In the May 1997*
issue of CHEMTECH, a publication of the American
Chemical Society, Editor Abraham P. Gelbein wrote an editorial based
on misinformation gleaned from personal sources as well as from the book
The U.S. Paper Industry and Sustainable Production, written by Maureen
Smith. Gelbein grossly misrepresented information related to the pulp and
paper industry, including pulp production statistics, government regulations,
and the industry's environmental progress. As a result of the inaccuracies,
the magazine received several letters from different organizations, including
Union Camp and AET. In response to data furnished by AET, CHEMTECH
has printed a response from AET and comments from CHEMTECH's editor.
The articles, reprinted with permission of the American Chemical Society,
by Douglas C. Pryke
| Your Innovator's
Notebook article "An industry in transition," wasn't factual (May
1997, p. 1). The elemental chlorine-free (ECF) process' environmental
track record speaks for itself:
virtually eliminate dioxin. In fact, since 1988, dioxin discharges
from North American pulp mills have decreased by more than 98%.
Additionally, at mills in which complete substitution has been used
since start-up, dioxin has never been detected in the wastewater
or sludge or in fish body tissue downstream from the mills. The
proof is in the progress: Since l990, 13 U.S. states have lifted
a total of 17 fish consumption advisories for dioxin. Similarly,
in Canada, 46% of the bodies of water previously closed by dioxin
contamination have been reopened.
On the basis
of industry's results and the substantial investments made to achieve
them, the paper industry's emission of dioxin to the environment
is now less than 0.5% of all dioxin generated from natural and manmade
sources. With implementation of the new U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) guidelines, this trace amount will be further decreased
to undetectable levels. And with that, EPA predicts the remaining
fish advisories will be lifted.
that the adsorbable organic chlorine compounds (AOX) attributed
to chlorine dioxide contain carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, polychlorinated
phenols, polychlorinated furans, and dioxins shows a lack of understanding
of the nature of the byproducts from chemical pulp bleaching with
chlorine dioxide. To set the record straight, carbon tetrachloride,
polychlorinated phenols, polychlorinated furans, and dioxins are
not detected in wastewater from ECF effluents, and chloroform levels
are lower than in treated drinking water.
to the aquatic environment posed by chlorinated organic compounds
in treated wastewater from ECF bleaching has been assessed by
a panel of esteemed scientists that included Dr. Robert Huggett,
former assistant administrator of EPA. The panel concluded that,
"Based on the existing available data, ... chlorinated organics
from mills bleaching with chlorine dioxide, employing secondary
treatment, and with [sic] receiving water dilutions typical of
most mills in North America, present an insignificant risk to
today have already converted or have the ability to convert to an
ECF process. Conversion to a totally chlorine-free (TCF) process
may require anywhere from $70 million to $100 million in capital
investment per mill, and bleaching costs for the TCF process are
60% higher than for the ECF process, all for no additional environmental
benefit--a fact documented by a plethora of aquatic ecosystem studies.
The industry's choice is a sound one, both environmentally and economically.
In any estimate
of capital and operating costs to convert to new technology, the
reference case must be taken into account. For existing mills,
the conversion to ECF has been relatively easy because many mills
had existing chlorine dioxide manufacturing processes that could
be upgraded to the required production for relatively low capital
cost of $5 million to $20 million per mill, existing bleach plants
were completely compatible, and bleaching cost increased modestly
quality from ECF bleaching is excellent. Mill studies in Canada
and the United States have measured high brightness (89-90% ISO)
and high strength (burst, tear, tensile, viscosity) with ECF. Today's
TCF sequences are less selective than ECF and, consequently, have
been unable to retain high strength values at full brightness. Numerous
recent studies have shown that TCF tear strength at high brightness
is 10% lower than that of ECF and that the pulps have lower fiber
strength. The lower strength has implications for paper machine
productivity and virgin fiber requirements. ECF has higher wood
yield than today's TCF pulping and bleaching processes, which means
TCF processes increase overall wood consumption up to 10%.
less than 1% of bleached pulp is TCF, whereas more than 70% is ECF.
The balance of bleached pulp production uses high (50-70%) substitution
of chlorine dioxide for chlorine.
ECF holds 75% of the market. Producers of the balance, which is
TCF, have responded to the economics and environmental performance
of ECF and are now shifting a greater percentage of their production
in 1997, ECF will reach 50% of the world market. Production for
TCF bleached pulp has stalled at just 6% of the world market,
with no increases for the past three years.
In the United
States, about 50% of bleached chemical pulp is ECF; 49% is bleached
with high substitution of chlorine dioxide for chlorine, and less
than 1% is TCF. Louisiana-Pacific, the only TCF Kraft mill in
the United States, has not bleached one pound of TCF pulp through
April of this year.
that Union Camp produces TCF pulp. However, a company spokesperson
for Union Camp confirmed that the company does not produce TCF
pulp, nor do they supply TCF pulp to the U.S. government. Furthermore,
the U.S. government never has been required to purchase paper
made from TCF pulp.
presented here clearly indicate that the international scientific,
academic, and regulatory communities have all reached consensus
surrounding ECF's environmental and product performance.
Douglas C. Pryke,
Alliance for Environmental Technology
responds: I stand corrected on the statements about Union Camp
and the purchase of TCF paper by the U.S. government. Since writing the
editorial, I have learned that Union Camp does not produce TCF pulp, Union
Camp is not a major supplier of TCF paper to the government, and federal
agencies are not required to purchase TCF paper. Where did I get such
notions? From information I gleaned while browsing the Union Camp Web
site and information given to me by a friend who works for a federal agency.
Union Camp's Web
site describes its ECF (C-FREE) and TCF (Ultimate C-FREE) ozone-based
bleaching processes as follows: "Ozone applications on hardwood and eucalyptus
allow achievement of market brightness using either peroxide or light
applications of chlorine dioxide in a short elemental chlorine-free (ECF)
or totally chlorine-free (TCF) sequence." If I had read more carefully,
it would have been apparent that only the first technology has been commercialized
at Union Camp's mill in Franklin, VA.
With respect to the
issue of federal agencies purchasing only TCF paper, my friend remembered
a Presidential Executive Order issued in 1993 that dealt with federal
acquisition, recycling, and waste prevention. Federal agencies were encouraged
to use environmentally friendly products and services. In response, my
friend's office has been using Union Camp's Great White brand, which has
a 25% postconsumer recycled content. He assumed that this was also a TCF
paper, and because of the Executive Order jumped to the conclusion that
all agencies were using it. Well, I got a nice letter from Union Camp
Corp.--we published it in last month's issue--pointing out that this clearly
is not the case (July 1997, pp. 2-3).
Now, what about the
other facts l cited in your letter? I summarize them here in three statements:
of chlorine dioxide-based ECF technology has reduced AOX and dioxin
emissions to extremely low levels, so low that they represent insignificant
risk to the environment according to some experts.
to ECF technology is cheaper than conversion to TCF technology and
has lower operating costs, and most mills have already converted
is losing market share rather than gaining market share worldwide.
I have no reason
to doubt the validity of these facts. The facts are marshaled to support
the argument that ECF technology is an adequate and rational response
to environmental concerns and that making pulp production any cleaner
is dumb--to put it plainly. However, I don't buy the argument. The jury
is still out on the risks associated with trace levels of AOX or dioxins
in the environment. One of the facts you present is that the paper industry's
emissions of dioxin to the environment are only a small fraction of the
total dioxin generated from natural and manmade sources. But what is the
fraction in the air and water emissions in the vicinity of a pulp mill?
I suspect it's a lot higher.
The U.S. pulp and
paper industry has done an admirable job of cleanin up its act. Although
I applaud those efforts, I still maintain that the industry could do and
should do more.
*Due to the American Chemical Society's copyright requirements, we are
unable to post Mr. Gelbein's original editorial, as it appeared in the
May 1997 issue of CHEMTECH (Volume , 27, #5, p.1). If your library does
not have CHEMTECH, a copy of the editorial is available, for a fee, from
the CAS Document Detective Service, (800) 631-1844 or email@example.com.