The influence of lignin content and temperature on the biodegradation of lignocellulose in composting conditions

Minna Vikman, Sari Karjomaa, Anu Kapanen, K. Wallenius, Merja Itävaara

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The aim of this research was to study the influence of lignin content and composting temperature on the biodegradation of lignin-containing pulp and paper products in a controlled composting test (European standard prEN 14046). Lignin reduced the biodegradation of the samples, and there was a linear correlation between the lignin content and the biodegradation of pulp and paper products at 58°C. The influence of incubation temperature (35, 50 and 58°C) on biodegradation was studied using bleached kraft paper containing 0.2 wt% lignin and mechanical pulp (stone-ground wood) containing 24-27 wt% lignin. Mechanical pulp biodegraded better at lower temperatures, while kraft paper biodegraded well at all three temperatures. Microbial activity was evaluated by measuring CO2 evolution and the change in ATP content, and fungal biomass by measuring the ergosterol content during the composting experiments. Kraft paper strongly increased microbial activity during the controlled composting test, but the activity returned to the background level at the end of the composting test. The proportion of sample carbon converted to microbial biomass carbon was considerably higher at lower incubation temperatures. Changes in microbial community structure during biodegradation of mechanical pulp and kraft paper at 50°C were studied by the PCR-based technique denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis. Changes in the microbial community were observed during the intensive degradation phase of kraft paper.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-598
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 2002
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed



  • lignin
  • biodegradation
  • pulp
  • paper
  • paper quality

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