Formed fiber: Renewable alternative to plastics

Published 23 April 2019
In March, Stora Enso announced a EUR 5 million investment to build a new production line and related infrastructure to manufacture formed fiber products in Sweden. This line will be operated by a new business unit which will also conduct research and development of new formed fiber materials and technologies. First products are expected to be on the market by the end of 2019. Sohrab Kazemahvazi will head up the new unit for formed fiber.
Sohrab, to start with, what are formed fiber products?
- A formed fiber product is manufactured by pressing various wood-based pulps into a three-dimensional shape in a molding machine. Depending on the combination of raw materials and additives used, it is possible to tailor the product features. This enables a broad range of applications and opportunities including single-use food packaging items such as plastic-free cups, bowls, clamshells, plates and coffee cup lids as well as non-food applications.

What will Stora Enso focus on?
- Utilizing our extensive capabilities in fiber-based materials and processes, we’ll concentrate first and foremost on replacing short-lived plastic products that are all too prevalent in today’s fast moving, high-consumption markets. Formed fiber products are made from renewable sources and, depending on the end-use requirements, they can be circular by design – a renewable, recyclable and biodegradable product.

How will this add to Stora Enso’s portfolio?
- Formed fiber products fit seamlessly to our strategy as the renewable materials company, responding to the needs of eco-conscious consumers who are looking for more environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic. This is particularly relevant in terms of consumer packaging, on-the-go and retail markets, and we have many insights from our packaging and biomaterials divisions to benefit from in terms of capabilities, customer and consumer demand.

How does the market for formed fiber products look?
- In light of single-use plastic bans in numerous countries, the demand for alternatives to plastics is increasing rapidly. In Europe, approximately 90 billion single-use plastic food service items such as cups, cup lids, clam shells, and plates are sold annually (Source: The Future of European Food and Drink Packaging to 2023, Smithers Pira). In value, this amounts to roughly EUR 3 billion which needs to be replaced by alternative solutions within a foreseeable time.

How will Stora Enso differentiate its offering?
- We will work with new efficient technologies for fiber forming, and ensure food safety and purity in our products. Our offer is sustainable, reliable, traceable and the fiber source is certified (FSC, PEFC).
We differentiate from plastics and other fossil-based materials with one that is renewable, recyclable and biodegradable.