Finnish sustainable fibre company Spinnova is teaming up with local clean-energy firm Fortum to continue building its bio-based ecosystem for converting agricultural waste such as straw into textiles – potentially disrupting the use of natural cellulosics such as cotton.
Spinnova has developed technology for spinning textile fibre out of wood and waste stream based cellulose. Unlike the toxic viscose process, it involves no dissolving or other complex chemicals, and the fibre is said to have a uniquely small footprint – as well as opportunities to create a circular fibre production system.
It also offers an alternative to the use of cotton – which is a significant strain to both land and table waters. If a cotton field was replaced with wheat for example, and just 30% of the straw is utilised in a bio-based ecosystem, the same amount of textile fibres as from the cotton field could be captured with much less water use, they say.
In addition, a massive amount of straw is burned in Asian countries, causing significant emissions that contribute to climate change. In the future, the biomass could instead be used to produce energy and textile fibre.
“This would also answer the world’s biggest problem; a growing population that needs more and more natural resources to produce both food and clothes.”
Spinnova is also in the process of commercialising its virgin wood-based cellulose based fibre product with its other strategic partner, pulp producer Suzano. Spinnova’s raw material commitment is to only use FSC-certified wood or waste streams – and a recently completed pilot factory line in Jyväskylä marks a major step towards large-scale production of its sustainable cellulose fibres.
The partnership with Fortum is funded by a programme run by Business Finland, a public agency providing research funding to Finnish companies, to develop value-added products from agro residues and woody biomass.
Initial trials with Fortum’s biomasses are said to have produced “very promising” results.
“Spinnova’s disruptive technology is unique in the world. We are delighted to be able to pilot it together using innovative raw materials, especially agro residues, says Heli Antila, vice president, biobased solutions at Fortum.
Spinnova’s CEO Janne Poranen adds: “This would be resource efficiency at its best, also creating a value added product that is attractive to the consumer, while mitigating climate change. We’re very excited about this collaboration and its environmental impact potential for the future.”