Cellulose is the most abundant organic biopolymer on earth.
Trees contain 35-50 % cellulose and we have plenty of well kept forests in Finland.
Wood cellulose has traditionally had a remarkable role in Finnish industry, although the products have been mainly high volume and low added value products with no design involved. Now we are looking for new ways to develop the field. The design-driven approach enables generation of low-volume, high-value industry to the arena. By combining both large-scale high volume and small-scale high added value businesses together the cellulose ecosystem is expected to be stronger in the global market also in the future.
About one fifth of the annual growth is not in use nationally. This corresponds to approximately additional 6 million tons of cellulose (2014). If this additional wood removal from Finnish forests would be refined to value-added cellulose products with price estimate similar to cotton value, the business volume could be 7 mrd €/year.* The global demand for high quality cellulosic products is continuously increasing and 15 million tons annual gap in cellulosic fibres has been estimated in 2030.**
*6 million x 1000 kg x 1,16 €/kg [cotton price in April 2016]
**Haemmerle, F.M., The cellulose gap. Lenzinger Berichte, 2011. 89: p. 12-21
Forest industry based products are significant part of Finnish export accounting for 13.1 % of the export value (2015). Due to the declining markets of newsprints the forest industry is constantly seeking for new business opportunities. The current large players in the forest sector are excellent in dominant B2B business, whereas for more consumer oriented business concepts are expected. The number of cellulosic SME companies is also very limited as the industry has been based on bulk and large volumes. In order to attract future investments and entrepreneurs to the ecosystem, new attractive high-value product visions have to be generated.
The current annual growth of Finnish wood biomass ~104 million m3 and the current annual use is 65.3 million m3 (2014) of wood. Thus the usage of Finnish forest resources could be increased significantly. The imbalance will become even greater through three main factors: increasing through systematic natural resources policy, forest management and effect of global warming and reduced use of traditional forest industry. Thus, the national cellulose raw material asset will increase in its significance and products derived thereof should subsequently be an increasing part of our economy. Furthermore, the wood in Finland is produced sustainably in certified forest and this offers potential added value in branding.
Concomitantly with the Finnish excess of cellulosic raw materials the demand of cotton is increasing. Thus there is an opportunity to replace the water intensive and food production competing cotton use with wood based alternatives. Two routes, the traditional route via dissolution and regeneration or the new technologies developed in research projects like DWoC to make long cellulosic filaments directly from pulp or its constituents can address this demand. This would offer new win-win concepts to Europe as a whole as cotton import could be decreased.