Are Cellulose Nanofibers a Solution for a More Circular Economy of Paper Products?

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This paper presents the study of the feasibility of incorporating lignocellulosic nanofibers (LCNF) to paper in order to maintain the relevant physical properties and increase the number of cycles that paper can be recycled in the technosphere in a more circular economy. For that purpose, the effect of mechanical refining in recycling processes was compared with that of the novel LCNF addition. In this sense, the behavior of a bleached kraft hardwood pulp when recycled was investigated, as well as the effects of each methodology. Since there are many issues to be considered when trying to replace a technology, the present paper analyses its feasibility from a technical and environmental point of view. Technically, LCNF present greater advantages against mechanical refining, such as higher mechanical properties and longer durability of the fibers. A preliminary life cycle assessment showed that the environmental impacts of both systems are very similar; however, changing the boundary conditions to some feasible future scenarios, led to demonstrate that the CNF technology may improve significantly those impacts ​
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