For decades now, billions of dollars in recycling infrastructure investment by the paper industry combined with support from consumers, communities and businesses have made the recycling of paper-based packaging an overwhelming success across North America. Even so, the great success story of recycled packaging has been muddled by competing claims between and among paper manufacturers and the environmental community about how much recycled content packaging products should contain. Unfortunately, consumers, brands and retailers have been badly served by the black-or-white nature of this debate. There’s no question that recycled content contributes to the sustainability of paper-based packaging and to a more sustainable, circular economy. But does every product have to contain 100% recycled content to be sufficiently sustainable, as some insist? The answer is no. To begin with, recycled fiber has to originate somewhere, and that origin is the virgin fiber that made up the paper product that got recycled in the first place. click read more below for additional information
The Spanish private research organisation CARTIF has completed the first assessment focusing on the environmental and social performance of Metsä Group’s Kuura textile fibre. Kuura is still in a R&D phase and the production process to make it is currently being tested and further developed at a tonne per day demo plant in Äänekoski, Finland.
The outcome of the assessment conducted by CARTIF is very good for Kuura. In regard to environmental performance, when comparing to other commercial man-made cellulosic fibres (viscose and lyocell), and to cotton, Kuura shows the lowest impact on climate change, supporting its viability as a sustainable solution in the market of textile fibres (see Figure 1). More specifically, the use of local, sustainably managed wood raw material combined with the use of fully fossil free energy obtained from the existing industrial mill site and with a novel process for the production of Kuura textile fibre result in a product with a clear climate change mitigation potential compared to the use of existing commercial textile fibres.
The social aspects of producing Kuura textile fibre were also evaluated by CARTIF as they form one of the three pillars of sustainability. The results of the social impact assessment are very positive for Kuura, as can be seen in Figure 2. In other words, this kind of industrial production, in the way outlined by Metsä Group, would get the highest score in all impact categories included in the assessment.
“Using Life Cycle Thinking already in the process design phase is a smart way of keeping sustainability aspects in the spotlight from the beginning. It is encouraging to see this commitment to sustainable development in big industrial players like Metsä Group”, says Fernando Burgoa, LCA Specialist at CARTIF.
“Our manufacturing concept is based on locally-sourced wood that comes from forests owned and managed mainly by our cooperative owner-members, the use of never-dried paper-grade pulp as the raw material, and a comprehensive integration to a fossil free bioproduct mill. Our own early estimate told us that the Kuura concept must be competitive in both environmental and social sustainability. Having now the proper LCA results to support this estimate gives us confidence that we are on the right track”, says Niklas von Weymarn, CEO of Metsä Group’s innovation company Metsä Spring.
CARTIF is a horizontal, private and non-profit research institution, whose main mission is providing innovative solutions to the industry to enhance their processes, systems and products, improving their competitiveness and creating new business opportunities.