The Eco-Pulplast project: a zero waste example of innovation in the paper industry
The project was born in Lucca, the biggest paper industry district in Europe, with 120 firms, over 6,200 employees, with a yearly turnover of more than 3.8 billion EUR and spin-off activities in several other economic sectors.
Pulper is the waste of recycled paper (such as paper ribbons and cellophane film). Paper mills in the Lucca district produce almost 100 tonnes of pulp each year and spend nearly 10 million EUR treating it: an economic and environmental cost that can no longer be sustained.
The Eco-Pulplast project will recycle the plastic component of pulper, which is currently landfilled or incinerated, and transform it in a zero-mile secondary raw material to produce pallets and other plastic products for paper mills.
The Eco-Pulplast consortium, led by the research institute Lucense, includes Selene, a leading firm in the pliable plastic packaging sector; Serv.Eco, a group representing paper factories in the Lucca district; and Zero Waste Europe.
Waste reduction and reuse is also a priority for Innopaper, the centre for innovation in the paper sector in the Tuscany Region, led by Lucense.
The Eco-Pulplast project will run for 30 months and it will test innovative technology for pulper treatment developed by Selene. The pilot plant for the project will be based in a disused warehouse, to avoid the environmental impact of building a new production site.
The Eco-Pulplast project has applied for funding under the “Life Environment and Resource Efficiency” programme of the European Commission which could cover up to 60 % (1.2 million EUR) of the project costs.
As Rossano Ercolini, president of Zero Waste Europe said at the Eco-Pulplast launch ceremony last week: “this project is the story of a fruitful collaboration between different local actors, joining forces to achieve both innovative production and environmental sustainability”.
Eco-Pulplast represents a tangible and virtuous example of a circular economy and of industrial symbiosis. This is an exceptional opportunity to expand the production chain of the paper industry, while at the same time creating jobs in an innovative sector.
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