The future will be made of bio-based products
 
 
 

The future will be made of bio-based products

​To tackle the widely-recognized global challenges, such as scarcity of resources and harmful plastic waste in oceans, the European Commission has adopted a plastic strategy with the aim to accelerate the transition to more circular economy and at the same it is updating its bioeconomy strategy to promote the use of renewable raw materials and bio-based products. Can the EU, with the innovations of companies like Metsä Fibre, find a more sustainable solution and lead the world toward lasting change?

12/2018 TEXT: LISA KETTMAN-KERVINEN, PHOTOS: SEPPO SAMULI AND METSÄ GROUP

​THE URGE FOR CHANGE

Across the world, plastics make up 85% of all marine litter. In addition to the oceans, micro-plastics are accumulating in the air, water and food. The health impacts on humans are still unknown. Tackling the problem of plastic waste has risen to the top of the agenda in the EU – and the EU is undertaking numerous initiatives to accelerate the transition to a circular economy and to promote bioeconomy.

This means new opportunities are opening up for bio-based innovations, competitiveness and job creation for companies throughout Europe, including Metsä Fibre, which is a frontrunner in sustainability and the circular economy. The future will be made of bio-based products

According to Jyrki Suominen, Senior Expert, Deputy Head of the Bioeconomy Strategy Unit for the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, “Plastics is a very important topic for the current Commission. In January 2018, the Commission published the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics, aimed at protecting the environment from plastic pollution, while fostering growth and innovation. This turns a big challenge into a positive agenda for the future of Europe.”

In May 2018, the Commission proposed new EU-wide rules to target the ten single-use plastic products most often found on European beaches and in the seas. The commission proposes a ban on single-use plastic products, such as plastic cutlery, plates and straws, where alternatives are available and affordable. Recyclable products made of renewable raw material from sustainably managed sources are a good alternative to replace fossil-based products.

BIO-BASED CIRCULAR ECONOMY IN PRACTICE

“At the moment, global consumption of plastics is increasing. Therefore, focus must be shifted to recyclable products made of renewable materials from sustainable sources. This way, the bio-based circular economy can become a reality and the use of fossil-based materials, such as plastics, can be reduced,” comments Päivi Makkonen, Vice President, Sustainability Metsä Group.

Makkonen leads sustainability at Metsä Group, where all operations are based on efficient circulation as well as a wise, long-term resource use. “Our roots lie in Northern European forests that grow more wood than is used. More than ever, renewable raw materials are a key asset in the global market. We always know the origin of our wood, and over 90% of the wood we use is certified. Wood is a highly versatile material, which in many ways replaces the use of plastics and other fossil raw materials – and its potential for new innovations is enormous,” she says.

Metsä Fibre, a part of Metsä Group, has promoted sustainability and the circular economy, especially with its investments in recent years. The new bioproduct mill in Äänekoski, Finland, is a flagship for industrial ecosystems, as its concept utilises 100% of its production side streams with partners. The mill reached its nominal capacity in August 2018, and at the moment, operates within an industrial ecosystem of 15 partners. This number most likely will increase – in pace with new, upcoming innovations. 

Metsä Fibre’s bioproduct mill in Äänekoski produces a broad range of bioproducts besides pulp and biochemicals. The mill generates 2.4 times the electricity it needs for its own processes. Fossil emissions are zero, as it uses no fossil fuels. Metsä Fibre is an ideal example of industrial symbiosis put into practice on a large scale.

“We are eager to continue our work for a better future, partnering with customers and suppliers, using renewable resources, offering sustainable product choices, practicing sustainable forest management and certification, further improving our performance regarding the climate and environment, and generally enhancing well-being,” Makkonen continues.

“The scope of sustainability is widening all the time,” she says, “Therefore, we carefully listen to our stakeholders, which put new topics and needs on our agenda. Thanks to the active dialogue, Metsä Fibre through its partners offer alternatives for the use of plastics, for example in food packaging, interior design and personal hygiene – to name a few.” 

And it is not only about replacing the use of plastics, but also cotton and oil-based textiles, for example. Metsä Group’s innovation company Metsä Spring Ltd. and Japanese Itochu Corporation have established a joint venture, which will invest approximately EUR 40 million in building and operating a test plant, with the aim to demonstrate a new technology for converting paper-grade pulp into textile fibres. The new technology is estimated to be more environmentally friendly than the textile fibre production technologies currently in use.

EUROPEANS STRONGLY IN FAVOUR OF CHANGE

A public consultation on single-use plastics showed 98.5% of the respondents felt action to tackle plastic marine debris is necessary. More than 70% of manufacturers and 80% of brands and recyclers considered action necessary and urgent.

Still, the overall reuse and recycling of end-of-life plastics is very low, especially in comparison with materials like glass, paper and metals. Less than 30% of plastic waste in the EU is collected for recycling.
“That’s why a lot of progress needs to be made, including the development of alternatives for plastic products,” Jyrki Suominen emphasizes.

THINK TANKS TACKLE CHANGE

Annika Hedberg, Senior Policy Analyst at the European Policy Centre, one of the largest think tanks in Brussels, leads the Sustainable Prosperity for Europe Programme. Their mission is to work towards a cleaner, smarter Europe.

She states, “The initiative around banning plastics has gained a lot of traction in the European Union. People have awakened and have an appetite for change. What we need now is a strong vision and a way to implement the change efficiently for the long term.”

She goes on to say that public pressure is now stronger than ever before in pushing for a circular economy. “We are seeing a growing interest to shift from a linear ‘take-make-dispose’ economy to a Circular Economy, which builds on smarter use of existing resources and puts greater emphasis on reuse, recycling and regeneration. Our goal is to create awareness around the related possibilities, challenges and measures needed.”

In her opinion, Finland can provide an important contribution to the Circular Economy discussion from the bioeconomy perspective. In Europe, the linkages between bioeconomy and circular economy are not always fully understood. 

INNOVATION BRINGS SOLUTIONS

Hedberg, Makkonen and Suominen all agree that innovation is what will drive success in this vital change. Innovation is key to the transformation towards sustainable circular economy. And this needs engagement and actions on a wide front.

This is now happening throughout Europe. “However,” says Suominen, “innovations turn into real game changers only when they result in real improvements. This requires strategies and systemic changes that cut across different sectors, transforming opportunities from all types of innovation into market creation and new jobs. Maximising the impact of EU research and innovation is key in this respect.”

Hedberg continues, “If the European Union is successful in its initiatives to regulate plastic production and cut back on waste from single-use plastic, this will have international implications. In Brussels, we’re hopeful that Europe can show the way beyond the EU, turning our challenges into new opportunities for new products, new jobs, smarter business – and a greener future for all.”

Related articles

  • Finnish sawn timber is a sustainable choice

    4/2019/ Sawn timber

    Finnish sawn timber is a sustainable choice

    ​Thanks to sound forest management, Finland’s forests are growing by roughly 20 per cent more than they are being used. This is why Finnish sawn timber is a sustainable and resource-smart solution.

    Read More
  • We utilize the properties of northern wood

    4/2019/ Sawn timber

    We utilize the properties of northern wood

    ​Metsä Fibre possess solid and long-standing know-how in the conversion of northern softwood. We know our raw material and the opportunities it offers inside out. 

    Read More
  • Premium sawn timber from northern wood

    4/2019/ Sawn timber

    Premium sawn timber from northern wood

    ​Northern sawn softwood offers extremely advantageous strength qualities in relation to weight, due to which it is well-suited for use in load-bearing structures.  In terms of its appearance, northern wood is consistent, and it is easy to process and treat in the preferred manner. 

    Read More
  • Metsä Fibre acquires biogas plant in Äänekoski

    3/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    Metsä Fibre acquires biogas plant in Äänekoski

    ​The biogas plant located in the mill area of the Äänekoski bioproduct mill was transferred from EcoEnergy SF to Metsä Fibre’s ownership on 10 December 2018. It produces biogas and biopellets from wood-based sludge generated by the bioproduct mill.

    Read More
  • Antti Kiljunen is Metsä Fibre's new CFO

    3/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    Antti Kiljunen appointed Metsä Fibre's CFO

    ​Previously SVP, Strategy at Metsä Fibre, Antti Kiljunen was appointed CFO as of 14 January 2019.

    Read More
  • Polar King project proceeds as planned

    3/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    Polar King project proceeds as planned

    ​If all preconditions are met, a new bioproduct mill will start up in Kemi during the year 2022. So far, the results of the prefeasibility study look promising. This was the encouraging message of a public event organised on December 18 in Kemi, where Metsä Fibre gave an update on the progress of the project to an audience of around 200.

    Read More
  • Metsä Fibre awarded with supplier excellence award in China

    3/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    C&S presents Metsä Fibre with supplier excellence award in China

    ​Metsä Fibre has received a Supplier Excellence Award from C&S, one of China’s major tissue producers, for being the company’s Partner in Excellence.

    Read More
  • 3/2019/ Pulp

    Innovative products from cellulose fibre

    ​Established in 2011, Chemarts is a Finnish collaboration between two Aalto University schools, the School of Chemical Engineering (CHEM) and the School of Arts, Design and Architecture (ARTS). At its heart, Chemarts is the study of bio-based materials and its main aim is to inspire young students from design and technical schools to get interested in wood-based fibres and to explore biomaterials together. Chemarts was also conceived to consider how design can be a strategic tool when developing new cellulose-based products or new materials.

    Read More
  • Partnership between Asia Symbol and Metsä Fibre is deepening

    3/2019/ Pulp

    Combining forces for a sustainable edge

    ​As demand for high-quality paper products in China and Asia increases, the partnership between Metsä Fibre and Asia Symbol is set to deepen.

    Read More
  • Metsä Spring together with Itochu are shaping the new textile fibre future

    3/2019/ Pulp

    Shaping the new textile fibre future

    ​Metsä Group’s innovation company, Metsä Spring, and the Japanese Itochu Corporation, have established a joint venture to build and operate a unique test plant. The hope is that this pilot will kick-start a new revolution in future ecological textile fibre production.

    Read More
  • Fresh fibre is helping to tackle the recycling challenge in China

    3/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    Fresh fibre to tackle recycling challenge

    ​Since mid-2017, China’s government has moved to ban a wide range of imported waste, from scrap metals to scrap paper, upending a recycling industry that had thrived since the mid-80s, transforming the world’s rubbish into usable materials when raw materials have been cost-prohibitive.

    Read More
  • Metsä FIbre participates in the Shanghai Pulp Week 2019

    3/2019/ Pulp

    Metsä Fibre participates in the Shanghai Pulp Week 2019

    Come and visit us on 20 March at Shanghai Pulp Week Annual Meeting or on 21 March at Hawkins Wright Shanghai Symposium.

    Read More
  • Antti Kiljunen and Risto E.J. Penttilä discuss business success factors under various scenarios.

    3/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    Possible worlds

    ​In an uncertain world, it can be helpful to prepare for various emerging outcomes. We asked Antti Kiljunen from Metsä Fibre and Risto E.J. Penttilä from the Nordic West Office consultancy firm to discuss business success factors under various scenarios.

    Read More
  • Metsa Fibre and Ahlstrom-Munksjo have unique safety collaboration in auditing

    2/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    Metsa Fibre and Ahlstrom-Munksjo have unique safety collaboration in auditing

    This is a unique form of collaboration among the Pulp and Paper industry with the target of promoting the safety work within the industry.

    Read More
  • Arja Suominen discusses the meaning of trust in Finland

    2/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    A nation built on trust

    ​The expression “let’s shake on it” goes to the heart of what it means to be Finnish. We are a nation built on trust. Our word is our bond, and oral agreements may well be binding in a legal sense. We say what we mean, committing ourselves to the settled undertaking and making sure that it progresses systematically.

    Read More
  • The demand for quality paper products grows in China

    2/2019/ Pulp

    Paper-centric lifestyle

    ​As living standards in China rise, the demand for quality paper products grows.

    Read More
  • Sustainable pulp excellence, Asia, Harri Vertanen

    2/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    Sustainable excellence

    ​The year 2019 has started at full speed here in Shanghai, and I hope it will prove to be an excellent year for both us and our valued customers. As our CEO, Ismo Nousiainen, stated in the previous issue of Echo Magazine, we are focusing on excellence in our strategy.

    Read More
  • Metsä Fibre's logistics for pulp

    3/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    Reliable deliveries

    ​Metsä Fibre is the world’s leading supplier of bleached softwood market pulp, with an annual production capacity of around 3.25 million tonnes. Efficient and reliable logistics are a crucial part of the company’s pulp production chain. Some 62 per cent of the pulp produced by Metsä Fibre is exported.

    Read More
  • 1/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    For the forest

    The forests of Finland are satisfying a growing need for responsibly produced, renewable materials used in a wide variety of products. The Pro Nemus (“For the Forest”) visitor centre adjoining Metsä Fibre’s new bioproduct mill in Äänekoski provides an overview of the broad range of opportunities that the forest provides, with exhibits illustrating the bioproduct mill ecosystem, the products of the forest industry and the process of delivering them to customers around the world.

    Read More
  • 1/2019/ Pulp

    Metsä Spring and Itochu invest in test plant for wood-based textile fibres

    ​Metsä Group’s innovation company Metsä Spring Ltd. and Japanese Itochu Corporation have established a joint venture, investing approx. EUR 40 million in building and operating a test plant to demonstrate a new technology for converting paper-grade pulp into textile fibres.

    Read More
  • 1/2019/ Pulp

    Charting the customer experience

    Metsä Fibre’s annual RADAR customer satisfaction survey for its pulp and biochemical customers has been completed for 2018.

    Read More
  • 1/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    Progress in the Polar King project

    ​A renovation project launched in May by Metsä Fibre at its pulp mill in Kemi, northern Finland, has entered a preliminary study stage that will continue until summer 2019.

    Read More
  • Towards the best reliability, Mikael Lagerblom

    12/2018/ Metsä Fibre

    Towards the best reliability

    ​Metsä Fibre’s vision is that our customers value us as their preferred supplier for high-quality bioproducts and services that create added value for their business. The vision is based on reliability– reliability as in being a trustworthy partner or as in performing consistently well. As we all know, trust is something that needs to be earned.

    Read More
  • Maria Laamanen talks about plastic

    12/2018/ Metsä Fibre

    A trendy tote bag heralds the twilight of the plastic era

    ​Let me begin with a confession. I feel slightly ashamed to walk around downtown Helsinki with a plastic carrier bag nowadays, and if my shopping is small enough, then I fold up the bag and hide it under my arm. Plastic carrier bags have become rather embarrassing.

    Read More