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New circular material with industrial symbiosis in focus

The research project 'Paper mill for textile recycling in the circular economy framework (Circular Fibres)’ looked at sustainability of a new paper manufacturing concept and explored business opportunities for actors in the new circular value chain.

Back in spring, Innventia launched its third Global Outlook Report ‘A Cellulose-Based Society’, which surveyed consumer attitudes to materials that we use in everyday life and described trends and driving forces that are pushing us towards a more sustainable future. The No Waste trend highlights the need for a more resource-efficient society. This was confirmed in our international survey where a significant proportion of the responded consumers wanted to have access to more effective recycling systems to be able to actively contribute to a sustainable society.

Circular Fibres is a spin-off project from A Cellulose-Based Society that assessed techno-economic and sustainability performance of the new paper manufacturing concept. The project focuses on new paper materials where a significant proportion of the fibre raw material consists of low-grade fibres from textile recycling plants.

Tatjana Karpenja

“Together with the paper industry, the textile industry can benefit from utilization of all secondary textile streams, which results in industrial symbiosis. The low-grade textile fibres that we recycle into the new paper material get a new life instead of being incinerated,” says Innventia’s sustainability expert Tatjana Karpenja.

During pilot trial at Innventia, we previously proved that it is technically feasible to manufacture paper with attractive material properties from such raw materials. According to the circular economy framework, this involves a so-called ‘cascade recycling’ of fibres from textile industry to paper industry and industrial symbiosis occurs. The new material was used as cover paper in ’A Cellulose-Based Society’ report, and this is one of our demonstrators of this exciting new material. 

“In the Circular Fibres project, we selected a paper bag application. The assessment showed clear economic incentives and we were able to map potential environmental aspects,” Tatjana says. 

It is also important that recycling and material health issues are taken into account since these are essential requirements set for packaging in the EU Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EC).

“To enable circular business models, all actors in the value chain should get together and understand optimal benefits, for a win-win concept which stands up economically, creates environmental benefit and involves consumers”, Tatjana concludes.

The gained knowledge about circular economy and industrial symbiosis will support our next research programme about bioeconomy, which starts in January 2018.

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