Industries in the natural resource sectors such as forestry, pulp and paper, and mining support the livelihoods of many Canadian communities and are important to Canada’s economy. To promote their economic viability and environmental sustainability, it is imperative that these industries greatly improve their energy efficiency and reduce their environmental footprint, for example by valorizing waste. One strategy could be re-using residues from one industry, presently regarded as a liability, to benefit another industry and thereby become valorized. Using this concept referred to as Circular Economy, this project proposes to re-use pulp and paper mill organic and inorganic residues to sequester nutrients from mine-influenced water to make slow-release fertilizers. These fertilizers can be used further to enhance remediation of mine-influenced water, and rehabilitation of disturbed forest soils by rebuilding microbial communities.
The project team from BC Pulp and Paper Bioproduct Alliance, an alliance between UBC, seven BC pulp and paper companies, and FPInnovations, will blend the pulp and paper mill residues with organic wastes (wood chips and hay) and then use this modified residue to adsorb/capture nutrients present in mine-influenced water. The modified pulp mill residues, now boosted with additional nutrients, will be applied to nutrient-poor soils disturbed by catastrophic events such as fires, to promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms, determined using metagenomics approaches, and vegetation. If successful, this process will result in the removal of toxicity from mine-influenced water and rehabilitate disturbed soils with pulp and paper mill residues. Through this valorization and re-use of residues, these waste streams that were previously directed to the landfill will be greatly reduced.