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Nordic pulp firms to turn birch trees into fashion
Mar '16
Pulp makers in Nordic countries are developing clean ways to turn birch and pine trees into clothes or sofa covers to help revive their industry and meet demand from fashion and furniture firms for alternative textiles to cotton, Reuters has reported.

There has been no Nordic production of viscose, the main textile fibre from timber, since the last manufacturer stopped nearly a decade ago, partly on environmental grounds.

But a spike in cotton prices in 2011 contributed to increased global demand for viscose and lyocell, the other major textile fibre from wood pulp. Production is dominated by Austria's Lenzing, India's Aditya Birla and China's Sateri.

Three Nordic mills export dissolving pulp, the product that can be turned into textile fiber. The industry would like to see textile fibre factories set up at home that will meet environmental rules and appeal to local firms such as Ikea and H&M which want to project a green image.

"We have the forest here in the Nordics, we have our pulp mills. It would be better for us if more dissolving pulp was needed in our region," said Markus Mannstrom, chief technical officer of Finland's Stora Enso. The forestry industry, which accounts for a fifth of Finland's and a tenth of Sweden's exports, has been hit by lower newsprint demand and foreign competition. But global output of pulp for textiles is expected to grow 30 per cent by 2020 from 4.4 million tonnes in 2015, according to Oliver Lansdell at forest products industry consultancy Hawkins Wright.

Anticipating the rise in demand, in 2011 Sodra, the Swedish association of 50,000 small forest owners, converted a paper pulp machines so they could make textile pulp. Stora Enso did the same in 2012.

Sweden's Domsjo, which has made dissolving pulp since the 1930's and was bought by Aditya Birla in 2011, said demand has risen.

"We expect cotton output to peak while textile demand will keep growing," said Dag Benestad, head of dissolving pulp production at Sodra.

The next step would be to set up factories at the mills, creating new jobs and saving money on energy and the cost of transporting for export. Sodra, Domsjo and Stora Enso are among those intensifying research into greener fiber production processes.

Stora Enso in 2015 opened a research center in Stockholm that looks into how to make viscose production less toxic. Domsjo and Sodra are part of a large project looking at how best to integrate a textile factory with a mill so that the chemicals are recycled.

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