The forest industry is investing in developing new products

The forest industry is working fast to develop new products and business alongside its existing operations. The forest industry’s existing products will continue to constitute the core of its business for a long time yet, as new generations of paper, packaging and wood products are continually being developed. Most of the forest industry’s current products are in growth markets but new, interesting prospects have already been detected.

The forest industry’s renewable raw material, wood, can be turned into many different kinds of climate-friendly products. Forest industry bioeconomy growth areas include construction and interior decoration, packaging and tissue, as well as bio-based energy. New bioeconomy products come in the form of bioenergy, biofuels, and biochemicals as well as biocomposites, which combine wood and fibres with other materials.

Interesting opportunities are opening up for wood as a replacement for fossil raw materials such as plastic or aluminium in packaging. Wood contains many different ingredients that can be used in, for example, the cosmetics or pharmaceutical industries. The textiles industry is developing textile fibres from wood and these can replace, for instance, cotton or polyester.

By ripping the pulp fibres contained in wood into smaller particles, the fibre acquires completely new kinds of characteristics. Such microfibrillated pulp can be used, for example, as a dense coating on packaging, to bring strength to paper or paperboard production, or as a medium for cell cultures, and it can be turned into objects via 3D printing.

In future it may be possible to produce transparent plywood or to store electricity in paper. One line of development will focus on the advantages offered by digitalisation, for example, in the improvement of raw material, timber and product logistics, or for adding smart features to packaging.

Industrial symbiosis or circular economy thinking is already apparent at forest industry facilities. The forest industry has a long history of operating in such a way that all materials and energy are used as efficiently as possible. Innovations in this regard include linking fertiliser products to mill operations or, for example, studies into how the forest industry’s waste heat can be better employed in the processes of other players.