulphur or chlorine chemicals were used to bleach the pulp, and the paper it produces still adheres to all State quality standards.

  "The new technology will help China ease up key issues restricting the development of its paper-making industry, reducing the discharge of waste water and the resulting pollution," said Hu Zongyuan, adviser to the China Technical Association of the Paper Industry.

  "Most of the waste water, the major source of pollution, can be recycled for further use after being treated in line with State standards," Hu said.

  Hu applauded the technology as "pioneering work for China's paper-making industry" which has long been under fire from environmentalists for the pollution it causes across the country.

  Bleaching paper with chlorine produces a carcinogen called dioxin, which is harmful to the environment and can remain in water and soil for as long as 50 years, experts warned.

  Moreover, "the new technology will play an increasing role in protecting China's forestry resources by using many other plants as raw materials including the stalks of crops and cotton as well as vegetable fibre," Hu said.

  Today more than 95 per cent of paper in developed countries is made from wood cellulose with the waste water being well treated, he said. "In China, however, a lot of paper has to be made from straw pulp due to the shortage of wood."

  Jin Zhicheng, an official from the State Forestry Administration said the new technology would help develop China's "recycling economy" through saving energy and making full use of existing resources available for pulp processing.

  It will also benefit China's efforts to rehabilitate its ecosystem, save the country's limited forestry resources and reduce the water and electricity consumption of the ever-growing pulping industry.

  Originating in ancient China, the art of paper-making was one of the nation's great inventions along with printing, gunpowder, porcelain, silk and the compass.

  China has become the world's second-largest paper consumer after the United States, and the country's domestic demand is expected to rise to 50 million tons this year from 47 million tons in 2004.

  It is estimated that the paper demand in China will reach 70 million tons by the end of 2010.

  Demand for paper will continue to outpace production during the next five years because of the country's rapid economic growth, experts say.

  Today, China's paper-making sector imports more than half the world's waste paper.

  But the country's paper industry has become a target of criticism for the pollution it creates, its high demand for timber and its high energy consumption.

  Over the past five decades, many small paper mills have sprung up throughout China, pulping straw instead of wood because of the shortage of raw materials.

  A logging ban introduced in 1999 to protect China's natural forests has caused the timber shortage to become even more acute.

  To increase supply, the central government plans to plant 5 million hectares of fast-growing trees within 10 years.

  The plan is expected to lessen the Chinese paper industry's reliance on imported raw materials.

  To meet the increasing demand for raw materials, China also needs to increase the imports of waste paper. Nearly 94 per cent of China's wood pulp is currently imported from other countries. The government hopes that within 10 years imports can be cut by 85 per cent.

  Relying on aging technology, China's small paper mills have wreaked havoc on the environment with many discharging their chemical-laden waste directly into rivers and lakes.

  Since the early 1970s many of China's major polluters have come from the paper industry.

  As a result, the central government has closed down hundreds of pollution-prone mills.

  All small paper mills capable of manufacturing 30,000-50,000 tons of pulp have been shut down in East China's Shandong Province to prevent them from polluting water along China's ambitious South-to -North water diversion project, designed to carry water from the Yangtze River in the south to drought-stricken Northern China.

  Unfortunately, such pollution-control has not only affected the revenue of local authorities but also forced many workers to be laid off, and cut the income of local farmers who sold raw pulping materials to the mills.

  "With the new technology, farmers can get rich by making full use of their crops instead of simply burning them which would cause air pollution," Hu said.

  "In the past such pollution has been so serious that planes could not take off from some airports because of the thick black smoke from farmers' burning-off their fields.

  "This new paper-making technology is promising for China. As an agricultural country, China is rich in stalk resources which can be used as the raw materials for paper-making," Hu said.

  

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