EnEWA research project honored with the European Paper Recycling Award 2022

  European Paper Council with award winners Copyright: © CEPI

The EnEWA research project, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection, received the highest award of the European Paper Recycling Council (ERPC) in Brussels in the category "Innovative Technologies and Research & Development”.

The Chair of Anthropogenic Material Cycles at RWTH Aachen University is working together with the Chair of International Production Engineering and Management at the University of Siegen and the industrial partners STADLER Anlagenbau GmbH, PROPAKMA GmbH, LEIPA Group GmbH and TOMRA Sorting GmbH on a solution to recycle paper from mixed waste streams.

The award ceremony took place on June 29, 2022 in Brussels and was integrated into the "Paper Packaging Day" organized by several associations of the paper, packaging and recovered paper industry. Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou (MEP, Vice Chair in the Committee on International Trade) presented the award to Alena Spies (ANTS of RWTH Aachen University) and René Sauer (IPEM of the University of Siegen) on behalf of the entire consortium.

The use of recovered paper is an important basis to produce new paper. In contrast to primary paper, energy, water and primary raw materials can be saved. Nevertheless, around 20% of the paper produced in Germany is currently not returned to the recycling loop.

To recover this paper the research project "Energy savings in paper production by opening up the value chains of paper from lightweight packaging, residual and commercial waste" (EnEWA) is developing a highly complex treatment process including dry-mechanical sorting, defibration and a disinfection process. Thereby, paper from lightweight packaging, residual and commercial waste will be recycled and integrated in a sustainable circular economy.

Initial analyses of the research project show that 50% of the paper from mixed waste streams could have been disposed within the separate paper collection system, thus offering enormous potential for more resource-efficient handling. The results generated are currently being incorporated into the development of a sorting process for paper from mixed waste streams to be able to sort the recyclable paper for reprocessing. Qualities of paper have also been considered that could not have been disposed in the separate paper collection, but for which there is an equally high potential for material recovery in recycling.

In further steps, the knowledge generated will be incorporated into the future development of the minimum standard for packaging recycling, as well as into the intended development of the 36th Recommendation "Papers, Cartons and Cardboard for Food Contact" of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). Up to now, these requirements have been restricted the use of paper from mixed waste streams. The introduction of technical limit values or the use of a disinfection process, could enable the industrial realization of technical solutions. Afterwards the recovered paper from these three waste streams could be used as a raw material to produce new paper, thus leading to considerable savings in energy and water.


Alena Spies

René Sauer