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Cellulose is food fashionable

Cellulose is food fashionable

On TV, it seems there are more food reality programs than ever. Actually, any media that you look at these days is filled with advice about what to eat and not to eat, what the correct carbohydrate and protein intake is. It is somewhat of a dilemma, if you are trying to join family and friends around the table and enjoy a pleasant meal!

The food industry introduces around 20 000 new products every year, and a significant number of consumer trends are directly connected with food. Among those trends, the top ones globally are – local and sustainable products, natural origin and GMO, purity, protein and cooking together at home. And if you categorise the top hundred trends, almost half of them are connected with health, 40% with sensory items and 10% with convenience.

What does all this have to do with trees? The answer: cellulose.

Food additives can help to maintain and improve the safety of the food, nutritional value, taste, texture and appearance of food. The additives are divided into 18 different groups according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Did you know?

  • Cellulose gel, for example, is used as a fat replacer and brings a creamy feel to low-fat foods.
  • Methyl cellulose (MC) is used in food as an emulsifier and thickener, and you can find it in ice creams. It is also occasionally added to hair shampoos, tooth pastes and liquid soaps, to give a thick consistency.
  • Microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) is used as a texturizer, an anti-caking agent, a fat substitute, an emulsifier, an extender, and a bulking agent in food production. The most common form of MCC is used in vitamin supplements or tablets.
  • Carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) is used in food as a viscosity modifier or thickener, and to stabilise emulsions in various products including ice cream. It is used primarily because it has high viscosity, is non-toxic, and generally considered to be hypoallergenic as the major source fibre is either softwood pulp or cotton linter. CMC is used extensively in gluten-free and reduced fat food products. It is also a constituent of many non-food products, such as toothpaste, laxatives, diet pills, water-based paints, detergents, textile sizing, laundry detergents, and even as a lubricant in artificial tears.

So enjoy some daily cellulosics!

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2016-12-06

Sirpa Välimaa

Technical Customer Service Manager Dissolving Pulp at Stora Enso


When is a building 'circular'?

When is a building 'circular'?

If you thought this was a good example of a 'circular' building, you've got a lot of catching up to do, and now is the perfect time to start…

Over the past 10 years, EU climate policy has been the single biggest driver towards sustainability in Europe's building sector, with a pretty narrow focus: energy use. However, in the back rooms of Brussels, officials are formulating plans to help our construction industry radically rethink the way it approaches projects.

Plans to move the region towards a 'circular economy' – a restorative and regenerative economic system in which resources are retained and reused (as opposed to our current linear economy of ‘take, make and dispose’) - are now in full swing. But what this will really mean for our sector hasn't been clear for some time: until now.

In Europe, WorldGBC and its major partners have been advocating the need to shift towards circular or whole 'lifecycle' thinking for buildings - through a simple ‘framework’ of ‘common indicators’ assessing construction projects. This summer the European Commission has released the first details of what this might look like.

Now, the words ‘Framework’, ‘common indicators’, ‘lifecycle’ etc. may sound like jargon, but the idea is relatively simple – so bear with me.

Today the construction industry across Europe is fairly comfortable speaking the language of energy performance, but when you mention ‘sustainability’ the list of potential things to be considered seems fairly overwhelming to most.

To help the majority of actors in the construction value chain become comfortable with speaking this new language, and begin the shift towards a more resource efficient and circular building industry, the EU wants to create a ‘common’ language. This will focus on reducing the number of key aspects of building design, to encourage thinking around impacts that span the entire building lifecycle, from production to demolition and eventual reuse.

The hope is that creating such a common language will allow for easier communication of sustainability information to building professionals and non-experts, provide data to help decision making throughout the life-cycle of building projects, and widen the market for sustainable buildings. From a policy and commercial angle, the last of these anticipated effects of this new framework is the most exciting.

The way the European Commission has approached the difficult issue of how to design this framework is to split its central objectives into indicators that address environmental performance (as well as those of related but wider issues like quality, performance and value). A series of sub objectives sit under these, from lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions, resource efficient material flows and water efficiency, to indoor air quality, resilience and lifecycle costs. Now the Commission is consulting on the specific indicators best placed to assess these aspects of performance.

Still with me? Good.

For those who produce and use timber, this new EU assessment framework will be a truly hot topic. Timber and the potential of CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) get dozens of mentions in the most recently published reports by the Commission, and products that can demonstrate optimized embodied and end of life impacts are anticipated to be drawn to the attention of projects using the framework.

When the finalised framework is released later in 2017, it won’t come in the form of an EU law – it will be wholly voluntary. Despite this ‘soft’ launch, companies whose sustainability reports advocate being best in class on sustainability should take note – the framework sets the tone for European policy to come in the years ahead, so gaining experience of it and aligning practice with it are important for corporate strategists to consider. Companies advocating sustainable building in Brussels are already starting to talk about a future ‘Sustainable Performance of Buildings Directive’ that could drive industry action, based on the foundations this framework creates.

Now, I know what you’re thinking… This all sounds and looks like another building certification scheme, and Europe already has a bunch of robust certification tools like BREEAM, DGNB, HQE and LEED. However, the intention is not to reinvent the wheel by creating another certification scheme.

In fact, the hope is that existing national policies and assessment tools will align around the framework, so we all start to speak this ‘common green language’. Existing certification tools could become routes to show that a project is ‘compliant’ with the framework or has taken it into consideration. And in turn, as the framework begins to embed itself in procurement and other national policies, pursuing certifications aligned with it will hopefully become more commonplace across Europe.

In conclusion, the framework is a humble start on the pathway to truly circular buildings, in which each stage of the lifecycle is considered to create a continuous, closed loop of resources where resource is not lost or wasted.

There is certainly a mountain to climb before 99% rather than 1% are speaking this common language around sustainability, but the transformative potential of the framework is something we at the European Green Building Councils deeply believe in. We hope all in the industry will join us on this journey to ensure our sector moves from current practice to best practice – vital if we are to truly green our built environment.

 

This article reflects the personal views and experience of the author.

 

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2016-10-06

James Drinkwater

Europe Regional Director, World Green Building Council


Spoiling the consumer. In a sustainable way.

Spoiling the consumer. In a sustainable way.

Personal indulgence and guilt-free consumption are two large but conflicting trends. People want to spoil themselves with nice products, comfortable services and experiences – without impacting the planet, society or even health in a negative way. Good food, modern homes, online shopping and world travel. But how can we indulge in these without feeling guilty?

Companies are responding to these concerns by increasingly informing consumers on the impact of their products, supporting them in their choices and educating them on the complicated issues of material selection, recycling and environmental footprint.

Good information is available in abundance and poured over consumers like milk over breakfast cereals! We are completely drowned in information often with clashing messages– resulting in complete confusion that makes us wary and insecure when making a purchase decision. Will our next move have a positive or negative impact?

The truth is, we as consumers want companies to do all the math and make the decisions for us, to help us to reduce the negative impacts of our own choices. We want to buy what we need and desire, and we want it to have value for the society we live in. We trust and reward companies who commit to social and environmental values.

And companies are listening and acting. For example, the American retail chain Walmart is dedicated to reducing food waste in the USA and recently launched the “I’m Perfect” initiative. This is a brand for apples that has traditionally been unsellable due to the damaged exterior, even though a perfect flavour and texture are maintained. Swedish retailer ICA launched a similar initiative this year, where unsellable fruit and vegetables are made into preserves and beverages. Other companies who have responded to consumer concerns are Intel, who has stopped using minerals from conflict zones, as well as Subway, who has removed a potentially harmful chemical from its bread.

For a proof point of consumer actions, just look at the high growth in sales of organic products.  It is my firm belief that consumers who want organic products will, in the future, have higher demands for a fully sustainable solution for a product – from the actual product to low emission transportation, social fairness for workers and a sustainably sourced and manufactured packaging.

In 2014, 72% of consumers said that companies are failing to take care of the planet and society as a whole (Ref: UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study on Sustainability, 2014). The same study highlighted that two-thirds of CEOs believe companies are not doing enough to address the sustainability challenges. With all the sustainable initiatives reported from companies around the world, those numbers should hopefully have improved already by now.

For those of us who work in the packaging industry, this is all food for thought. Where can we make good choices for our business and society while still spoiling the consumer?  I can name a few to start, for example, continue reducing the environmental impact from production, develop even lighter boards to save on resources, and produce stronger boards to protect products and reduce waste. And there’s more to come.

Altruism, the willingness to do things that bring advantages to others and society as a whole, is a growing trend. I believe only companies that make this an integral part of their strategy will survive in the long-term.

 

This article reflects the personal views and experience of the author.

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2016-09-22

Caroline Nilsson

SVP Strategy and Business Intelligence


Innovation, Communities, Food and Commercial Wood Production in southern Laos

Innovation, Communities, Food and Commercial Wood Production in southern Laos

The people and the government of Laos face many challenges, but probably none as great as poverty. Laos is fortunate to have a significant natural forest cover and a relatively low population density. However, there are large areas of underutilised, degraded lands in Laos, such as former forestlands which were cleared for agriculture and areas impacted by war. This is problematic for poverty alleviation, biodiversity and climate.

The government of Laos is determined to “turn land into capital” whilst protecting the rights and interests of its citizens. The aim is to link opportunities for commercial land use with communities and contribute to the national goal of poverty alleviation. How can this combination of goals be realised?

Stora Enso, for example, has taken a long-term approach to testing a new model of plantation investment, acknowledging the distinct social, political, environmental and historical settings in Lao PDR.

The project area is in some of the poorest districts in the country, where social and economic conditions are well below the Millennium Development Goals, with challenges for food security, nutrition, education and literacy, clean water, health and limited economic opportunities. The area was also subject to intensive bombing in the Vietnam War and has many unexploded bombs that make agricultural production and daily life dangerous.

The project starts by working directly with local villagers. Common practice up until recently in Laos has been to work with the government to identify land for tree plantations. However, without the support of the local communities, long-term security of planted trees is at risk.

Along with government consultation, permits and approvals, an intense process of community consultations identifies village boundaries, intact native forest, areas of spiritual significance, steep slopes and village agricultural lands. Potential planting areas agreed by the company and the community are presented to district officials for approval.

Malnutrition and food security are serious problems.  Could a commercial tree-planting project increase food availability? A new kind of planting design (9 metre-wide tree spacing) was tested, allowing the villagers to intercrop rice, cassava or maize between the trees. In other situations, such agroforestry systems are widely used. After nearly 10 years of testing, this system is supported by the community, producing timber while helping with food supply.

Development of new approaches to clearing of unexploded bombs from the farming and tree growing areas is making the region safer for the community and the company workers. The company trains and employs local people in a range of roles and provides a range of other social and community development benefits.

The project is also increasing carbon stocks, assisting objectives to reduce climate change. Experience demonstrates that the Stora Enso agroforestry model is attractive and farmers prefer it to cultivation of crops on distant swidden lands. This reduces shifting cultivation and pressure on existing forests. Planting degraded lands will increase carbon stocks in biomass and soils in the plantations and adjacent natural forests.

Responsible companies who see economic opportunities in Laos seek to engage communities to ensure that they remain an integral part of commercial investment. This approach can offer a win-win outcome where communities and companies can both benefit. For such responsible companies, this requires balancing between commercial realities, community aspirations and government goals.

In a part of the world that is experiencing great change and economic development, change is inevitable. The transformation of degraded forests and underutilized lands into productive assets through new agroforestry models and long-term private-sector partnerships offers benefits to local people and to the broader Lao society. Commercial wood production provides a sustainable land-use option and an opportunity to improve livelihoods, develop skills and decrease poverty, all the while benefiting the climate.

 

This article reflects the personal views and experience of the author.

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2016-09-15

Stephen Midgley

Forestry consultant


Paper for recycling is a valuable raw material - not waste!

Paper for recycling is a valuable raw material - not waste!

Today, 52% of the paper industry’s fibrous raw material is paper for recycling. Paper is the most recycled product in Europe, and Europe is the global champion in paper recycling with a rate of 72%. We shouldn’t settle with this, however. By continuously working with a combination of educational initiatives, more favourable regulatory frameworks and higher environmental awareness, we can increase the collection rate further and ensure that the paper industry can continue being a role model for a circular economy – and a more sustainable future.

The paper industry, with companies such as Stora Enso, has been a driving force in achieving the high recycling rate in Europe. It brings us all closer to the EU goal of a ‘recycling society’. However, there is a gap between industry’s view of paper for recycling as a raw material and public policy, which regards it as waste. If recycling is to continue to move forward, this gap needs to be addressed.

The current revision of European waste policies gives the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) an opportunity to push for a regulatory framework that enables more recycling of paper, but also recycling of the production residues. It would help to advance the quality of paper for recycling available and remove unjustified red tape and related costs. At the same time, we are working on several fronts to achieve a better balance in policies that would otherwise favour the use of paper for recycling as an energy source and result in a distortion of the recycling market.

So, why should we recycle paper? Well, there are ecological and economic reasons:

Ecologically, recycling is the most preferred option of what to do with paper at the end of its life – instead of using it for energy or putting it on landfill. With recycling, we put the paper into a loop and avoid methane emissions from landfills, making sure the paper raw material has a new life. This, in turn, has social benefits since starting the life cycle again creates more jobs than burning paper for energy. This means an added value to the economy.

It also makes a lot of sense economically since paper for recycling represents 50% of the European paper industry’s raw material. The other half is wood, which is a renewable source and important to keep up the fibre loop – without paper made from fresh fibre there would not be recycled paper.

Did you know that with the current recycling rate we have in Europe, fibre is used 3.5 times on average? That is all qualities combined: newsprint, other printing and writing papers, packaging and tissue. Newsprint and packaging can make more than 3.5 loops.

Around 60 million tonnes of paper for recycling are collected in Europe each year. The collection rate of paper consumed is constantly increasing, and has annually exceeded 60% since 2005 to reach over 70% in 2009. Out of those 60 million tonnes, the European paper industry uses close to 48 million tonnes – and I know Stora Enso is one of the largest single consumers in Europe using 2.1 million tonnes of paper for recycling in 2015. Some volumes are imported by non-European paper companies, mainly in China, to be recycled in the paper industry there. Furthermore, paper for recycling is used as a sustainable insulation material for houses, in attics, timber frame walls, etc.

When it comes to paper collection, there are different systems in place in Europe. There are systems where paper and board are collected separately from other recyclable materials, i.e. in Belgium and Spain. There are even more sophisticated systems where there is a separation between graphic paper and packaging (Sweden, Switzerland). Almost any paper can be recycled, including used newspapers, cardboard, packaging, stationery, ‘direct mail’, magazines, catalogues, greeting cards and wrapping paper. It is important that paper is kept separate from other household waste, as contaminated paper is not acceptable for recycling. There are an estimated 22% of paper products that can not be collected or recycled, such as cigarette papers, wall papers, tissue papers and archives. Some countries are not yet collecting paper and board, here the risk is that it ends up as residual waste or on a landfill.

We are working intensively on this at CEPI. One important project we are partnering is IMPACTPapeRec, a European project to further increase the separate collection of paper for recycling and promote appropriate schemes to avoid landfilling and incineration. The project started earlier in 2016 and is financed by the European Union Horizon 2020 programme.

IMPACTPapeRec focuses on countries with below average paper recycling rates such as Bulgaria, Poland and Romania as well as countries where paper from households, small shops and offices is often collected in a commingled stream with other recyclables, as is the case in France and the UK. The participants have started to discuss the existing schemes as well as indicators to define best practice separate collection schemes.

We also need to continue to work on the recyclability of paper products, meaning that the producers of paper products use the material in such a way that it can be recycled. This could be about using the right ink, adhesives, etc. so it can easily be removed in the recycling process. Organisations, such as the European Recovered Paper Council (ERPC), are very useful in discussing recyclability along the whole value chain. The ERPC comprises collectors, paper producers, printers, converters, but also the producers of printing inks and adhesives.

In many countries, we need to teach consumers that used paper and board are a raw material and not waste, and that by recycling paper they contribute to the circular economy. Recycling is part of a sustainable development approach and closes the paper loop.

So next time you have read a newspaper or unwrapped a parcel, don't forget that used paper is a valuable raw material - not waste!

 

This article reflects the personal views and experience of the author.

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2016-08-04

Ulrich Leberle

Raw Materials Director, CEPI



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Blogs on Renewable Future cover a range of topics around the impacts of climate change and other global trends, sustainable consumerism, development and advantages of various renewable solutions, packaging, building solutions, biomaterials, paper, forestry, the potential of a tree and our responsibility as world citizens.


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