Deep Recycling - De-inking Sludge Test Products
by Inga Aleknavičiūtė (Scenographer & Material Provocateur)
Sept. 2021 (Schwedt/Germany)
Aleknavičiūtė seeks to demonstrate that materials are more or less born equal and that the stigma of their position along the chain of use (new versus recycled) should be removed as this may be a key to a creative and ecological future. Her ‘de-inking sludge prototypes’ comprise of a pairing of universal objects, a table and a chair that take the form of a seemingly luxurious polished stone. These objects are examples of ‘deep recycling’ as they are derived from materials which are foraged from far down the materials food chain. Coming from beyond the first round of ‘salvage’ which is recycled paper, they originate from a mountain of ‘De-inking sludge’, which is a residual from the paper recycling and is unusable as a fibre source. These objects are indeed created from the ‘waste of the waste’.
De-inking sludge is comprised mainly of inorganic mineral fillers, short cellulosic fibres and fines (micro fibres), coating polymers and ink particles. Less socially elevated uses are concrete, brick making and energy production. Re-engineered using Zelfo Technology’s process the material becomes clay like, reforming when pressed into a granite like material. Across the surface are organic blooms and dark flecks which betray the origins of the material as being from a non rock like source, thereby rarefying the status of this formerly anonymous sludge.
The potential of Aleknavičiūtė’s source material in its original low value state not lost but simply unexposed; until now that is. To illustrate this she has developed objects which demand that we should be looking harder at the media we use to create with, an approach that follows of a line cast by Julie Shore:- “We are materialistic in the everyday sense of the word, we are not at all materialistic enough in the true sense of the word....we should really care about the materiality of goods”
Photos: Robert Piel / ZT
Winner - Brandenburg Innovation Prize:- 2021
Sept. 2021 (Cottbus/Germany)
Joint applicants Zelfo Technology and licensee ‘BioLutions (Germany) GmbH were selected as winners of their section for the 2021 Brandenburg Innovation Prize. Both companies were identified as being in the vanguard of bio-based packaging using agricultural residual fibres and for brining both new innovations and production capability to Brandenburg / Germany.
BioTHOP EU 'Life' project partner:- 2019 - 2022
March 2021 (Slovenia/Berlin)
Zelfo Technology is the dedicated engineered fibre provider for a Multi Party/5 country 3 year project centred around Hops Residual Biomass. End products include bio-based fibre containing planting pots, pulp formed products and a circular economy closure scenario via bio-compost for the hops growers and beyond. Completion of the first trial pots and pulp formed objects has been achieved. Circular economy targets for soil nutrient generation show positive results. ( https://www.life-biothop.eu )
Wetlands rejuvenation project - Northern Germany
Summer 2020 (Berlin)
Zelfo has supported the Moor Centre & the University of Greifswald in a project aimed at developing the use of plants growing in wetlands. The first test, a Tiny House made with materials based on these plants, has been successfully built. Zelfo has developed coloured panels for indoor use and furniture together with Moor and More ( www.moor-and-more.de ). ( https://www.greifswaldmoor.de/home.html )
Bio-Lutions India. Technical upgrade
March 2020 (Bangalore)
ZT together with their dedicated engineering hardware partner have upgraded the current fibre engineering plant at the BL Bangalore site. Fibre quality improvements were immediate and the production potential capability was expanded by 300%!
First trials promise a Healthy Future for Fruit Industry Residuals.
January 2019 (Berlin)
A surprising ‘parallel products opportunity’ emerged as the first experiments reveal technical benefits from both ‘product streams’. The primary ‘end use’ opportunities are based on the fibre engineering side and include adding new properties to pulp formed products and in panels for interior and furniture construction. Derivatives are seen as a key parallel offer, which is not surprising as a whole list of previously discarded properties exist in these residuals including; organic matter, phytochemicals, and compounds with nutraceutical properties.
Mirontell’s Robert Leuendorf (Lean-Production Manager) sees this first round of tests as one of the most significant developments in the industry in a long time. “The benefits in regards to the bottom line as well as the sustainability message are priceless. We look forward to supporting Zelfo Technology in this journey and to benefiting from the rewards as and when commercial products emerge.”
Both companies see the initial test project as a ‘primer’ leading into a number of product areas and further relationships with partner companies. This viewpoint has been vindicated as they now have involvement from further industry partners. Looking further into the future, industries who have already identified a fruit based derivative are particularly of interest. Working with such partners reduces R&D time in regard to the identification of the target properties and focuses the exercise on process optimisation to deliver the engineered fibre and/or derivative in question.
Zelfo strengthens Illi Delta (Kazakhstan) Natural Resources Assessment Team.
November 2018 (Almaty - Kazakhstan)
The ReedBiom project assessment team led by Johanna Risse of Greifswald University flew out to Kazakhstan in November. Essentially the concept is to sustainably develop the commercial potential of the vast expanse of reeds (reed fibre) in the Illi Delta. The project was launched as a joint opportunity between Greifswald Uni, ATB (Agricultural Technology Institute in Potsdam) and Al-Farabi University in Almaty (Kazakstan). The key to the success of the project is the balancing of commerce and environmental interests in the region. As a result two further natural fibre businesses were invited to accompany the team. These being Hiss Reet GmbH and Zelfo Technology GmbH. Having successfully completed their fact finding mission the team have returned to Germany to consolidate their plans and to prepare the next steps at a meeting in Greifswald early in 2019
Zelfo powers Bio-Lutions International AG to Packaging Product of the Year 2017.
September 2017 (Berlin)
Zelfo Optimised Bio-Lutions Packing products win Bio-Material of the Year 2017.
May 2017 (Berlin)
Zelfo Technology was invited to showcase its products and to demonstrate the potential of its Engineered Fibres at the Bio-Based Conference, organized by WFBB & Watify in Potsdam/Berlin.
Numerous actors, ranging from SMEs to International Groups, and from Institutes to Universities, gathered to brainstorm over various themes concerning Bio-Based initiatives, the hurdles on the road, and the way to overcome them. The key issue being how to accelerate market entry for sustainable products and technologies.
ZT showcased 2D boards and 3D pulp formed samples, all made from agricultural waste transformed into self-binding fibres, which raised a lot of interest from agro-related parties. A particular focus was on the Polish agro-industry during the Conference, which seems to be embracing a “cascade use” philosophy with its by-products that matches well with ZT’s offer.
Both the conference attendees and the organisers considered the Conference a success with all participants agreeing to meet again in two years’ time for a follow-up.
Below is a candid shot of the ZT stand offered by Watify.
Zelfo Technology at the Bio-Based Conference in Potsdam/Berlin
April 2017 (Berlin)
Zelfo Technology Engineers a Future for MFC in Paper & Packaging.
January 2017 (Berlin)
Zelfo Technology (ZT) has reached an important milestone in its technical development program and will open an Engineered Fibre production and R&D unit in Schwedt, Northern Germany.
The company engineers cellulosic and ligno-cellulosic fibres from a wide range of sources including industrial, agricultural and horticultural waste streams to impart user specific fibre properties including a high degree of defibrillation thus multiplying the binding capability of the material by a factor of several thousand.
The engineered fibre products offered by Zelfo Technology include Micro Fibrillated Cellulose (MFC) which has been a widely talked about subject in recent years, resulting an incredible amount of scientific research and patents being registered. Such intensive activity in MFC has resulted as pulp producers look to find new uses for their prime product, cellulose, and because its foreseen applications are extremely wide in many industries. Zelfo Technology takes the subject one step further in producing controlled mixtures of macro, micro and nano scale fibres using a patented production process thereby dramatically extending the range of uses.
Zelfo Technology has been a pioneer in this kind of fibre engineering since 2010, focusing primarily on upgrading waste sources. The company is now committing to developing and producing packaging based fibre additives with, for example, immediate applications in the liner and fluting sectors.
Indications are that the use of a percentage of engineered corrugated container waste (OCC) can allow liner and fluting producers to make significant reductions in grammage, without negatively impacting on the end-product performance. “This means raw material savings, but this also and more importantly means a reduction of the weight of the final product, which has far more sustainable implications throughout the product’s lifecycle” says ZT CEO Richard Hurding. Furthermore, engineered fibre can carry more filler and performance enhancing chemistry etc.
ZT is concentrating on the containerboard market as it is primarily driven by increasing industrial and manufacturing activity. Better transportation and shipment facilities, improved durability and strength of container boxes, as well as safety and aesthetics of the packaging are anticipated to be major drivers of the market. The growing demand for lightweight and innovative packaging is also driving the global containerboard market, as eco-friendly and recyclable product specification obtained due to containerboard are forcing manufacturers and industries to use corrugated boxes.
Strong, lightweight and cost effective containerboards are anticipated to be the major opportunity criteria for the developing global containerboard market. “Forming strategic tie-ups with container box producers to produce industry specific products to penetrate in new application sectors is considered to be a major opportunity for the global containerboard market, and Zelfo Technology’s Engineered Fibres allow such opportunities to become a reality, not in the future, but today” says ZT’s Technical Director Trevor Dean. “Imagine the impact of grammage reduction on this over 200 billion m2 market!”. This figure comes from 2013 and is expected to keep growing in the years to come.
The Schwedt location “will allow ZT to be part of the pulp and paper ecosystem” continues Richard Hurding, “because we will be operating alongside the EMFOS GmbH (European Moulded Fibre Operation Services) independent packaging R&D Centre and are situated in between the two Leipa Paper facilities, which combined form the biggest paper and packaging production site in Germany”. ZT will continue to offer tailor-made developments to its clients both with cellulose and ligno-cellulosic materials.
The throughput with OCC has now reached 1,5 tonnes per day thanks to the latest process developments patented in summer 2016 and this therefore allows ZT to transform waste carton board into high quality fibres for reinforcement and binder applications. Sample quantities are available for testing and pre-industrial quantities can be supplied.
The same type of throughput can be reached with many agro-materials and agro-wastes, giving growers the possibility to turn a waste disposal cost into a potential revenue while contributing to circular economy principles. This is particularly well illustrated by the partnership ZT has with bio-packaging company Bio-Lutions GmbH ( www.bio-lutions.com ).