Pioneering wastewater treatment at Lanaken Mill, Belgium

At Sappi, we’re focused on eco-effective actions that can reduce our water consumption and improve the quality of treated water we return to the environment as part of a circular economy.   That’s why we’re especially proud of Lanaken Mill’s achievements in Belgium. They pioneered a new wastewater treatment system that not only meets but exceeds the requirements under Belgian law.  

Seizing the opportunity  

When Lanaken Mill undertook a re-build of its paper machine in 2017 to produce bulky wood-free sheets, it opened an opportunity to re-design the wastewater treatment plant on-site. The team set to work re-imagining the technology involved and plotting out the long-term water needs of the mill.  

After months of research and testing, they identified a series of innovative technologies that could improve the eco-effectiveness of Lanaken’s water use and treatment. Some of which had never been deployed before in the paper industry!     

A pioneering approach 

The team’s pioneering approach involves a series of anaerobic and aerobic systems, together with advanced oxidation technology that reduces lignin in the final effluent.  

Lignin in effluent increases Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), a measure for the amount of oxygen required to break down organic compounds. The higher the level of COD, the greater the negative impact on the receiving environment. 

The state-of-the-art facility that emerged increased water clarity and reduced COD levels beyond those required by Belgian law. It also optimised the limited space available and tripled capacity - results that are good for business and the planet.  

Built for the future 

Lanaken Mill is now well positioned for the future by ensuring that even with increased pulp production or a mix of different species, they can remain responsible water stewards in Belgium.  Building on this achievement, the Lanaken team is excitedly exploring other eco-effective opportunities at the wastewater plant with support from the academic community. From producing biogas to creating new material streams from the alginates recovery, stay tuned for more breakthrough results that realise the promise of a circular economy.