11 Januar 2021

Natural Innovations from Finland Herald the Dawn of a New Wooden Age

As global industries turn their focus to sustainability, Finnish innovators are drawing on their proximity to nature to generate new material solutions

While concrete has been described as ‘the most destructive material on Earth’[1], architects, builders and engineers are looking for alternatives that meet climate goals, as well as reduce waste and pollution.

Finland has the answer. And surprisingly, it’s wood.

Finnish innovation is constantly seeking ways to mitigate environmental stress. As such, around 80% of detached houses in Finland have a wooden frame, while many public buildings such as schools are constructed with timber.

More than half of Europe’s protected forests are in Finland – Finns live on average 700 meters from the nearest forest. Sustainable forestry means for every tree felled, four new trees are planted. 150 million trees are planted each year, so there is over 50 percent more timber than 50 years ago in Finland’s forests.

Five from the Forest: Tree-mendous Finnish Innovations

Finnish company Woodio, recently recognised with a Fennia Prize, creates washbasins and bathtubs from waterproof wood composite, disrupting the heavy-polluting ceramics industry.

Wood and wood-based fibres, such as nanocellulose, are already replacing everyday plastics in almost every imaginable industry. Helsinki-based Sulapac is a pioneer in this field, with its biodegradable and microplastic-free material made from wood and plant-based binders, providing sustainable solutions for cosmetics packaging.

Paptic has created a renewable, reusable and recyclable alternative material based on wood-fibre – established as a response to the banning of plastic bags in numerous countries.

Forest-rich Finland is also home to Woodly, a cleantech company producing a novel type of carbon-neutral, wood-based plastic made from cellulose extracted from sustainably managed and FSC-certified forests.

The global textile industry has been crying out for sustainable innovation. Spinnova converts wood pulp directly into textile fibre, with zero waste and 99 percent less water usage than that used in cotton production. Finnish design icon Marimekko has been working with the company to produce sustainable fashion.

Marika Ollaranta, Head of Bio & Circular Finland from Business Finland, said: “In Finland, we believe we can create smart, sustainable solutions for global problems. Finland aims to be carbon neutral by 2035, and wood innovations in every sector, as well as sustainable forestry, will make a significant contribution to that goal.”

1. The Guardian, 25th February 2019

Source: Business Finland, press release, 2020-12-16.

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