The effluent from pulp bleaching processes containing chlorinated lignin and degraded polyphenolic intermediates remains as a major source of water pollution from the pulp and paper industries. Alternative elemental chlorine free bleaching methods based on the usage of chlorine dioxide, ozone and hydrogen peroxide are potential substitutes. Bio-bleaching methods, which involve pre-treatment of pulp with microbial enzymes such as xylanases, have emerged as viable options. Investigations reported in this paper aim at exploring the suitability of commercial bacterial xylanase enzyme preparations for bio-bleaching of bagasse pulps in conjunction with specific chemical bleach sequences employing hydrogen peroxide (P), alkali extraction (E), ozonation (Z), hypochlorite (H) and chelation (Q) stages. The effluent profiles and pulp qualities obtained for each of the bleach combinations (involving bio-bleaching and chemical bleaching sequences) were monitored. Analysis of the results clearly indicates that the inclusion of enzyme pre-treatment with the TCF (total chlorine free) and ECF (elemental chlorine free) sequences has a significant effect on the effluent (COD, lignin and colour) and pulp quality (kappa number, brightness) parameters. In conclusion, the findings of this investigation indicate the potential promise of enzyme pre-treatment in combination with chemical bleaching to enhance the quality of pulps and combined effluents.

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