Finnish paperboard supplier Metsä Board is investing in production at its Husum and Kemi mills and exploring new technologies at its Excellence Centre, including barrier solutions to replace plastic in certain packaging applications and developments in the realm of paper bottles.
Metsä Board detailed investments in its mills and opened the doors of its Excellence Centre during a virtual press conference yesterday. The company is investing heavily in its Husum pulp mill in Sweden, where it hopes to fire up the new recovery boiler and turbine in first half of 2022. A new fiber line is planned as part of the second phase of the pulp mill renewal. Metsä Board is also looking at increasing folding boxboard capacity in Husum by around 200,000 tons annually.
At its Kemi paper mill in Finland, thanks to an investment over 2021-2023, annual production capacity of the paperboard machine will be increased by 40,000 tons. The investment also includes the purchase of an unbleached paper pulp production line with a capacity of 180,000 tons from Metsä Fibre.
Also in Kemi, €1.6bn is being invested in a bioproduct mill that will have total pulp capacity of 1.5 million tons. Designed to replace the site’s current pulp mill (capacity of 620,000 tons), the plant is expected to start up in the third quarter of 2023.
Lightweighting, barrier solutions & paper bottles
Metsä Board also gave an insight at its Excellence Centre in Äänekoski, which combines a packaging design studio, R&D labs and customer feedback center. At its Excellence Centre, Metsä Board works with different stakeholders such as raw material suppliers, start-ups and design agencies. It is currently working with a start-up to develop “something different” in the realm of paper bottles. “Existing paper bottles are formed from pulp, and we’re looking at how to create them directly from a paperboard sheet,” a spokesperson explained.
Lightweighting is a key focus of development for the company, which claims it can produce 4.3 million more cartons per year by lightweighting paperboard by 1%, while maintaining the same material properties.
Another area of focus is barrier development; Metsä Board has ongoing research in barrier solutions to replace plastic with paperboard in packaging applications, and is collaborating with a firm that has the technology to allow plastic film and paperboard to be separated at recycling.
In-line with its sustainability goals, Metsä Board said by 2030 its mills will not use any fossil energy — some 83% of the company’s total energy use was fossil-free as of 2020 —, and products will be made from 100% fossil-free materials.