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paperChain. New market niches for the paper industry waste based on circular economy and sustainability approaches
Europe ranks second in the world in Pulp & Paper products and generates around 11 million tonnes of waste annually. The paperChain project, funded by the programme Horizon 2020, aims at creating new markets for different Pulp & Paper waste streams by upcycling and creating secondary raw materials that will be applied into other resource intensive sectors. Five circular cases are been deployed all over Europe to demonstrate the technical, socioeconomical and environmental feasibility of the solutions carried out, within building construction, road and railway infrastructure construction, chemical industry and mining sector. Moreover, the sustainability of the new products and solutions developed must be assessed and compared with that of existing ones, to be validated in the framework of the European circular economy action plan. On the other hand, any sustainability assessment of the project must consider, at least, the evaluation of environmental, economic and social aspects under a life cycle perspective. This method has been identified as the most appropriate to be applied in this kind of assessments, to ensure that there is no impact shifting between different impact categories, different areas or different stages of the life cycle. For these reasons, the selected methodology has been Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA), consisting on the realization of three individual life cycle assessments of the environmental, economic and social impacts of the developed products, according to the guidelines proposed by UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative in 2011 Towards a Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment: Making informed choices on products. The first circular case was implemented in Spain in the last quarter of 2018, implementing new solutions to the road construction sector. Waste Paper Fly Ash (WPFA) is a waste stream generated in energy recovery plants, where some wastes from the recycling Pulp & Paper Industry are burnt to generate heat and electricity. This waste has been used to replace quicklime in a stabilised subgrade layer of an unpaved country road and to replace cement in a stabilised subgrade layer of a paved rural road. In parallel with the technical validation of these solutions, the sustainability assessment of the deployed innovation actions must be assessed applying the LCSA methodology, in direct comparison with the existing products and implementations. The paperChain project will be able to demonstrate the feasibility of applying ecoinnovation into new business models from waste streams generated in the Pulp and Paper Industry in Europe, decreasing the amount of waste dumped to landfills in a sustainable way of acting.