In the spring of 2020, the European Commission published a new circular economy action plan. It aims to accelerate the green transition and pave the way for a cleaner and more competitive Europe.
The circular economy also has a prominent place on the political agenda in Finland.
The circular economy offers a new foundation for sustainable business and addresses both climate change and biodiversity loss. The goal is to keep materials in the cycle for as long as possible, minimise emissions and waste, and make sure nature can renew itself. In other words, to achieve more while using less.
However, the circular economy is not just about resource efficiency and recycling. It is essential that companies set their sights further afield and cooperate to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. New earnings logics are also gaining ground, and pricing may now be based on benefit or service instead of volumes.
Bioproduct mill concept as an example
Metsä Fibre’s bioproduct mill concept is a good example of an industrial circular economy – an entire ecosystem built around a pulp mill. The partner network is crucial to the concept. It enables pulp production side streams to be upgraded into a diverse range of products that replace fossil fuels and materials.
Äänekoski bioproduct mill started up in 2017. When the new bioproduct mill in Kemi is completed in 2023, we will also see a new ecosystem emerge and develop there.
Ecosystems develop continuously. In March 2022, Veolia decided to invest in the construction of a crude methanol refinery alongside Äänekoski bioproduct mill. It will produce wood-based biomethanol for use as vehicle fuel or feedstock for chemicals.
Digitalisation paves the way for the circular economy, because it offers ways to improve the resource efficiency of production, the traceability of material flows and data-based decision making.
Today’s challenges – from climate change to plastic waste and from biodiversity loss to security of supply – are complex and interconnected.
A wood-based circular economy, based on sustainably produced renewable raw material, partnerships and an overarching approach, is needed more than ever.
This article was originally published in Fibre Magazine issue 2022–2023.