• Feedstocks Analysed at Celignis
    Paper and Cardboard

Background on Paper and Cardboard

Paper/cardboard wastes can constitute a large proportion of MSW and are a distinct resource in instances where they are collected separately. The paper sludge wastes of paper mills, containing fibres too short for paper production, are also a potential biomass resource.

Paper made from hardwoods tends to be smoother (and therefore easier to write and print on) than paper from softwoods but softwood paper also tends to be weaker. The fibres from hardwoods and softwoods can be blended into a single paper type, with the proportional quantities varying according to preferences for strength, whiteness, and roughness, among other properties.

Celignis founder Daniel Hayes has considerable experience in the chemical and near-infrared analysis of papers and cardboards, having undertaken a study, funded by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency, that involved this. That study involved collecting and characterising a wide variety of samples identified, by a previous EPA study, as being major contributors to the paper/cardboard fraction of MSW. Such samples included: newspapers, printing paper, receipts, paper bags, and packaging papers/cardboards.

Analysis of Paper and Cardboard at Celignis

Celignis Analytical can determine the following properties of Paper and Cardboard samples:

Lignocellulosic Properties of Paper and Cardboard

Cellulose Content of Paper and Cardboard

Papers typically have high cellulose contents. This means that such samples could be excellent feedstocks for hydrolysis biroefining technologies, although the CaCO3 filler in some paper may affect acid-catalysed hydrolysis.

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Hemicellulose Content of Paper and Cardboard

The hemicellulose content, and the type of sugars that make up the hemicellulose, will be greatly dependent on what proportion of hardwood and softwood has been used to produce the paper/cardboard.

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Lignin Content of Paper and Cardboard

The lignin content of papers and cardboards can vary significantly, with small amounts in some samples (e.g. tissues and printing paper) but much greater amounts in others (e.g. newspapers and corrugated cardboards). The type and severity of pulping used will determine the amount of lignin that is retained in the final sample.

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Starch Content of Paper and Cardboard

Starch can be an important constituent in determining paper properties and can be added to achieve the desired effect. For this reason it can vary between different paper and cardboard types and direct analysis is often warranted.

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Uronic Acid Content of Paper and Cardboard

The uronic acid content and composition of papers and cardboards will depend on the pulping process used.

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Enzymatic Hydrolysis of Paper and Cardboard

We can undertake tests involving the enzymatic hydrolysis of Paper and Cardboard. In these experiments we can either use a commercial enzyme mix or you can supply your own enzymes. We also offer analysis packages that compare the enzymatic hydrolysis of a pre-treated sample with that of the native original material.

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Bioenergy Properties of Paper and Cardboard

Ash Content of Paper and Cardboard

The ash content of papers/cardboards can vary significantly. Glossy materials can have particularly high ash contents. High ash contents and some of the additives in paper may cause problems in some combustion and thermochemical technologies.

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Heating (Calorific) Value of Paper and Cardboard

As with the chemical constituents, the heating value of papers and cardboards has wide variation. A high ash content in the sample will be to the detriment of the heating value. A lower lignin:carbohydrate ratio would also be detrimental.

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Ash Melting Behaviour of Paper and Cardboard

Ash melting, also known as ash fusion and ash softening, can lead to slagging, fouling and corrosion in boilers which may reduce conversion efficiency. We can determine the ash melting behaviour of Paper and Cardboard using our Carbolite CAF G5 BIO ash melting furnace. It can record the following temperatures:

Ash Shrinkage Starting Temperature (SST) - This occurs when the area of the test piece of Paper and Cardboard ash falls below 95% of the original test piece area.

Ash Deformation Temperature (DT) - The temperature at which the first signs of rounding of the edges of the test piece occurs due to melting.

Ash Hemisphere Temperature (HT) - When the test piece of Paper and Cardboard ash forms a hemisphere (i.e. the height becomes equal to half the base diameter).

Ash Flow Temperature (FT) - The temperature at which the Paper and Cardboard ash is spread out over the supporting tile in a layer, the height of which is half of the test piece at the hemisphere temperature.

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Major and Minor Elements in Paper and Cardboard

Examples of major elements that may be present in Paper and Cardboard include potassium and sodium which are present in biomass ash in the forms of oxides. These can lead to fouling, ash deposition in the convective section of the boiler. Alkali chlorides can also lead to slagging, the fusion and sintering of ash particles which can lead to deposits on boiler tubes and walls.

We can also determine the levels of 13 different minor elements (such as arsenic, copper, and zinc) that may be present in Paper and Cardboard.

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Analysis of Paper and Cardboard for Anaerobic Digestion

Biomethane potential (BMP) of Paper and Cardboard

At Celignis we can provide you with crucial data on feedstock suitability for AD as well as on the composition of process residues. For example, we can determine the biomethane potential (BMP) of Paper and Cardboard. The BMP can be considered to be the experimental theoretical maximum amount of methane produced from a feedstock. We moniotor the volume of biogas produced allowing for a cumulative plot over time, accessed via the Celignis Database. Our BMP packages also involve routine analysis of biogas composition (biomethane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, ammonia, oxygen). We also provide detailed analysis of the digestate, the residue that remains after a sample has been digested. Our expertise in lignocellulosic analysis can allow for detailed insight regarding the fate of the different biogenic polymers during digestion.

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Physical Properties of Paper and Cardboard

Bulk Density of Paper and Cardboard

At Celignis we can determine the bulk density of biomass samples, including Paper and Cardboard, according to ISO standard 17828 (2015). This method requires the biomass to be in an appropriate form (chips or powder) for density determination.

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Particle Size of Paper and Cardboard

Our lab is equipped with a Retsch AS 400 sieve shaker. It can accommodate sieves of up to 40 cm diameter, corresponding to a surface area of 1256 square centimetres. This allows us to determine the particle size distribution of a range of samples, including Paper and Cardboard, by following European Standard methods EN 15149- 1:2010 and EN 15149-2:2010.

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Publications on Paper and Cardboard By The Celignis Team

Vodonik M, Vrabec K, Hellwig P, Benndrof D, Sezun M, Gregori A, Gottumukkala L.D, Andersen R.C, Reichel U (2018) Valorisation of deinking sludge as a substrate for lignocellulolytic enzymes production by Pleurotus ostreatus, Journal of Cleaner production 197(1): 253-263

Disposal of waste sludges produced in large amounts in the pulp and paper industry imposes significant environmental and economical problems. One strategy to address these issues involves revalorization of paper mill sludges by their application as substrates for microbial production of biotechnologically relevant enzymes. The application of lignocellulolytic enzymes in paper, textile and bioenergy industries is encouraged in order to decrease chemicals and energy consumptions. In the following work, deinking sludge was assessed as a substrate for production of lignocellulases. Based on the results of growth and activity screenings, Pleurotus ostreatus PLAB was chosen as the most promising candidate among 30 tested strains and its secretome was further studied by quantitative enzyme assays and mass spectrometry. While endoglucanase and xylanase activities detected in P. ostreatus secretome produced on deinking sludge were similar to activities of cultures grown on other lignocellulosic substrates, average laccase activity was significantly higher (46?000 U/kg DIS). Mass spectrometry identification of the most prominent proteins in the secretome of the target strain confirmed that significant amounts of different lignin-modifying oxidases were produced on this substrate despite its low lignin content, indicating the presence of other inducible compounds. The findings of this study suggest deinking sludge may represent a good substrate for fungal production of the aforementioned enzymes with broad biotechnological applications, including bioremediation, paper and bioenergy industries.

Hayes, D. J. M., Hayes, M. H. B., Leahy, J. J. (2017) Use of Near Infrared Spectroscopy for the Rapid Low-Cost Analysis of Waste Papers and Cardboards, Faraday Discussions 202: 465-482


Analytical data and quantitative near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy models for various lignocellulosic components (including Klason lignin and the constituent sugars glucose, xylose, mannose, arabinose, galactose, and rhamnose), ash, and ethanol-soluble extractives, were obtained for 53 samples of paper and cardboard. These samples were mostly the type of materials typically found in domestic wastes (e.g. newspapers, printing paper, glossy papers, food packaging). A number of the samples (48) were obtained by separating a sample, after milling, into two particle size fractions. It was found that the fractions containing the smaller particles typically had higher ash and Klason lignin contents and lower glucose and xylose contents that the larger particle size fractions. Nevertheless, all of the sample types had attractive total sugars contents (>50%) indicating that these could be suitable feedstocks for the production of biofuels and chemicals in hydrolysis-based biorefining technologies. NIR models of a high predictive accuracy (R2 of > 0.9 for the independent validation set) were obtained for total sugars, glucose, xylose, Klason lignin, and ash and with values for the Root Mean Square Error of Prediction (RMSEP) of 2.36%, 2.64%, 0.56%, 1.98%, and 4.87%, respectively. Good NIR models (R2 of > 0.8) were also obtained for mannose, arabinose, and galactose. These results suggest that NIR is a suitable method for the rapid, low-cost, analysis of the major lignocellulosic components of waste paper/cardboard samples.

Gottumukka L.D, Haigh K, Collard F.X, Van Rensburg E, Gorgens J (2016) Opportunities and prospects of biorefinery-based valorisation of pulp and paper sludge, Bioresource technology 215: 37-49


The paper and pulp industry is one of the major industries that generate large amount of solid waste with high moisture content. Numerous opportunities exist for valorisation of waste paper sludge, although this review focuses on primary sludge with high cellulose content. The most mature options for paper sludge valorisation are fermentation, anaerobic digestion and pyrolysis. In this review, biochemical and thermal processes are considered individually and also as integrated biorefinery. The objective of integrated biorefinery is to reduce or avoid paper sludge disposal by landfilling, water reclamation and value addition. Assessment of selected processes for biorefinery varies from a detailed analysis of a single process to high level optimisation and integration of the processes, which allow the initial assessment and comparison of technologies. This data can be used to provide key stakeholders with a roadmap of technologies that can generate economic benefits, and reduce carbon wastage and pollution load.

Boshoff A, Gottumukka L.D, Van Rensburg E, Gorgens J (2016) Paper sludge (PS) to bioethanol: Evaluation of virgin and recycle mill sludge for low enzyme, high-solids fermentationl, Bioresource technology 23: 103-111

Paper sludge (PS) from the paper and pulp industry consists primarily of cellulose and ash and has significant potential for ethanol production. Thirty-seven PS samples from 11 South African paper and pulp mills exhibited large variation in chemical composition and resulting ethanol production. Simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) of PS in fed-batch culture was investigated at high solid loadings and low enzyme dosages. Water holding capacity and viscosity of the PS influenced ethanol production at elevated solid loadings of PS. High viscosity of PS from virgin pulp mills restricted the solid loading to 18% (w/w) at an enzyme dosage of 20 FPU/gram dry PS (gdPS), whereas an optimal solid loading of 27% (w/w) was achieved with corrugated recycle mill PS at 11 FPU/gdPS. Ethanol concentration and yield of virgin pulp and corrugated recycle PS were 34.2 g/L at 66.9% and 45.5 g/L at 78.2%, respectively.

Robus C.L.L, Gottumukkala, L.D, Van Rensburg E, Gorgens J.F. (2016) Feasible process development and techno-economic evaluation of paper sludge to bioethanol conversion: South African paper mills scenario, Renewable energy 92: 333-345

Paper sludge samples collected from recycling mills exhibited high ash content in the range of 54.59%–65.50% and glucose concentrations between 21.97% and 31.11%. Washing the sludge reduced the total ash content to between 10.7% and 19.31% and increased the concentration of glucose, xylose and lignin. Samples were screened for ethanol production and fed-batch simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) was optimised for the washed samples that resulted in highest and lowest ethanol concentrations. Maximum ethanol concentrations of 57.31 g/L and 47.72 g/L (94.07% and 85.34% of the maximum theoretical yield, respectively) was predicted for high and low fermentative potential samples, respectively, and was experimentally achieved with 1% deviation. A generic set of process conditions were established for the conversion of high ash-containing paper sludge to ethanol. Techno-economic analysis based on three different revenue scenarios, together with Monte Carlo analysis revealed 95% probability of achieving IRR values in excess of 25% at a paper sludge feed rate of 15 t/d. Feed rates of 30 t/d and 50 t/d exhibited a cumulative probability of 100%. This study presents the technical feasibility and economic viability of paper mills expansion towards bioethanol production from paper sludge.

Hayes, D. J. M. (2012) Review of Biomass Feedstocks and Guidelines of Best Practice, DIBANET WP2 Report150 pages

Full Version

Shorter Version

This document is the result of the evaluation of biomass feedstocks, from Europe and Latin America, that took place as part of the DIBANET project. That project is co-financed from the 7 th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Demonstration of the European Union. (Title: Enhancing international cooperation between the EU and Latin America in the field of biofuels; Grant Agreement No: 227248-2).

The work in Task 2.1 of Work Package 2 (WP2) at DIBANET partners UL, CTC, and UNICAMP involved evaluating, on a number of levels, potential feedstocks for utilisation in the DIBANET acid-hydrolysis process (WP3). In the early stage of the project a wide number of feedstocks were examined and relevant secondary compositional data were sought from the literature. Selected feedstocks were analysed at the laboratories of UL, CTC, and UNICAMP and, from these, a limited number of feedstocks were subjected to more in-depth analysis/evaluation.

Work at UL focused on Miscanthus, cereal straws, and waste papers. The wet-chemical and spectroscopic analysis that was carried out on a wide number of Miscanthus samples have allowed for in-depth understandings to be reached regarding the changes in lignocellulosic composition, and potential biomass/biofuel yields that could be realised over the harvest window. Straws present much less chemical variation but have enough structural carbohydrates to warrant their processing in the DIBANET technology. Waste papers can have amongst the highest total carbohydrate contents of any of the feedstocks studied.

Work at CTC focused on the residues of the sugarcane industry - sugarcane bagasse and sugarcane trash (field residues from harvesting). A large number of samples were collected from a variety of sugar mills and plantations. It has been seen that there can be a significant variation in the composition of different bagasse samples, particularly with regards to the ash content. Sugarcane trash has lower total carbohydrates contents than bagasse but is still a suitable feedstock for DIBANET.

Work at UNICAMP focused on the evaluation of residues from the banana, coffee, and coconut industries. It was found that these also have potential for utilisation in the DIBANET process, however the value of the residues for this end-use is dependent on which part of the plant is utilised. For instance, coffee husks have sufficient structural carbohydrates to allow for decent yields of levulinic acid, formic acid, and furfural in DIBANET, however the leaves of the coffee plant do not. Leaves from the banana plant are also of less value for DIBANET than the other parts of the plant (e.g. stem).

A major output of this Deliverable is the downloadable electronic database that contains all of the WP2 analytical data obtained during the course of the project. It contains analytical data and predicted biorefining yields for a total of 1,281 samples. It can be obtained, free of charge, from the DIBANET website and will be a valuable tool for stakeholders in biorefining projects.

This document presents the data and evaluations that were made regarding biomass feedstocks, and also puts forward guidelines of best practice in terms of making the best use of these resources. A shortened version of this document can also be downloaded from the DIBANET website.

Hayes, D. J. M. (2011) Analysis of Lignocellulosic Feedstocks for Biorefineries with a Focus on The Development of Near Infrared Spectroscopy as a Primary Analytical Tool, PhD Thesis832 pages (over 2 volumes)


The processing of lignocellulosic materials in modern biorefineries will allow for the production of transport fuels and platform chemicals that could replace petroleum-derived products. However, there is a critical lack of relevant detailed compositional information regarding feedstocks relevant to Ireland and Irish conditions. This research has involved the collection, preparation, and the analysis, with a high level of precision and accuracy, of a large number of biomass samples from the waste and agricultural sectors. Not all of the waste materials analysed are considered suitable for biorefining; for example the total sugar contents of spent mushroom composts are too low. However, the waste paper/cardboard that is currently exported from Ireland has a chemical composition that could result in high biorefinery yields and so could make a significant contribution to Ireland’s biofuel demands.

Miscanthus was focussed on as a major agricultural feedstock. A large number of plants have been sampled over the course of the harvest window (October to April) from several sites. These have been separated into their anatomical fractions and analysed. This has allowed observations to be made regarding the compositional trends observed within plants, between plants, and between harvest dates. Projections are made regarding the extents to which potential chemical yields may vary. For the DIBANET hydrolysis process that is being developed at the University of Limerick, per hectare yields of levulinic acid from Miscanthus could be 20% greater when harvested early compared with a late harvest.

The wet-chemical analysis of biomass is time-consuming. Near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) has been developed as a rapid primary analytical tool with separate quantitative models developed for the important constituents of Miscanthus, peat, and (Australian) sugarcane bagasse. The work has demonstrated that accurate models are possible, not only for dry homogenous samples, but also for wet heterogeneous samples. For glucose (cellulose) the root mean square error of prediction (RMSEP) for wet samples is 1.24% and the R2 for the validation set ( ) is 0.931. High accuracies are even possible for minor analytes; e.g. for the rhamnose content of wet Miscanthus samples the RMSEP is 0.03% and the is 0.845. Accurate models have also been developed for pre-treated Miscanthus samples and are discussed. In addition, qualitative models have been developed. These allow for samples to be discriminated for on the basis of plant fraction, plant variety (giganteus/non-giganteus), harvest-period (early/late), and stand-age (one-year/older).

Quantitative NIRS models have also been developed for peat, although the heterogeneity of this feedstock means that the accuracies tend to be lower than for Miscanthus. The development of models for sugarcane bagasse has been hindered, in some cases, by the limited chemical variability between the samples in the calibration set. Good models are possible for the glucose and total sugars content, but the accuracy of other models is poorer. NIRS spectra of Brazilian bagasse samples have been projected onto these models, and onto those developed for Miscanthus, and the Miscanthus models appear to provide a better fit than the Australian bagasse models.

Examples of Other Feedstocks Analysed at Celignis