Metsä Board Magazine – Winter 2023


Maija Pohjakallio VP, Climate and Circular Economy, Metsä Group

The soil improvement fibres refined from the side streams of Metsä Board’s paperboard production help improve the state of Finnish fields.

generated in the company’s processes will be utilised as energy or material. “We’re already close to the goal. In 2022, 96 per cent of side streams and waste were utilised,” Pohjakallio says. The side streams of Metsä Group’s mills include re- newable raw materials like wood and wood components. Renewable products can replace fossil or mineral prod- ucts and result in a handprint effect to customers by re- ducing carbon emissions. “We don’t have the know-how or opportunities to re- fine all the side streams ourselves, but with our part- ners’ help, they will be brought into use.” For example, Pohjakallio mentions that the gates of the Metsä Group’s Äänekoski integrated mill site, based on the ecosystem concept, are open to partners: Soilfood Oy refines a soil-improving fibre product from the side streams of Metsä Board’s paperboard mill. Among oth- er things, these fibres help in the protection of waters and carbon sequestration. The bioproduct mill’s main product is pulp, and many valuable products are refined from its production side streams. Even odorous gases emitted from the bioproduct mill are utilised as raw material to produce sulphuric acid. Veolia is one of the recent partners to join the Ääne- koski ecosystem. It intends to build a plant for refin- ing crude biomethanol, which is a side stream of the pulp process. “Until now, raw biomethanol has been burned for en- ergy, but Veolia’s investment means it can be sold as traf- fic biofuel or as raw material for the chemical industry.” The most difficult side stream in pulp production is green liquor dregs. A study carried out in cooperation

with the University of Oulu shows that green liquor dregs can be used to produce geopolymers, but accord- ing to Pohjakallio, it has hardly any industrial use yet. Circular economy indicators still incomplete The indicators measuring the circular economy are mainly related to the recycled content and recycling rates of materials. For example, consumer products are assessed by how much recycled raw material they con- tain, and what the recycling rate of the product or pack- age is. However, only a few metrics describe several streams simultaneously at the system level. “The circular economy is not just about improved waste management but optimising the whole. The fo- cus of metrics should therefore be on the overall im- pacts,” Pohjakallio points out. According to Pohjakallio, another challenge with cir- cular economy indicators is that they only focus on how much material can be recycled or reused as material. “Energy and material flows are interconnected. It should therefore be possible to optimise their entirety and include the use of energy more closely in the cir- cular metrics.” As an emerging trend, Pohjakallio sees the regener- ative circular economy. The aim of regenerative activi- ties is to improve the state of nature and produce pos- itive impacts on society and the economy. In March 2023, Metsä Group adopted the principles of regener- ative forestry. “We will never reach the finish line in the field of sus- tainable development, but what is important is the will to develop continuously.” •

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