The forest industry at the heart of the circular economy

The forest industry has lived by the principles of circular economy for a long time already. All parts of the tree are used carefully and manufactured into products of the highest grade. The products can be recycled and finally even used for bioenergy production. The Finnish forest industry works with many globally renowned companies as well as numerous local entrepreneurs.

In the circular economy, raw materials and products are reused  or recycled and their value endures for as long as possible. This requires companies to develop new value chains, when the familiar “use, discard, and destroy” chain no longer works. Recycled fertilisers are an excellent example of industry’s resource efficiency and the forest industry’s ability to transform as a frontrunner in the bioeconomy.

The Finnish forest industry works with many world-renowned companies as well as numerous local entrepreneurs. In the industrial symbioses established by co-operation partners, production side streams are processed into high-grade products and at the same time natural resources are saved. This is the circular economy at its best.

As an example of this, the fibre sludge that results from paper and pulp industry production can be used in fields as a soil improver alongside artificial fertilisers or processed into recycled fertiliser. Composted fibre sludge contains a great deal of nutrients bound to organic matter that are not easily washed away by rainwater but are instead released for plants to absorb. According to agricultural experts, a scarcity of organic matter is already a factor that limits crop yields in many places and the situation cannot be remedied with artificial fertilisers alone. Organic matter improves soil structure, water holding availability, and increases yields in a sustainable fashion way. Arable land forms an effective carbon storage when artificial fertilisers are replaced with recycled organic nutrients.

The existence of best practices is not self-evident. We need technological development, innovations, training, and above all legislation that supports and enables co-operation between sectors and various actors in order to create profitable business and jobs.