Meeting customer demand for renewable materials

Published 2 May 2017
​Biocomposites enable the use of renewable wood to substitute fossil-based materials in products typically produced with plastics.

During 2017, Stora Enso is investing EUR 12 million to build a new production line that will manufacture biocomposite granules at Hylte Mill in Sweden. Production is scheduled to begin during the first quarter of 2018.

Biocomposite granules could be used in furniture parts or as deckings and claddings, complementing Stora Enso’s wood products businesses. Other potential areas include automotive and transport products. Combining one or more renewable materials together with other bio-based or inorganic components, biocomposites have the potential for a wide range of industrial and consumer applications.

“Stora Enso has the opportunity to expand in diverse markets and business sectors where plastics have primarily dominated. The driver is a growing global demand for products based on renewable, non-food competing raw materials,” says Janne Pynnonen, Head of Wood Products Innovation. “This serves Stora Enso’s strategy for growth, but also supports the bioeconomy and the environment.”

Beyond the Hylte investment, Stora Enso is looking further at the potential development of biocomposites into products for the building sector, as well as for renewable packaging.

“Several Stora Enso divisions have biocomposite agendas and will work together through competence sharing and joint technology development to create unique solutions in biomaterials, packaging and wooden constructions,” adds Duncan Mayes, VP Group R&D & Technology.

The primary components with potential use in biocomposites include novel modified fibres, and refined natural wood components such as lignin, hemi cellulose and cellulose to be used as natural bio polymers.

The most commonly produced biocomposites in the market today contain woody biomass or cellulosic fibre and are called Wood Polymer Composites (WPCs). These can be used in decking and garden products, facades, other building products, automotive parts, furniture and a variety of consumer products.

“In the construction sector, wood as a building material is currently experiencing a renaissance based on new innovative solutions, renewability, low carbon footprint and good weight to strength ratio. With WPCs, for example, we can build on our experience in the Nordics and expand our foothold particularly in window and door components where we aim to replace PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride),” says Jörgen Hermansson, Head of Wood Products Building Components and Systems.

“In the field of packaging, there are also opportunities for significant value creation towards industry, brand owners and end-consumers through the replacement of fossil-based materials,” concludes Duncan.

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