FASHION

Kuura’s fibre innovation receives third prestigious Green Shirt rating by Hot Button Ranking

Proving that it’s well suited to the plans of new EU regulations for the circular economy of textiles.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
December 01, 2023

The textile fibre market is expected to grow from approximately US$42 billion in 2022 up to US$66 billion by 2030. Made from Finnish forest company Metsä Group’s softwood pulp, Kuura aims to offer the industry a new textile fibre with a significantly reduced environmental footprint.

Jacket made of the Kuura fibre.

Now, the concept is in an R&D-focused phase to develop it further — a joint effort of Metsä Group’s innovation company Metsä Spring and ITOCHU Textile Company, a part of Japanese trading giant ITOCHU Corporation. So far, the partnership has brought jackets, shirts, and an artwork to the market. A few months ago, Metsä Spring also joined forces with Muoto and Fiskars Group to create a brand new, wood-based gift packaging for one of Fiskars’ recycled material scissor series.

— Muoto 3D fibre packages can be shaped in many ways: they are pressed into their final form using completely new 3D technology that enables the production of rounded, complex shapes familiar from the plastics industry. It is also suitable for creating lightweight yet stiff packaging structures offering good protective properties, said Tarja Heikkilä, Product Manager, Metsä Spring.

Now, the Kuura textile fibre has also been evaluated by neutral expert organisations using the ISO standardised Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), to measure and assess the environmental and societal impacts of a product. In the conducted assessments, it was determined that the large-scale production of Kuura would emit clearly lower greenhouse gas levels compared to currently commercially available bio-based textile fibres and polyester fibres. Kuura was also praised for having its production integrated to the unit producing pulp which makes the total energy requirement to make the fibres very favourable.

Now, for the third consecutive year, the innovation was awarded with a so-called Green Shirt rating by Canadian not-for-profit environmental organisation Canopy Hot Button Ranking. It’s a well-established tool used in the global textile and fashion industries to assess the sustainability of wood-based textile fibres and the requirements to receive it are a risk-free, transparent supply chain and traceable raw materials.

— Getting it is a very important recognition for us, says Niklas von Weymarn, CEO, Metsä Spring. Our objective is to bring to the market a new textile fibre that is clearly stronger in terms of sustainability than the alternatives. Canopy is a neutral party assessing how well we currently perform when compared to other wood-textile fibre producers. In the end, the Hot Button Ranking is a central tool for fashion brands and textile manufacturers to know which fibres are sustainable and which are not. 

— Getting a Green Shirt means that we can document that our process is sustainably set up, from sourcing raw materials to how the fibre itself is produced. In other words, many of the world’s top brands only work with wood-based textile fibre producers that achieve the Green Shirt level, so it’s very important to us.

Kuura is also well suited to the plans of new EU regulations for the circular economy of textiles, as the fibre is essentially unmodified cellulose fibres produced by nature and both recyclable and naturally biodegradable. Unlike cotton, it doesn’t compete with food production, nor require irrigation water, fertilisers, or pesticides.

How are things going for you? And what are your next steps?

— We are currently operating our Kuura demo plant in Äänekoski, Finland, to test and further develop our new manufacturing process, and to test the textile fibre on the market, von Weymarn shares. At the same time, we are also working on the design for a first commercial production plant for the Kuura textile fibre. Based on the input from these activities, Metsä Group can then decide whether they want to take the project into full commercial phase.

The demo plant.

Lastly, with 2024 soon approaching, what’s on your mind as the hot industry topics now?

— An overarching theme in the EU is the implementation of the EU Textile Strategy (EU Strategy for sustainable and circular textiles). Many of these actions are, in practice, proposals for new legislation forming the textile market in the EU. Some, like the textile waste collection impacting legislation, is already in force, whereas others, like the ones related to Extended Producer Responsibility and Digital Passport, are on the drawing boards. Year 2024 will be essential also from the perspective of the European Parliament elections, in June, which will also result in a new European Commission. And, our project will hopefully also take important steps forward during 2024, von Weymarn concludes.


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