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Finnish team’s recycled route to non-wovens

Finland – Finland’s VTT Technical Research Centre has discovered a way to use recycled paper and cardboard as raw material for biodegradable non-wovens. The new manufacturing process will mostly benefit hygiene and home care products such as diapers/nappies, sanitary napkins and cleaning cloths.

According to Ali Harlin, Research Professor at VTT, the new process ‘means that bio-based non-wovens are now more competitive on price in comparison with plastic-based products’. Cleansing the cardboard of filler material, lignin and hemicellulose is a ‘key part’ of the non-wovens manufacture, which consists of a foam forming technology. The dissolving pulp produced by the project team was regenerated using a patented carbamate technology to ensure ‘pure cellulose’ could be harvested from the material.

Given that the technology required to manufacture non-wovens from recycled materials is in place, Professor Harlin predicts that ‘new business opportunities should open up fairly rapidly’. Around 10 000 tonnes of nappies/diapers and similar sanitary products are discarded every year throughout European metropolitan areas.

Until now, ‘prohibitive production costs’ have prevented a successful market entry for this type of product, it is argued. However, manufacturing costs of VTT’s cardboard-based non-wovens are 20% lower than those for non-wovens produced from wood raw materials, according to Professor Harlin. Citing ‘strong growth’ in the global market for non-wovens, VTT is already exploring further applications in, among other sectors, the construction industry.

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