A new partnership between a paperboard mill and a biofuel producer is now producing ethanol fuel from scrap cardboard fiber. While 95% of cardboard can easily be recycled again into more cardboard, the rest is unusable and usually enters the waste stream – a loss in terms of economics and the environment. Now those leftover fibers from International Paper in Iowa are being sent off to Fiberight where they are converted into ethanol fuel. Their first batch of cardboard ethanol is almost ready and is expected to emit 80% less carbon emissions than regular gasoline.
The International Paper Cedar River container board mill in Cedar Rapids, Iowa produces 1 million tons of recycled paper each year. Since 5% of that material is unusable, 50,000 tons of fiber waste have to be thrown out — but now this leftover material can be converted into ethanol fuel.
Fiberight, located nearby in Blairstown, Iowa, is a fairly new biorefinery that has been converted from a corn ethanol plant. Fiberight says the residual fiber waste from International Paper provides excellent base-load feedstock for creating ethanol, and that the resulting fuel has 80% less emissions than regular gasoline. Fiberight is also planning on accepting other organic household wastes, which will be used as feedstock for what they are calling “trashanol.” This sounds like an incredibly promising technology and a win-win solution for managing waste while boosting the production of alternative fuels.