A growing world population and people’s legitimate claims for better living standards in less developed countries are putting increasing pressure on natural resources. The sustainable solution to meeting these needs with available resources is to significantly increase resource efficiency in the area of raw materials and energy. The European Union’s 2020 Strategy contains a flagship initiative for a resource efficient Europe. The forest-based sector is going to be a key contributor to this strategy and the ‘low carbon green economy’. It possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience on the enhanced use of renewable raw materials and dedicated recycling systems, leading to optimised biomass utilisation and creating the most added value from the raw material.
State of the Art 2012
The forest-based industries have a proven track record in increased resource efficiency. The increased use of residues from raw material processing (e.g. bark, chips, sawdust) to make wood panels or pulp, and the reduction in specific water and energy consumption in paper production, have significantly increased resource efficiency since 1990. Energy-intensive pulp and paper production is thus characterised by highly-efficient production facilities with high capital costs. Nevertheless further progress is essential, to reduce the specific material input in products, for example by reducing the grammage of papers and weight in wood construction, while maintaining or improving functionality.
Expected achievements by 2020
New manufacturing technologies will significantly help achieve the targets set in the EU’s strategy for a low carbon economy. More flexible production units, to respond to future consumer needs and with a highly skilled workforce, will make an important contribution to higher production efficiency. Improved and more sophisticated product design will optimise material use and reduce energy demand, enhance reusability and facilitate recycling. The positive impact will result in lighter tailor-made products, lower demand for raw materials and additives, increased by-product valorisation and an overall reduction in waste.
Required Research and Innovation Activities
A. Develop non-destructive wood property measurement techniques and systems that allow for traceability of individual wood objects, for optimised resource utilisation.
B. Apply new product design approaches, models and simulation tools and the necessary new production technologies for more functionality from less material and energy input, e.g. lightweight wood construction or reduced paper grammage.
C. Demonstrate and integrate new papermaking technology (e.g. stratification) that allows increased use of recycled fibre at lower grammage.
D. Develop product design approaches for the reusability of packaging or easy-to-dismantle building components and precise material characterisation to facilitate optimal sorting and recycling.
E. Develop production technologies with significantly optimised energy efficiency and energy management in defibration of wood, drying of sawn timber, production of panels, paper and board or in transportation.
F. Develop enhanced separation and fractionation technologies for material components to enable their optimal use in layered or composite structures.
G. Devise functional surface treatments such as layered curtain coating, including nanofibrillated cellulose, chemical grafting (chromatogeny) and surface activation (plasma) to enable bulk material reduction, enhance durability or extend life.
H. Use information and communications technology (ICT) to meet highest process efficiency, improving material flow, resource efficiency,process stability, machine productivity, etc.
I. Design new decision support systems for the optimal utilisation of recovered material of used wood and paper products.