Finnish expertise unites for sustainable non-wovens
The SUSTAFIT project seeks to boost the competitiveness and broaden the export potential of the Finnish non-wovens sector.Spinnova
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, TAMK University of Applied Sciences and Aalto University have teamed up with 17 industry partners to find environmentally friendly solutions for non-woven materials as part of a 2.6-million-euro project.
The sustainable fit-for-purpose non-wovens project (SUSTAFIT) is taking steps towards offering consumers more sustainable choices in non-woven products. In order to do this, SUSTAFIT assesses the sustainability of non-wovens from a broad range of perspectives with the goal of improving the raw-material base, processing pathways, circularity and approach to business.
“The goal is to increase the share of sustainable nonwovens, and possibly even identify new sustainable nonwoven application areas,” outlines project leader Virpi Rämö.Saara Lehtonen / TAMK
Non-wovens themselves are fibre-based materials that are widely used in everyday products such as masks and wet wipes. While their production process is typically faster and simpler than those of traditional woven and knitted fabrics, they also represent a pressing environmental hazard. Non-wovens are typically single-use, disposable products which often end up thoughtlessly discarded.
“It is vital to build a holistic understanding of sustainability issues in the nonwoven industry,” said project manager Virpi Rämö, senior lecturer from TAMK. “There is a need for further public research to increase usage of bio-based and recycled materials.”
Together, VTT, TAMK and Aalto University will outline segment-specific sustainability strategies around the use of sustainable and recycled fibres, and their processing into non-woven products.
The lax disposal of non-wovens is creating growing environmental problems, including microplastic pollution impacting aquatic life and causing ecological damage.Adobe
On the industry side, SUSTAFIT includes stakeholders representing different stages of the value chain. They are tasked with developing water-repellent and antimicrobial bio-based non-wovens, as well as their raw materials and production technologies.
The companies are UPM, Fortum, SharpCell, Kemira, Fiber-X, Spinnova, Lixea, Valmet, Nordic Bioproducts Group, Rester, Sulzer, Anpap, NordShield, Lounais-Suomen Jätehuolto, Paptic, JedX Medcare and Mirka.
The two-year project is funded by Business Finland and is set to conclude towards the end of 2024.
A common thread
Finnish companies have had considerable success worldwide with their sustainable textile innovations. Backed by such global giants as H&M, Infinited Fiber Company made headlines last year for its plans to build a commercial-scale textile fibre factory that converts old waste textile into its cotton-like innovation, Infinna. This news come on the heels of a string of high profile collaborations with companies such as Tommy Hilfiger. Spinnova, too, has also collaborated with the likes of adidas and Imogo, and additionally won accolades for its sustainable textile fibres.