27th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference

Sustainable Products from Cellulose and Wood Processing Streams

Globally, one million non-degradable plastic bottles are purchased every minute, while up to five trillion plastic bags are used every year. Approximately 10 million metric tons of plastics leak into our oceans annually, in addition to the 200 million metric tons that already circulate the marine environments. Therefore, the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of our biobased resources, processes and products is becoming central to the emerging circular bioeconomy as a worldwide strategy to minimize the use of fossil, oil-derived resources.

The pulp and paper industry has joined the global movement toward cleaner and greener products in their effort to transition to forest biorefineries. The pulp and paper mills are most suited for biorefinery large-scale developments for a few reasons:

  1. They are located near the forest biomass and have existing infrastructure to transport the raw materials and finished products; in fact, the pulp and paper industry has the world s largest non-food biomass collection system.
  2. Cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, the three major components of wood, are the most abundant renewable polymers on earth with unique structures and properties that can serve as starting material for bioproduct development;
  3. Workforce is highly trained and capable of operating energy and biorefinery systems.  The development of new and sustainable products through reduction of waste, greenhouse gas emissions and energy use would support the closed loop economy and reduce the overall environmental impact across the global chemical enterprise.

However, there are difficulties facing the biorefinery deployment today, such as acceptance in the present market of the fossil-based economy, composition and availability of feedstock needed to meet the market demand, efficiency of the resource recovery, techno-economic viability, and sustainability. For example, more than 50 million tons of lignin are produced worldwide annually, of which 98% is incinerated as low-cost fuel and only 2% utilized in the production of chemicals and materials. Likewise, hemicellulose is another underutilized biorefinery feedstock derived during the wood pulping process and burned in the recovery boilers, despite its low calorific value, which is half that of lignin.

The growing markets and demand for biobased products, more stringent environmental policies, and economic returns of the biorefinery products are steadily increasing the R&D efforts to evaluate and scale up the large spectrum of promising industrial applications, including new biodegradable materials with novel properties and unique functionalities, bioplastics and coatings, biobased hydrogels and aerogels, eco-friendly textile fibers, biomedical/pharmaceutical materials for implants, tablets, prebiotics and antioxidants, renewable flocculants,  dispersants, carbon fibers, adhesives and binders, transportation fuels, etc. The potential of biobased materials to displace the use of their synthetic counterparts is enormous, exceeding 500 billion dollars  worth of products for the packaging, apparel, automotive, electronics, and consumer goods industries (Table 1).

Table 1. Potential of biobased materials to replace fossil-derived products in five major industry sectors*

Associated Chemicals Value by Sector
*Brennan et al. The third wave of biomaterials: When innovation meets demand, McKinsey & Company, 2021

To provide long-term solutions for generations to come, the biorefinery products should be renewable, recyclable, compostable and biodegradable. The focus of this symposium will be on the green chemistry and engineering of sustainable bioproducts that address the growing needs of our biobased society employing the principles of the circular bioeconomy.

Organizers

Dr. Christopher Lew, RYAM
Dr. Larissa Fenn, RYAM

Nominal Sponsor

Cellulose and Renewable Materials (CELL)

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