Emissions of the Finnish pulp and paper industry well in control despite record production volumes in 2006

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The Finnish pulp and paper industry’s production increased in 2006 compared to 2004, the previous normal year. A total of 14.1 million tonnes of paper and paperboard were produced in addition to 13 million tonnes of pulp. In spite of record production volumes, emissions for the most part decreased. A total of €130 million was spent in environment protection, €46 million of which were direct environment conservation investments.

Emissions into waterways primarily down

The amount of suspended solids i.e. timber and bark parts, fibre as well as filling and coating agent residues, in wastewater decreased by a total of 21% compared to the previous normal year. Biological oxygen demand (BOD) decreased by 5% and chemical oxygen demand (COD) by one percent.

The phosphorus content of wastewater decreased by 3% and the nitrogen content increased by 7%. Controlling the content of nitrogen and phosphorus in wastewater emissions is challenging because both of these chemical elements are found naturally in wood. In addition, these substances are added to biological wastewater purification processes to enhance their efficiency. The forest industry accounts for some 5% of total nutrient emissions in Finland.

The load of adsorbable organic halogens (AOX) has decreased by almost 90% over the previous 15 years. AOX compounds are naturally present in the environment, but they are also created in conjunction with the bleaching of pulp. In 2006, emissions of adsorbable organic halogens into waterways increased in proportion to production volumes, i.e. by 4%.

For the most part, the forest industry utilises biological methods to purify wastewater at activated sludge facilities. The industry aims to keep production facilities running evenly and uninterruptedly, which also minimises harmful environmental impacts. Predicting and managing disruptions is, from an environmental point of view, a better solution than installing more purification devices.

The forest industry of Finland does not place a critical load on the atmosphere

The majority of the Finnish forest industry’s carbon dioxide emissions are created in the generation of energy, in which the industry is almost self-sufficient. The pulp and paper industry primarily uses bark and timber residue as well as black lye, a cooking by-product, to fuel its power plants. Thanks to this, bioenergy accounts for 75% of the forest industry’s energy generation and 25% of the aggregate energy generation in Finland. This is many times more than the European average, which stands at just 6.5%.

Investments in energy-efficiency and increased usage of bioenergy have helped the forest industry reduce its carbon dioxide emissions to a level below that of the 1990s, even though production volumes have increased significantly over the same period. The forest industry emitted 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and accounted for 31% of Finland’s energy consumption in 2006.

The forest industry is responsible for about 10% of Finland’s sulphur and nitrogen emissions. In 2006, emissions of sulphur dioxide decreased by 15% and emissions of reduced sulphur compounds increased by 10% from 2004. The rise is attributable to developments in measuring and reporting systems and a corresponding increase to unpleasant smells in the vicinity of pulp mills has not occurred.

Emissions of nitrogen oxides increased by 6%. These emissions are caused by energy generation and pulp manufacturing processes. Emissions of nitrogen oxides have been cut by fine-tuning the conditions in which fuels combust. Achieving further reductions to nitrogen oxide emissions, particularly in association with pulp manufacturing, will be problematic because the expensive equipment needed for this is intended for use in energy generation and will not function in the challenging conditions of pulp manufacturing. The nitrogen in forest industry processes comes from wood raw materials.

Particulate emissions into air reduced by 27% in total; this was largely due to the introduction of new electrical filters.

Waste is being utilised, but permits should be granted more swiftly

The Finnish forest industry has made significant investments in increasing the material efficiency of its processes in order to enable the manufacture of more end-product without increasing raw material use. This development is also evident in the efficiency of the utilisation of different waste categories. The amount of waste sent to landfills has reduced to a third over 15 years, while production of pulp and paper has increased by 50% over the same period.

The amount of waste sent to landfills by the forest industry in 2006 increased by 9% from 2004. Ashes account for over 40% of waste and can be utilised as, for example, a building material for exercise trails and light traffic routes. More ashes are created as the use of biofuels is becoming more common. Increasing the efficiency of ash utilisation is of primary importance to the effort to cut landfill waste amounts.

The forest industry is studying extensively how to increase the efficiency of waste and by-product utilisation and productisation. This objective has also been written into the environment permits of industry production facilities. At present, ash is classified as a waste, making its large-scale utilisation problematic. If ashes are used in the construction of light traffic routes, for example, an environment permit must be applied for. The slowness of permit procedures is a drawback to the exploitation of ashes, often preventing their utilisation in suitable end-use locations entirely.

Once again, more paper recovered than in the previous year

In 2006, approximately 825,000 tonnes of paper products were recovered in Finland, 755,250 tonnes of which were reused. The recycling rate is 68% in Finland, a very good achievement for a sparsely populated country. Some 157 kilos of paper products were recovered per each Finn, 6 kilos more than in 2005.   

2005 was an exceptional year

In 2006, year-on-year comparisons relate to 2004 because a labour market dispute in 2005 resulted in exceptionally low capacity utilisation rates.

For more information, please contact:

Fredrik Blomfelt, Senior Advisor, Environment, tel. +358 (0)9 132 6640, +358 (0)40 705 7389
Alina Ruonala-Lindgren, Director, Resources and environment, tel. +358 (0)9 132 6644, +358 (0)400  454 241