Strategies for decolorization and detoxification of pulp and paper mill effluent

Satyendra K Garg, Manikant Tripathi
Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 2011, 212: 113-36
The potential hazards associated with industrial effluents, coupled with increasing awareness of environment problems, have prompted many countries to limit the indiscriminate discharge of untreated wastewaters. The pulp and paper industry has been among the most significant of industrial polluters of the waterways, and therefore has been one of the industries of concern. The pulp and paper industry produces large quantities of brown/black effluent that primarily result from pulping, bleaching, and paper-making production stages. The dark color and toxicity of pulp-paper mill effluent comes primarily from lignin and its chlorinated derivatives (e.g., lignosulphonic acid, resins, phenols, and hydrocarbons) that are released during various processing steps of lignocellulosic materials. The color originates from pulping and pulp bleaching stages, while adsorbable organic halides (AOX) originates exclusively from chlorine bleaching. Discharge of untreated effluent results in increased BOD/COD, slime growth, thermal problems, scum formation, discoloration, loss of aesthetic quality and toxicity to the aquatic life, in the receiving waterbodies. The dark brow color of pulp-paper effluent is not only responsible for aesthetic unacceptability, but also prevents the passage of sunlight through colored waterbodies. This reduces the photosynthetic activity of aquatic flora, ultimately causing depletion of dissolved oxygen. The pulp-paper organic waste, coupled with the presence of chlorine, results in the generation of highly chlorinated organic compounds. These toxic constituents of wastewater pose a human health risk through long term exposure. via drinking water and\or through consumption of fish that can bioaccumulate certain pollutants from the food chain. Therefore, considerable attention has been focused by many countries on decolorization of paper mill effluents , along with reduction in the contaminants that pose human health or other environmental hazards. Various physicochemical remediation treatments in the pulp-paper industry are now used, or have been suggested, but often are not implemented, because of the high cost involved. More recently, the paper and pulp industry has been investigating the use of biological remediation steps to replace or augment current treatment strategies. Certain biological treatments offer opportunities to reduce cost (both capital and operating), reduce energy consumption, and minimize environmental impact. Two primary approaches may be effective to curtail release of toxic effluents: first, development of pulping and bleaching processes that emphasize improved oxygen delignification or biopulping, plus partial or complete replacement of chlorine treatment with hydrogen peroxide or with biobleaching; second, implementation of biological processing that involves sequential two-step anaerobic-aerobic or three-step aerobic-anaerobic treatment technologies at end of pipe. The selection of the specific process will depend upon the type of pollutants/toxicants/mutagens present in the effluent. The use of environmental-friendly technologies in the pulp and paper industry is becoming more popular, partly because of increasing regulation, and partly because of the availability of new techniques that can be used to economically deal with pollutants in the effluents. Moreover, biotechnology research methods are offering promise for even greater improvements in the future. The obvious ultimate goal of the industry and the regulators should be zero emission through recycling of industrial wastewater, or discharge of the bare minimum amount of toxicants or color.

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