Published 22 March 2018 by Per Lyrvall, Seppo Parvi and Ulrika Lilja
The objective of the bioeconomy is to reduce climate effects and dependence on fossil-based raw materials, as well as to use resources as efficiently as possible.
Today, it is more and more evident that an economy based on fossil fuels and other non-renewable materials is no longer viable for the long-term. There are more people, consuming more, and using up finite resources. Nor is it sustainable to depend on the traditional business model to produce, consume and waste. Fossil fuels are not just diminishing, but the products based on them are also creating mounds of waste products that will take generations to degrade.
In response, the bioeconomy can help to combat global warming, based on renewable sources that can be ‘regrown,’ recycled, re-used for energy, or naturally degraded.
In bioeconomy sectors, there is huge potential to use the world’s resources in a better way. The bioeconomy isn’t new. It’s been around for hundreds of years, using renewable biological resources to produce goods and services that are green. The difference now is that we are seeing the problems and limitations of fossil fuels, and there is a more urgent call for viable, innovative and sustainable alternatives if we are going to safeguard our future.
Stora Enso in the bioeconomy
At Stora Enso, we realised early on that responding to current megatrends and embarking on a transformation towards a low-carbon economy could not be left to the last minute. This is why we have made it our objective to become a leading provider of renewable materials.
With our foundation in wood-based materials and solutions, we are in a strong position to contribute to the bioeconomy. Our materials are renewable and recyclable, and we have the building blocks for a range of solutions that can help replace products based on fossil fuels and other non-renewable materials. We make every effort to use 100% of a tree, for our timber and other products as well as bioenergy. In production, we are driving down the use of fossil fuels as much as technically and commercially feasible.
What can a tree do? With microfibrillated cellulose (MFC), we can make packages stronger and lighter, significantly reducing fibre, water, energy and transport requirements. We have fibre-based packaging materials that can start life as beverage cartons, and then be re-used in the production of linerboard, copy paper, and tissue paper, in some cases recycled up to seven times before finally being recovered as renewable energy. Wooden buildings and constructions store carbon and can help to reduce the use of concrete and steel, biocomposites reduce the need for fossil polymers used in plastics, and lignin can replace phenol in glues. Biomaterials and biochemicals will open new horizons in numerous applications. Digitalisation and automation gives us the opportunity to make raw material sourcing and production even more efficient, as well as intelligent packages to help protect products and reduce waste.
This is just the beginning. A growing awareness of the need for sustainable solutions is altering consumer attitudes, behaviours and demand, affecting our industry and our customers. So there is pressure for change. We all need to work towards ensuring that we don’t burden the planet with more than it can handle. This is what the bioeconomy is all about. This is the transformation – not just for us, but for economies and society.