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Traction for Finnish circular solutions

Soil Food has the overall goal replace virgin raw materials with recycled materials in large volumes and quickly.

Soil Food

Metsä Board and Soilfood are using industrial side streams to improve agricultural soil, Neste is fuelling a major construction project in Japan, and Sulapac has unveiled two new products made using its biodegradable material for 3D printing.

Metsä Board and Soilfood have began a joint endeavour to utilise the side-stream fibre fractions created at the former’s pulp mills in Finland.

The Finnish duo revealed last month they will recycle the nutrient-rich wood fibre fractions created during pulp production into soil improvements to not only boost the fertility and water-retention capacity of agricultural land, but also to store the carbon contained in the fractions into the soil.

Soilfood is already picking up at least two lorryloads of side streams from the mills in Kemi, Finnish Lapland, and Äänekoski, Central Finland.

Sampo Järnefelt, chief commercial officer at Soilfood, told that the demand for recycled nutrients and soil-improvement fibres has been growing sharply in recent years. Their supply, though, has been restricted by raw-material shortages.

“Together with farmers and our industrial partners, we are replacing virgin raw materials with recycled ones and using natural resources wisely,” he summed up.

Metsä Board and Soilfood have a collaborative relationship that stretches back to a research project launched in 2015 by Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke). The project investigated the ability of wood-based fibre sludge to stabilise the structure of agricultural soil and reduce both erosion and nutrient leaching from fields to waterways.

Field experiments conducted as part of the study found that soil-improvement fibres reduce the risk of nutrient leaching by up to 50 per cent.

Finland’s Metsä Board and Soilfood have developed soil-improvement fibres from industrial side streams that not only boost the fertility and water-retention capacity of soil, but also stores carbon into soil.


Metsä Board highlighted in announcing the joint endeavour that its sustainability targets by 2030 include utilising all of its production side streams and making sure its processes generate no landfill waste.

The paperboard maker is already using more than 90 per cent of side streams either as raw materials or energy sources. Using them as soil improvements, it acknowledged, is more valuable from a circular economy perspective than burning them to produce energy because it ensures the fibre nutrients are returned to the soil and part of the carbon is stored for the long term.

Neste fuels World Expo site construction

Neste in May reported that it has signed a licensing agreement for its renewable diesel with ITOCHU, one of the largest general trading companies in Japan.

The agreement guarantees the diesel’s supply to the construction site of World Expo 2025 in Osaka, Western Japan. With Neste and ITOCHU both viewing that renewable fuels will have a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the collaboration will focus not only on selling the diesel, but also on promoting the use of greener fuels more broadly.

“We firmly believe that all solutions are needed to reduce transportation-related emissions and support Japan’s target of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050,” said Peter Zonneveld, head of sales for Europe and the Asia-Pacific at Neste.

Finland’s Neste and Japan’s ITOCHU have put pen to paper on a deal to supply the former’s renewable diesel to the construction site of World Expo 2025 in Osaka, Western Japan.


The two companies have co-operated on renewable diesel for more than a decade. The relationship was expanded in 2021, when they signed an agreement to establish a strategic partnership to accelerate the use of renewable diesel as a low-emission solution for diesel engines in Japan.

“Renewable diesel is getting a lot of attention as a solution for decarbonising multiple industries such as heavy duty transportation, off-road and railways in Japan,” told Tatsuya Tanaka, head of petroleum trading at ITOCHU.

Neste has estimated that replacing fossil diesel with its renewable alternative can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75–95 per cent over the life cycle of the fuel. Made entirely from renewable materials, the diesel is a so-called drop-in fuel, meaning it requires no modifications to either diesel-powered vehicles or distribution infrastructures.

Finnish bio-based material used in two eco-friendly products

Sulapac has announced two new products made with Sulapac Flow, its family of bio-based and biodegradable materials suitable for filament extrusion and large-scale 3D printing.

GEHR, a Mannheim, Germany-based leading manufacturer of thermoplastic semi-finished products, has used a material from the family to develop a 3D filament consisting of recycled wood fibres and biodegradable biopolymers. Suitable for printing a variety of objects – from robust and stable to light and highly detailed – the filament gives them a natural look and feel, as well as haptic touch.

Sulapac Flow, a family of bio-based and biodegradable materials suitable for 3D printing, has been used to build a “future-proof” loudspeaker by RD Physics.


Giorgio Müller, director of sales and marketing at GEHR, indicated that the filament was developed in response to “clear demand” for sustainable wood-based filament that can be used in food contact applications.

“ECO-FIL-A-GEHR Wood is unlike any other wood filament currently available and something many of our customers have been waiting for,” he declared.

The Helsinki-based material innovation company has also joined forces with RD Physics, an Espoo-based company utilising 3D printing to design and manufacture loudspeakers. The two companies have launched a “future-proof” speaker named Sfaira, which is built using recycled electronic components and an enclosure 3D-printed with Sulapac Flow 1.7.

“The enclosure material needs to reflect our mission of reducing waste and offering our customers a sustainable way of elevating their music-listening experience with high-quality loudspeakers,” said Kim-Niklas Antin, founder of RD Physics.

Suvi Haimi, CEO of Sulapac, said RD Physics’ vision and Sulapac’s unique material complement each other to form a “truly sustainable and circular product which sets an example across industries”.

Companies like Sulapac will have access to a steady flow of credit thanks to a recent agreement between Finnvera and the European Investment Fund (EIF).

Finnvera in May said the agreement provides it a guarantee worth 170 million euros to launch a 280-million-euro loan facility supporting small and medium enterprises in ramping up investment in green and digital innovation. The loans will be available for investments aimed at mitigating climate change, advancing the circular economy, developing product innovations and for digitising business models and supply chains.

“We encourage companies to seize the business opportunities arising from these sectors,” stated Juuso Heinilä, executive vice president at Finnvera.

The maximum loan for each individual project is planned to be two million euros, with no additional security required thanks to the 60-per cent guarantee from the EIF.

Bioeconomy is already an important sector for Finland, accounting for 13 per cent of value added generated across the national economy in 2019. The Finnish Government announced last year it aims to double value added in the sector by 2035 by enhancing resource efficiency, by utilising side streams and circular operating models, and by developing new raw materials, production methods, products and services.

The goal is laid down in the national bioeconomy strategy adopted in April 2022.

“In particular, we have wanted to highlight the use of new bio-based products in the textile industry, pharmaceutical industry and even as battery materials. All this is based on sustainable use of renewable raw materials,” envisaged Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä.

By: Aleksi Teivainen