Paper, print media and biomaterials
Beet pulp in search of lucrative valorisation
Beet production in European Union amounts today about 116 million tons per year and is mostly used for sugar production. The EU beet sector represents 400 000 beet growers, all of them are SMEs: they are independent or gathered within small-sized cooperatives. During the production process of beet sugar, beet pulp is the final residue, representing around 6 million tons of dry matter per year. As stipulated in the Common Agricultural Policy, beet producers are the owners of beet pulp and consequently they have interest and responsibility of valorising it. Up to now, beet pulp has mainly been used to feed animals but this valorisation way generates very poor income for beet growers (1 to 2 euros per ton of beet) and tends to reduce. There is thus a need for beet growers to find new ways of valorisation that will generate higher incomes and will be able to deal with the large volume of beet pulp produced.
Replacing mineral additives by vegetal micro-fillers
The project proposes a valorisation of beet pulp in a high added value product: to transform beet pulp into vegetal micro-fillers for paper and board production. Today, mineral additives are incorporated in many paper grades to improve opacity but the presence of these mineral fillers causes an environmental problem and the mechanical properties of the paper are negatively affected. This project proposes to replace, as a whole or a part of, these mineral fillers in paper by bleached vegetal additives made of beet pulp. From a research point of view a particular emphasis will be put on the bleaching of this additive to meet the paper and board specifications. The best ways to incorporate this new additive into paper will also be investigated. The integration of the production process of this additive into the sugar factory will also be studied.
Advantages for both beet producers and papermakers
Thanks to the project the beet producers will benefit from an innovative valorisation way bringing higher value than in cattle breeding and corresponding to a mass-market. Due to the coming sugar reform this cross-innovative valorisation way will anticipate changes by offering the possibility for beet producers to maintain constant incomes thanks to a better cost effectiveness of beet by-products. From the paper and board makers perspective, in comparison with currently used mineral fillers, these vegetal additives would bring several advantages in terms of competitiveness and environmental friendliness.
Date of update April 1, 2014