In bioindustry, fossil-based raw materials are replaced with sustainable materials. For instance, the bioindustry has found biodegradable options for plastic packaging.

Plastic-free take-away cups, alternative fibres for cotton and nontoxic fire retardants for wood construction are among the innovative products of the bioindustry. Taaleri Bioindustry’s Managing Director, Tero Saarno, emphasizes that the bioindustry not only offers viable business opportunities but also creates sustainable solutions.

At Taaleri, bioindustry refers to industrial-scale production utilizing bio-based materials or materials from the circular economy. Sustainable options replace products that were originally made from fossil-based or virgin raw materials.

A good example of reducing fossil-based raw materials is linked to plastic.

"Plastics have been manufactured so extensively worldwide that if we were to recycle it all, the material would be sufficient for all the world's plastic needs," Saarno says.

Bioindustry is linked with circular economy

Bioindustry combines procedures both from innovative and traditional industry. Typically, there is something new and innovative in the manufacturing process or materials, but a similar product made from fossil-based or virgin raw materials already exists. In addition, transporting bio-based raw materials over long distances is not viable, thus plants are typically situated close to the source of these materials, following the traditional industrial approach.

The bioindustry is closely linked with the concept of the circular economy. Both the bioindustry and the circular economy are part of the broader phenomenon known as the bioeconomy.

A typical example involves using industrial side streams. Saarno says that, typically, cellulose plants switch weekly from short-fibered softwoods to long-fibered hardwoods. The switch results in the generation of pulp containing both types of fibres.  This is a side stream that can be utilized by bioindustry.

"In the bioindustry, secondary raw materials have been successfully developed into materials from which companies can produce superior products," Saarno states.

For example, the cellulose hybrids developed and manufactured by Nordic Bioproducts Group are processed from Finnish forest fibres. Cellulose hybrids are produced from industrial and agricultural side streams and waste streams. The Finnish company produces cellulose-based materials with a high processing value. For example, in the textile industry, pulp-based fibres can replace cotton, which demands significant amount of water for cultivation.

"In the bioindustry, secondary raw materials have been successfully developed into materials from which companies can produce superior products."

Sustainable material solutions

Saarno remarks that a key aspect of the bioindustry is that the products are those that consumers would use anyway. In recent years, there has been increasing awareness that similar items can be manufactured more sustainably.

For instance, Colombier operates in the bioindustry field. It makes disposable plastic cups and plastic packages redundant by producing sustainable paper and board packaging. Colombier produces, among other things, plastic-free cups for coffee, salad and ice cream. Taaleri Bioindustry Fund I has enabled Colombier, a company producing ecological packaging, to increase its production capacity.

Change in attitudes drives bioindustry

Saarno notes a change. Consumers are now demanding more sustainable products from companies. At the same time, policymakers have become aware of this trend and have begun implementing stricter regulations. An example of this tightening legislation is the plastic straw ban. Efforts are being made to restrict the release of microplastics into the seas. Due to EU’s directive concerning single-use plastics, plastic straws and utensils have been replaced with alternative products in stores.

Saarno remarks that changes in attitudes and regulations have created a market niche for products in the bioindustry.

"The markets for end products are global, hence there is good market potential."

As a matter of fact, it's not just about potential. There are already companies operating in the international arena within the industry. For instance, Taaleri’s first bioindustry fund has invested in Nordtreat. It produces environmentally friendly and non-toxic fire retardants, and it sells its products in 15 different countries.

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