Material efficiency: Use less, get more

Jan 10, 2013

Breakdown of paper mill costs. Materials costs dominate.

Material efficiency means producing the same end result with reduced amounts or lower grades of raw materials. This applies particularly to paper and board manufacturing, but also to certain aspects of machinery construction. Material efficiency measures seek to reduce the amount of virgin natural resources required for producing a certain level of output and recycle post-consumption waste material back in the manufacturing process.

The reuse of wear parts and components is also part of material efficiency, as is extending the lifetime of machinery, components, and spare parts through reconditioning. Material efficiency includes new product innovations to replace previous products that consume greater amounts of raw materials.

Why is material efficiency so important? It is a major cost factor for pulp and paper mills as raw materials represent about 50% of total operating costs. It also provides tools and measures that enable pulp and paper producers to meet global agreements and environmental protection goals by recycling post-consumption waste material, and thus helps to promote sustainability. In the long run, paying attention to the environment is priceless.

It is easy to keep talking about sustainability and the conservation of natural resources. But the key to material efficiency is a demonstrable customer benefit. The basis for any investment, including environmental one, is a sound economic justification. The pulp and paper industry is expecting payback times of less than two years, preferably less than one for process improvements! This is also true for material efficiency investments. The case examples below provide some illustrative savings calculations.

Pulp and paper makers are increasingly adopting a sustainable development profile. Material efficiency is part of sustainable development, and taking it into account is now more important than ever due to the scarcity of natural resources. Emerging markets, such as Asia and South America, are growing fast, which also means rising usage and cost of raw materials. Considering all this, Valmet has positioned itself as an environmental solution provider with a comprehensive holistic approach.

Material efficiency as part of future environmental solutions

Valmet’s specific strengths in the material efficiency field include its broad product range and extensive experience. The uniqueness of Valmet is evident in its ability to deliver and manage large supply projects for the forest products and energy industries. Not many companies in the world have this type of know-how in house.

In a nutshell, minimizing the use of raw materials and utilizing cheaper materials will provide cost benefits. New products will create new markets. Recycling facilitates the efficient utilization of raw materials, thereby also minimizing possible waste disposal costs. Pulp and paper makers have long been interested in recycling and reuse opportunities. They are concerned with minimizing costs and complying with ever-stricter laws and regulations. There is no doubt that they all are aware of these matters.

Recycling and reuse are megatrends that are changing the world, and no one can remain unaffected. Pulp and paper makers can now derive a tangible economic benefit from Valmet’s new solutions, of which only a fraction have been discussed here.

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