School of Built Environment, Engineering and Computing

Investigating the use of waste materials in paper production for a low carbon future

In a new research collaboration between Leeds Beckett and Manchester Metropolitan University, Dr Ash Ahmed – Reader in Civil Engineering Materials – is investigating ways of re-using industrial waste materials in the manufacture of paper to promote sustainable, low carbon, practices. In this blog post, Dr Ahmed shares more about the research process.

The paper industry is one of the UK’s more energy-intensive industrial sectors, accounting for roughly two-thirds of the overall energy used in a typical UK industry. The UK Government has set ambitious targets to decarbonise the sector by utilising low carbon technologies.

This project will boost resource efficiency in the sector by investigating the conversion of paper sludge waste to renewable biogas via anaerobic digestion (AD) - as well as the use of AD digestate by-products as a water substitute for making concrete.

Replacing water with digestate in concrete has positive environmental benefits as well as financial rewards for both the paper and construction industry by creating a double ‘carbon sink’ opportunity that will help the Foundation Industries to meet Government 2050 Net Zero targets.

This research will map the typical UK paper mill recycling stages and characterise the composition of paper sludge samples from industrial partners.  We will also conduct assessments of biochemical methane to determine the energy potential and CO2 savings of paper sludge as feedstock for AD compared to that of incineration. Following chemical analysis, the feasibility of using the waste sludge in concrete will be investigated.

This is a collaborative UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) funded project between Leeds Beckett, Manchester Metropolitan University and the paper industry - who will support the project with site visits and by providing samples as well as participating in steering committee meetings.

About Dr Ash Ahmed

Dr Ash Ahmed is a Reader in civil engineering materials. His area of research is looking into the development of green / low carbon materials for civil engineering applications. This is particularly important as the construction materials industry emits three times more CO2 than the entire aviation industry. Current projects include a collaboration with the highways industry investigating the utilisation of agricultural waste in the development of a low carbon high performance concrete and also a number of other current projects working with the lime industry focussing on sustainable masonry materials.

Dr Ash Ahmed

Reader / School Of Built Environment, Engineering And Computing

Leading several undergraduate and postgraduate modules in the field of civil engineering materials science to primarily civil engineering students and also to construction, surveyors and architects.

More from the blog

All blogs