Pere Fullana (the Chair’s director) just published a new paper in collaboration with LEPAMAP (Laboratori d’Enginyeria Paperera i Materials Polímers) from the University of Girona. It’s published under the title “Fiberboards made from corn stalk thermomechanical pulp and kraft lignin as a green adhesive” and it’s free to download at Bioresources.
Corn represents one of the most important agricultural industries around the world, and just as any other industry, it generates residues (mainly cobs, leaves and stalks). Up until now these residues have not been efficiently managed, being mainly burned in the field. A similar case happens with kraft lignin, a by-product of pulp mills generated during the kraft pulping of wood chips. Only 2% of this residual lignin is utilized in value-added and commercial products.
Images from Pixabay.
This lack of waste management creates an opportunity to find new applications for such residues, fulfilling one of the main current Circular Economy goals by valorizing them and reintroducing them in the economy, thus “closing the loop”.
This study aims to develop fiberboards made from corn stalk with reinforcement of kraft lignin as a natural binder. This is achieved through the production of a new composite material with enhanced properties from commercial ones that usually contain synthetic resins. In order to address the environmental behavior of this new product, the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change participated with a discussion, following a Life Cycle approach, based on pros and cons impacts on environment.
The main conclusion of the LCA discussion states that using corn stalk in fiberboards is environmentally beneficial and that waste lignin may be called a green adhesive when substituting it from formaldehyde-based adhesives. However, it also recommends performing LCA studies for specific board applications to quantify the environmental impacts of competing alternatives.