A general Life Cycle Assessment framework for sustainable bleaching: A case study of peracetic acid bleaching of wood pulp

Yuan Yao and 3 other contributors

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    Bleaching is an important industrial operation that has significant environmental impacts. Many new bleaching technologies have been developed; nonetheless, it is challenging to quantify their potential environmental impacts due to the lack of quantitative information and robust analysis methods across different bleaching agents. This study addresses this gap by developing a general Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) framework that integrates LCA with manufacturing process simulations and lab-scale bleaching experiments. The framework was applied to a case study of Peracetic Acid (PAA), a promising bleaching agent, used in the Total Chlorine-Free (TCF) technology for wood pulp production, compared with the traditional Elemental Chlorine-Free (ECF) using chlorine dioxide. Different PAA synthetic pathways (i.e., using acetic acid or triacetin) and bleaching charges were explored using scenario analysis. Results showed that PAA-based TCF achieves a brightness similar to the conventional ECF technology with lower life-cycle impacts in categories such as global warming and eutrophication. From a process perspective, PAA-based TCF reduces the consumption of energy, water, pulping chemicals, completely avoids the use of chlorinated compounds, and provides enhanced process safety. The source of PAA significantly affects the life-cycle environmental impacts of pulp bleaching. Using PAA synthesized from triacetin rather than acetic acid leads to higher environmental impacts; however, such impacts can be mitigated by reducing excessive use of triacetin (direction for future optimization) or using bio-based glycerin in the production of the triacetin feedstock for PAA production. Although this case study focuses on PAA bleaching for wood pulp, the framework has the potential to be used for other/same bleaching agents in different industrial sectors. (c) 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.