Papyrus Australia has developed a patented technology (Papyrus technology process) that produces sustainable products (Papyrus technology products) from an available, sustainable, renewable and abundant fibre supply.
Unique in the world, the Papyrus technology converts the waste trunk of the banana palm into alternatives to forest wood products to be used in the paper, packaging, furniture, building, construction and other industries.
Banana tree trunks, which are sustainable, renewable and abundant, are currently viewed as a problematic waste stream with no other economically-viable uses. The Papyrus technology process provides a solution to this problem.
In addition, vegetative propagation methods mean that each banana plant in a plantation is nearly identical in size and shape, making them ideal for use as a raw material input.
The Papyrus technology process has a lower cost structure than traditional wood-based processes because:
- The natural structure of the banana tree trunk permits the use of an optimised production process, significantly simpler than wood-based processes
- The Papyrus technology process uses less energy and fewer chemicals
- The Papyrus technology has been designed to use the existing banana plantation infrastructure minimising transportation costs.
The technology also meets all the criteria required to be an environmentally-sustainable manufacturing process with significant benefits when compared to traditional timber-based fibre production:
- The source of fibre is the banana tree trunk (BTT), a previously unutilised, non-seasonal fibre resource
- Production occurs amidst the plantations, reducing transport and resultant pollution
- No water is consumed during the production process
- Minimal amounts of energy are required
- No chemical additives are consumed in the production process
- No effluent is discharged or released into the environment
- During the process, water contained in the trunks is released and this can be used to irrigate the banana plants in the plantation where the Papyrus technology is installed
- It does not contribute to the destruction of natural or purpose-planted forests, potentially saving about 12 million hectares every year from destruction
- The use of BTT stops the emission of methane and carbon dioxide, both being very dangerous greenhouse gases contributing to global warming.
The Papyrus technology process
Papyrus has successfully developed a patented plantation-based manufacturing process (see diagram 4) to produce panel and veneer products.
Diagram 4: The Papyrus technology process
The round up process removes the outer layer from the banana tree trunk and prepares the resultant core for subsequent manufacturing operations. The outer layer of the banana tree trunk is removed as a single, continuous length of material of constant thickness using a patented type of spindle-less lathe.
After the outer layer is removed from the banana tree trunk, the resultant core is used in the core veneer process. The core veneer process also uses a type of spindle-less lathe, but differs from the round up lathe in that the cutting process is undertaken with a higher degree of accuracy allowing production of thin veneers.
The round up process and core veneer process occur in the Beta Veneering Unit.
The dewatering process is similar for both the round up and core veneer processes and uses a combination of mechanical squeezing through rollers and thermal drying in an oven. The dewatering process is optimised to meet material quality specifications and minimise energy use.
In the panel manufacturing process, the outer layer sheets are slitted and diced to produce unique homogeneous fibre chips of uniform size and thickness. The fibre chips are then mixed with adhesive and pressed to the required density.
For more information on the Papyrus technology and manufacturing process, you can watch our corporate video.
Comparison with wood-based manufacturing
Papyrus technology panel products can substitute existing wood-based panels including particleboard, medium density fibreboard (MDF), hardboard and insulating board. The Papyrus manufacturing process has many benefits in comparison to wood-based panel manufacturing processes. The Papyrus technology process:
- Produces fibre chips of a uniform size and does not require screening or grading of raw materials, simplifying the process and reducing waste
- Utilises a mould during pressing and produces a product that does not require subsequent sanding or trimming, simplifying the process and reducing waste
- Allows for the production of complicated shapes through the use of moulds
- Minimises transportation and supply chain production costs because the technology is operated using the existing infrastructure at the plantations
- Uses no formaldehyde glues
- Uses a fraction of the energy required for existing wood-based product manufacturing.
By contrast, existing wood-based manufacturing processes have the following characteristics:
- Resins such as urea-formaldehyde or phenol-formaldehyde are used for bonding. Waxes are also added to impart water resistance
- The types of particles used in particleboard manufacturing include wood shavings, flakes, wafers, chips, sawdust, strands, slivers and wood wool. There can be large variation in the properties of raw materials
- Particleboard is generally manufactured in three or five layers, with surface layers generally made from finer material than internal layers. This requires screening and grading of raw materials, with additional waste generated
- The raw material to produce MDF is usually wood chips, which are separated into fibres in the defibration process, involving pressurised digestion and mechanical pulping. This defibration process is energy intensive
- The MDF manufacturing process has relatively high energy requirements, which are often at least partly met by the onsite combustion of waste wood products.
Diagram 5: Existing particleboard manufacturing process versus Papyrus process
Diagram 6: Existing MDF manufacturing process versus Papyrus process