Fashion-tech Special
Metsä Spring explains how paper-grade pulp can transform the textile industry
The Finnish forest industry group has developed the synthetic textile fibre Kuura, made of cellulose and Finnish wood, with strong sustainability, social, and environmental prospects.
30 May 2022

The global annual production today is about 110 million tonnes, the demand is expected to grow in the future, and the largest textile fibre ”sub-family” by annual volume, is synthetic polyester fibres, which cause microplastic problems. The second largest is cotton, followed by man-made cellulosic fibres, where wood-based fibres are the largest sub-group, but of which only about half are produced sustainably. That’s the big picture shared by Niklas von Weymarn, CEO of Finnish Metsä Group’s innovation company Metsä Spring.

— The wood comes from forests within a radius of about 100 kilometres from the bioproduct mill that makes the pulp, he says. Our innovation, called Kuura, is made from paper-grade pulp instead of dissolving pulp, which is state-of-the-art. This results in a better yield of textile fibre per a specific mass of wood. The level of integration, that is the textile fibre production to the unit producing the raw material pulp, is very high. This gives several benefits, which can be seen in a life-cycle assessment. For instance, the pulp is not dried, which saves a lot of energy. The technology is a direct dissolution method, similar to the commercial lyocell process. This means that the components of pulp are directly dissolved in a solvent and not first converted into a cellulose chemical.

How far have you come?

— We are at the final development phase and if all answers obtained from it are positive, Metsä Group would have the prerequisites to decide on going onto basic engineering of a commercial production plant. Onwards, I do not see these different projects in the Nordic countries as competitors. There will be room for all good ideas, both new virgin material-based concepts, as well as recycling concepts, are needed, von Weymarn ­concludes.