Efficient use of raw materials, energy and water at Metsä Group.

Resource efficiency for sustainable future

        

Resource efficiency is the foundation of sustainable and economical operations. Resource efficiency is also at the core of sustainable bioeconomy and circular economy. We use raw materials, energy and water as efficiently as possible. Using the different parts of a tree where they create the most value constitutes the core of material efficiency. We use logs at sawmills, make pulp from pulpwood for further processing, and produce energy from branches, treetops and bark.

Metsä Group's mills operate in areas rich in water. 99% of the water we use is surface water. Water is reused several times in our processes and treated carefully before eventually being returned to natural bodies of water.

Minimising emissions to water and air

Values guide Metsä Group's operations 
 

Metsä Group has production facilities in seven European countries and a total of 35 mills. Each mill has an environmental permit to determine the boundary conditions for the operation. The environmental permit has typically limit values, for example to emissions to water and air and environmental noise.  

Minimising effects on water

The world's water resources are unevenly distributed, and most of the water is in the oceans. Only 3% of the water in the world is fresh water, and is mostly tied up into glaciers or snow. Metsä Group's production is mainly in the Nordic countries, which are, according to WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development), the world's water richest region.

Given the need for water in the manufacturing of forest products, mills have been built along the lakes and rivers. Although water is used, the Finnish forest industry is a modest user of water: the industry uses only 0.2% of the available water resources Finland. The process water is cleaned thoroughly before returned back into the rivers, lakes or sea. About half of the water is used for cooling machinery. As the cooling water runs in a separate system there's no need to clean it after use.

Minimising the impact of the forest industry operations extends beyond the mills. We want to preserve the valuable natural waters in the forests. The impact of forestry on water is minimised using a variety of methods – for example, forest certification requires buffer zones. Forests are vital to the water cycle, since they maintain the balance between precipitation and evaporation as well as improve the quality of groundwater by reducing the absorption of surface runoff into groundwater. In the Boreal region, evaporation happens mostly in forests. Forests also do not need to watering, as, for example, in Finland it rains 600–700 millimetres per year.

Metsä Group is not resting on its laurels when it comes to resource efficiency and water. Metsä Group has set a Group-wide target to reduce the use of process water per production tonne by 17% from the 2010 level by 2020. By 2016, water use has been reduced by 13%. The target will be achieved both through investments, such as in new technology, and by streamlining and optimising the processes.

Read Case about the use of water at the mills
 

Reducing emissions is the fight against climate change

As part of resource efficiency, Metsä Group's main means of combating climate change are to increase the share of bioenergy and improve energy efficiency. We have reduced fossil CO₂ emissions per produced tonne by 35% from the 2009 level. The target set for reducing fossil CO2 emissions was achieved ahead of schedule in 2016: the goal was to reduce emissions by 30% by 2020.

During the recent years, Metsä Group has invested in significant renewable energy projects which have increased the share of renewable energy in our operations. In total 23 production sites out of 35 have bioboilers and bioenergy production at the site, and 86% of the fuels used by Metsä Group are wood-based biofuels. With investments, the Group's carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels have been reduced by 200,000 tonnes annually. We produce renewable energy also to society, and Metsä Group produces 14% of Finland's renewable energy.

The energy efficiency of Metsä Group's mills have improved by 6% from the 2009 level. The target set for improving the energy efficiency has been set to 10% by the year 2020. To improve energy efficiency, we are looking for ways to reduce heat and electricity consumption. Most of the energy is used at the mills for example in manufacturing high-yield pulp, pumping, and drying pulp, board and paper. That is why energy efficiency is dependent on the fluency and continuity of production.

Side streams and waste

Values guide Metsä Group's operations 
 

Metsä Group's key goals for waste management include reducing waste, reusing waste efficiently and finding ways to prevent waste. In 2016, over 90% of all waste was utilised as energy or materials.

In Finland the reformed Finnish Waste Act allows for new ways to reuse waste and by-products. Its key points include the classification of reusable materials as by-products rather than waste. By-product status is granted by the Regional State Administrative Agency in conjunction with the environmental permit process.

Our largest waste fractions are green liquor sludge, ash from energy production and lime ash from chemical pulp production. Production side streams such as sawdust, bark and wood chips are used in energy production. Other by-products can be used as fertilisers, in landfill construction and in landscaping, among other purposes. We also sell by-products to our partners for further processing.

It is our principle to use raw materials for their most beneficial purposes. We always seek to primarily use waste and production side streams as raw materials. We seek to keep the amount of landfill waste as small as possible. 

Values guide Metsä Group's operations 
 

Waste and side streams part of circular economy

We make highly efficient use of the raw materials that we procure. Process development enables us to make more end products from smaller amounts of raw materials, which reduces our environmental impact. In the circular economy, production side streams are valuable raw materials for new products and reuse. In Finland, landscaping is the most popular use for Metsä Group’s production side streams. In addition to construction, important reuses include fertilising and the manufacture of fertilisers.

Ash for fertiliser and soil enrichment

The forest industry generates wood ash that can be used as a forest fertiliser and in landscaping, either as-is or mixed with crushed rock or fibre clay. Mixed with calcareous by-products, it can also be used as a soil enrichment agent.

Bark for energy production or landscaping

Bark is mainly generated in wood processing and is used in energy production in the forest industry. Gritty mix bark is generated when bark containing sand is separated during the debarking process. Gritty bark can be used as-is, either for landscaping or in the manufacture of compost.

A broad range of bioproducts from pulp mills

Pulp mills can produce a broad range of bioproducts alongside high-quality pulp. Bioproducts such as tall oil and turpentine already represent around 10% of the net sales generated by a pulp mill.

New bioproducts from the Metsä Group bioproduct mill in Äänekoski will include biofuels, clothing fibres and various glues and paints. Read more about the mill  and its bioproducts.

Tissue paper from recycled fibre, sports fields from fibre clay

Alongside fresh forest fibre, also recycled household paper is used by Metsä Group to produce tissue paper. During the de-inking of recycled paper, fibres that have become too soft and short are separated to fibre clay, along with fillers. It can be used in geotechnical construction as such in the base layer in sports field construction.