Companies and consumers alike are looking for options to depositing waste in landfills – new ways of using and recycling existing products and raw materials as effectively as possible. The megatrends of global economy: resource efficiency and circular economy, are a concrete part of UPM’s sustainable development targets for the year 2030.
After 2030 UPM will not deposit any waste in landfill sites or incinerate waste without energy recovery. This target has already been reached in Austria and seven UPM mills in Germany. In Finland, the Zero Solid Waste project aims for zero waste to landfill operations in all sites in a matter of years.
Forest industry companies are now figuring out their position in the circular economy flowchart. Will the company be selling waste or a standardised – even branded – by-product? Will the company be responsible for the logistics or further processing? How will the side streams be united with the core business of the company? Reaching the zero waste level in landfill operations demands new, innovative development of operations and co-operation.
The technology for effective utilization and recycling already exists – the challenge is to create cost-effective operations, co-operation and functional networks.
Side streams well utilised in energy production and product innovation
UPM produces about 125,000 tonnes of solid waste to landfill globally per year. Even now, 90 per cent of the process waste is recycled or reused. Significant waste fractions are wood residues, sewage sludge, bark sand, fibre suspension, soda dregs, deinking sludge, lime waste and ashes.
Efficient recycling is a good decision both financially and for the environment. The energy production in UPM mills utilizes almost all organic waste that is generated in the production processes (such as bark and logging residue) as well as fibre-rich solid matters that are generated in deinking and wastewater purification. 67 percent (2015) of the fuels used by UPM are biomass-based. The side streams are widely utilized through new, innovative products such as UPM BioVerno diesel or UPM ProFi composite which is manufactured from plastic and self-adhesive label waste from UPM Raflatac.
In the next few years UPM will focus on five components that are the most difficult ones to recycle in Finland. These include mixed waste, wood residue that includes sand, sludge, dregs and ash. The Zero Solid Waste to Landfill project looks for new ways to recycle and reuse the solid waste that used to end up in landfills, but the project's core is creating a permanent, sustainable operational model around the existing forms of recycling. All waste components have to be recycled cost-effectively and in a way that stands the test of time.
The challenge is often the incoherence of the practices and regulations. The material that is generated in production as a by-product is defined as waste or side stream in legal terms. The legal definition dictates how the material can be reused. May it be used in excavation work? Can it be upgraded? What kind of quality control does the material need? Regional variation concerning license practices brings more challenges to the table. Finding possible partners in reclaiming the materials also varies depending on the location.
In order to find the best possible recycling and reusing practices that can be continued well into the future, UPM is now mapping the situation of the waste fractions and possible applications in different areas in Finland. The integrated Kymi mill pilot project started in the fall of 2015 will provide versatile information on the possible applications of many waste components.
The research data and insight provided by the Kymi pilot are utilised to create a national operational model in Finland. After UPM has reached a solid landfill waste-free operations in Finland, the best practices will be adopted globally at all UPM sites and in 13 different countries. Again, the challenges lie in the incoherence of practices and the different levels of waste management in the countries. The landfill free future is already on the horizon.
Main picture: The side stream bark from UPM Kymi pulp mill travels straight to the Kymi power plant for energy production.