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Production of pulp

Pulp production is essentially the cooking of wood chips in a chemical solution in order to break loose fibers. The resulting pulp can be used as a raw material for making paper, board, textile fibre and many other products. Creating just the right kind of raw material for a specific end-product requires profound knowledge and expertise in fibres.

The type of raw material significantly affects the properties of the products made from it. Softwood (e.g. pine and spruce) and hardwood (e.g. eucalyptus and birch) give different characteristics for pulp.

From how far is the wood coming from? In 2020, according to EPIS LCI averages, in Nordic countries 62 % of the spruce and pine came in by truck from an average distance of 109 km. Wood was brought in also by rail and ships from further away. In Brazil, 93 % of the eucalyptus wood is brought in from a radius of 169 km, also sea barges are used to transport the wood to the pulp mills.

Significant production of energy and other bioproducts

Nothing is wasted in an ecosystem, where trees provide the raw material for sawmills, pulp production and consequently paper, board and textile manufacturing - with various forms of renewable energy as by-products.

Environmental impacts are minimized

Decarbonising: making climate neutrality happen

The European forest-based sector is helping to solve the global climate challenge. Our positive climate impact is equivalent to 20 % of the EU's fossil emissions each year. Net sinks in forests and forest products store 447 million tonnes of CO2. We prevent 410 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year by substituting fossil-based materials and fossil energy. And we continue to reduce our CO2 emissions.

EPIS has collected Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) data in 2015 and 2020. In five years, there was a significant impacts:

  2020 2015 change
EMISSIONS TO AIR
Fossil CO2, kg/ton 53,68 77,53 -31 %
SOx, kg/ton 0,16 0,25 -36 %
NOx, kg/ton 1,48 1,59 -7 %
Dust particles, kg/ton 0,22 0,32 -32 %
EMISSIONS TO WATER
Chemical Oxygen Demand, kg/ton 11,406 12,632 -10 %
Total Nitrogen, kg/ton 0,120 0,141 -15 %
Total Phosphorus, kg/ton 0,012 0,014 -18 %

 

The European Commission Life Cycle Data Network and Ecoinvent house the environmental data collected from EPIS member company pulp mills.

Main applications

A fossil-free world: innovative low-carbon alternatives

Europe's forest-fibre industry can help you revolutionise while you decarbonise. Forest fibre-based products have a far better climate impact than fossil-based materials. Two examples are textiles, where forest fibre makes sustainable clothing a reality, and packaging, which is renewable, recyclable and biodegradable. Additionally, our scientists are continuously developing new bio-products that will contribute to a more sustainable world.

Market pulp is used in a vast number of different end-uses, but the main application areas are tissues, board, printing and specialty paper manufacturing as well as in textiles.

Hygiene products

Hygiene applications cover a wide variety of products such as soft toilet paper, kitchen towels, napkins, hankies, facial tissues and more.

Both softwood and hardwood pulps are used: the softness in the tissue product comes from the hardwood content of eucalyptus and birch pulp. They give the product both strength and softness. Absorption, wet and dry strength are other important properties in tissue products.

Board products

Board manufacturers are often integrated, i.e. they have their own pulp mills, but market pulp is also used. Board products including bleached chemical pulps are used as packaging materials and storing liquids and many types of dry materials.

Important characteristics of the pulp include strong fibres with good surface and optical properties, cleanliness and brightness.

Products for printing and writing

Printing is traditionally divided in two main segments, fine papers and magazines.

Pulp gives the printing papers a good balance of optical and strength properties, bulk and printability depending on the end use.

Magazine paper producers buy their softwood pulp to increase the wet and dry strength of the paper.

Speciality paper

The speciality paper are covers a vast range of paper such as filter papers, label papers, release liners, d├ęcor paper, medical paper, wallpaper, packaging papers, etc. The end use requirements vary widely depending in the application.

Dissolving pulp for textiles, apparel and other products

The main market for dissolving pulp is the textile industry and the manufacture of viscose. Wood fibres have been used in clothing manufacture since the 1920s. Today, 4-5 percent of the world's textile fibres are based on cellulose from wood, corresponding to approximately four million tons of pulp, with the amount increasing.

The end products include for example:

  • clothing, fabrics, yarn
  • non-wovens for hygiene products
  • fibrous sausage casings
  • cellophane, sponges and other products
  • Nano-cellulose and nanocrystals

Nano-cellulose and nanocrystals are in development phase and finding applications for example as

  • alternatives to metallic materials
  • bioplastics
  • medications and cosmetics
  • drilling fluids
  • cellulose foams

Microfibrillated cellulose (MFS) is renewable and biodegradable raw material finding applications such as packaging, barrier films, speciality papers or coatings and adhesives.

Cellulose is more than a collection of naturally occurring fibres. Fibril and chemical properties can be tailored, and new materials can be constructed with predefined structural engineering leading to new material design. With all that, it is possible to replace nonrenewable fossil materials wit renewable materials for a more sustainable world.

A single tree

What you get from a single tree?

Enough raw materials for

30000 sheets of A4-paper or
7000 milk cartons or
1100 toilet paper rolls

And by-products and residues for

Renewable diesel
Biochemicals
And renewable energy production

For more detailed list of all the possibilities, see CEPI