H2O2 in paper industry

H2O2 consumption in the pulp and paper industry has significantly increased in recent decades.

The reason for this are lower production costs, improved paper quality, increased yield of wood mass as well as ecological efforts to remove chlorine compounds in pulp bleaching processes and their replacement with environmentally friendly bleach products.

In the pulp and paper industry, hydrogen peroxide is used in three areas: for delignification and bleaching of cellulose, pulp bleaching (pulp of high yield), and for re-cycling waste paper (de-inking).

  • Bleaching of cellulose
  • Bleaching of wood pulp
  • Recycling of waste paper – de-inking (removal of ink)

Bleaching of cellulose

Because of the negative ecological impacts of chlorine use in cellulose bleaching processes (chlorine together with lignin degradation products forms environmentally unfriendly chlorine compounds: polychlorinated di-benzo-dioxins and polychlorinated di-benzo-furans, which are included on lists of mutagenic and carcinogenic substances), there have been long-standing efforts to partially or totally replace it.

Ecologically controversial bleaching processes using chlorine whiteners of CEH (C – bleaching with chlorine, E – alkaline extraction, H – bleaching with hypochlorite) are replaced by bleaching processes with oxygen-based materials. The switching of the paper industry to use oxygen whiteners is also encouraged by legislation, which specifies permissible limits of AOX in waste water generated in cellulose production.

Today, there are two forms of cellulose in the market: ECF-cellulose that still contains a certain amount of chlorinated organic compounds (‘Clor arm’ cellulose) and TCF cellulose, which is totally chlorine free (‘Clor frei’ cellulose). Therefore, paper products already have ‘Clor frei’ labels, which means that this cellulose was bleached without chlorine. This, of course, also affects buyer choice.

Bleaching of wood pulp

By 1962, wood pulp was produced only in grinders (SGW pulp), but today, this type of pulp represents less than half of the world pulp production. It has been substituted by TGW pulp, RMP pulp (refiner mechanical pulp), TMP pulp (thermo-mechanical pulp), and CTMP pulp (chemo-thermo-mechanical pulp) which is supposed to become the wood pulp of the 21st century. Thermal and chemo-thermal pulps are, due to their mechanical properties, closer to cellulose (chemical pulp) and have been replacing it in many products.

The current global policies favor production of these special ingredients of wood pulp of high yield, which must approach the cellulose not only in mechanical properties, but also in whiteness. Nowadays, H2O2 is vital in bleaching pulp, since it helps us achieve high degrees of whiteness, and improved whiteness stability.

Recycling of waste paper – deinking

The recycling of waste paper in the paper industry is increasing globally, because of savings in wood, water, and energy, as well as protecting the environment.

De-inking requires the following steps: conversion of the ink into a form that is easily removable, separation of ink from the fibers, and bleaching of fibers. Even this field is increasingly dominated by H2O2. There also exist combined bleaching processes with H2O2.

Use of H2O2 in the textile industry

H2O2 consumption in the textile industry is declining. In full bleaching, H2O2 is used before dyeing and for the oxidation of reductive dyes in dyeing. For a completely white cloth and yarn, combined bleaching is still used sometimes: hypochlorite in pre-bleaching, and then peroxide for anti-chlorination, yellowing, and bleaching. In most companies a completely white cloth is achieved only by an alkaline boil-out procedure, hot peroxide bleaching, which is repeated if necessary, and the addition of optical whiteners.

Textiles that are usually bleached are yarn, knitwear, and textile cloths primarily from cotton, less so from viscose, and some from cotton/polyester mixtures. In the future, it is predicted that cotton will have precedence over regenerated and artificial fibers.

Combined bleaching, using hypochlorite and peroxide, is decreasingly used. The transition to solely peroxide bleaching requires an appropriate choice of an optical whitener and organic stabilizer. Instead of hypochlorite, some companies in the world have introduced a combined PAA (per-acetic acid): H2O2 method of bleaching.