CSIR leading biorefinery studies

The CSIR, in partnership with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, is pioneering new technologies aimed at using trees to their maximum potential to produce chemicals and other high value products for bio-refineries from waste produced by pulp and paper mills.

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Only 40% of a tree is currently used by pulp and paper mills. With biorefinery processes, up to 90% of a tree can be utilised, according to a CSIR media statement.

In South Africa most wood waste ends up in landfill sites, is burnt, stockpiled, or pumped out to sea releasing greenhouse gasses.
Biorefineries integrate biomass conversion processes and equipment to produce fuels, power, heat and other value-added chemicals and biomaterials in addition to their traditional products. Biorefineries use waste as raw material for the production of valuable products.

High value speciality chemicals can be extracted from sawmill and dust shavings, while mill sludge can be converted into nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC), polylactic acid and biogas, said the CSIR.

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Scandinavian and North American countries have successfully implemented biorefinery processes, the organisation said.