CSS1: The cruise of wood packaging residues: once a waste, now a resource
January 26, 2022

Authors: Francesco Patuzzi, Marco Baratieri & Vittoria Benedetti

Wood is one of the most common materials used in industry for packaging mainly due to its versatility, strength, durability, reusability, antibacterial effects, no need of chemical treatments and theoretical low environmental impacts. Indeed, wood crates, boxes, drums, reels, cages and pallets are usually used to handle, store, load and transport not only fragile and heavy goods, like machines and plants, but also products coming from the food sector.

After prolonged use, wood packaging might show defects or damages that make it not repairable nor reusable anymore and, once it becomes unsuitable for its original purposes, it is usually discarded and disposed of as waste.

In this framework, FRONTSH1P CSS1 proposes the implementation of an innovative and circular solution for the valorisation of wood packaging residues, which will not be considered as mere waste anymore, but as valuable resources.

At first, wood packaging waste will be sorted according to its quality. High-quality wood will be reused, refurbished and recycled for the production of wooden goods (i.e., chairs, tables, etc.), while low-quality wood and wooden residues will be exploited in energy conversion plants. For this purpose, CSS1 foresees the design, construction and operation of a biomass gasifier. Biomass gasifiers can be seen as polygeneration plants able not only to produce gas to be further combusted for delivery renewable thermal energy to the final users, but also char, a solid, black, porous, carbonaceous material, which could be used as an additive for compost and black pigment/filler for polymers. Moreover, after gas combustion, CO2 in the flue gases could be captured by means of a compact post-combustion capture (PCC) unit and further valorised as a foaming agent in the plastic industry.

Therefore, the specific objectives of CSS1 can be summarised as follows: 1) Creation of a new value chain based on wood packaging waste valorisation, involving the whole community and implementing the circular economy approach (refurbishing, reusing, recycling, energy recovery); 2) Coupling of biomass gasification for renewable heat generation and post-combustion capture of CO2 towards carbon negative emissions; 3) Exploitation of gasification char as pigment/filler in the plastic industry or as additive for compost; 4) Exploitation of CO2 as foaming agent in the plastic industry.

The application of a circular approach for the valorisation of wood packaging residues not only allows for the minimization of waste and all the issues related to its management, as well as the preservation of natural resources and the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but also for the production of low impact products such as wooden goods (e.g., furniture), renewable heat, char and CO2. Moreover, citizens could play an active role in each stage of the valorisation chain, increasing their awareness on sustainability and circular economy, and indirectly benefitting from the environmental advantages that the CSS will bring.