My role in sustainability: Creating valuable products from waste streams

When I think about sustainability, I always wonder whether the responsibility of being sustainable is more personal or professional responsibility. From my point of view, it is both, and therefore my personal and professional life choices are always filtered out through a lens called ‘sustainability’.

My food and travel choices are environmentally sustainable as I don’t consume meat or own a private vehicle. My main mode of transportation is public transportation and I mostly walk in the city. I am also very conscious of energy consumption and I try to utilize as less energy as possible.

I work as a Product Engineer at Valmet, and my main tasks involve developing technologies to reduce the pollutants footprint of pulp mill odorous gases and industrial flue gases to the environment, and thereafter to produce valuable products from these waste streams. 

Zero waste process is essential

The major part of my work time is dedicated to developing and nurturing technological innovations and optimizing existing process technologies.

I am most passionate about open discussion on ideas and developing new technologies to create valuable products from waste streams. Implementation of these new technologies could make the existing pulp and energy producing infrastructure more sustainable without major investments, and thus reduce the gap between status quo technologies and futuristic zero waste processes.

This thought is directly connected to Valmet’s mission “Converting renewable resources into sustainable results”.  The idea of zero waste process should be essential when designing any new process systems and I believe it is the direction we must thrive to achieve with sustainable concepts like circular economy.

Environmental advantages with sulphuric acid plant

One of the most interesting technological product that I have been developing is sulphuric acid plant. Pulp mill produces lot of waste gas streams, which can be carefully converted to produce sulphuric acid that can be re-used in several places in pulp mill.

For example, the produced acid can be used in bleaching, chlorine dioxide production plant, tall oil production, pH control and waste water treatment plant. Internally produced sulphuric acid reduces the cost of externally purchased acid and helps in closing the mill chemical balances.

Sulphuric acid plant brings significant environmental advantages, one being reduced transportation of the chemicals to pulp mill. This process is the best example of circular processes which help the pulp mill environment to be more sustainable.

Sustainable future needs dialogue

Industrial megatrends like digitalization, big data, internet of things and resource efficient processes are coming together to play a vital role in our daily lives. However, I must admit that these megatrends always need to be questioned at every stage of their development, so we can make use of them effectively.

In my opinion, there is a big difference between research findings and industry practices. In order to fulfill the gap, the companies have to step up the investments in new technologies that are environmentally efficient and at the same time regulatory bodies must encourage and enforce the laws towards a more sustainable world. Conscious consumerism and a greener world are paradoxical, but at the same time these topics open an important dialogue to help each other towards a sustainable future.

At the end, there are fundamental questions I keep constantly asking myself:

Are we doing enough to build a sustainable world? Is the sustainable world possible?

Naveen Chenna
Product Engineer