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One’s waste is another’s resource

Authors Heikki Pirilä, Mari Vasara, Tiia-Maaria Ketola
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Our economy is based on disposable goods and fossil energy sources, but new methods are constantly evolving. The ideals of circular economy is that there is basically no waste – only repurposed materials and active cross-industrial use of branch currents. Here we investigate zero-emission fuels and game-changing fiber technologies in which Elomatic has played a pioneering role.

Sustainability suits you

According to the European Parliament, clothing accounts for between 2% and 10% of the environmental impact of EU consumption. In addition, cotton cultivation takes up a lot of arable land and consumes immense amounts of water. From 2025 onwards, an EU directive requires that all end-of-life textiles from consumers must be separately collected. As it currently stands, the majority of textile waste is thrown away, and the dimensions are huge – over 70 million kilograms of unused material every year in Finland alone. Thanks to new technologies, most of that resource could be used to form new virgin fibers. Elomatic has partnered in a ground-breaking Finnish innovation, Infinited Fiber technology, that takes cellulose-rich waste that would otherwise be landfilled or
burned – old textiles, used cardboard, crop residues like rice or wheat straw, and more – and transforms them into premium-quality superfibers for the textile industry. In addition, polyester residues are removed from the cotton material using methods like those of the pulp industry.

Licensing Infinited Fiber’s carbamate technology would allow it to be used in converting existing capacities, such as viscose factories, to be more environmentally friendly. With the technology, factories could produce fiber without carbon disulfide CS2 – a challenging, hazardous, and un-ecological chemical in the fashion industry value chain. Another visionary invention is pioneered by Spinnova, for whom Elomatic designed a pilot plant. The startup, based in the city of Jyväskylä, uses wood-based materials to mechanically produce textile fibers. Softwood pulp is transformed into a wool-like material without any chemicals and with only 1% water usage in stark contrast to the production of cotton fibers. Spinnova’s fiber has already been trialed by the Finnish design house Marimekko and the Norwegian outdoor manufacturer Bergans.

Fueling the new world

Could we finally approach the breakthrough of hydrogen vehicles? When produced by renewable energy, hydrogen technology could enable fueling our transportation with zero carbon. Hydrogen as an energy source has been known for hundreds of years, but high costs and challenges in storage hinder its progress. However, in the Power2AX project by the Finnish project developer and investor Flexens, Elomatic studied different scenarios to produce hydrogen to be used in new ferries in the Åland archipelago. The approach includes harvesting wind energy, creating hydrogen
fuel with the generated wind energy, and finally using the renewable fuel in ferries. The archipelago has ideal wind conditions – in addition to being a suitable environment for revolutionary green technologies as one of the most beautiful locations of the world. Power2AX is a textbook case of a new technology that has immense potential but needs funding and subsidization to fulfil its potential. Excitingly, Flexens has applied for EU funding and project realization is expected to start in 2024.

Let’s start the cultural change

Pioneering technologies often get stuck in a chicken-and-egg situation of supply and demand: at small volumes they can be expensive to produce, which makes them less appealing for clients, but if investments would flow in then the production costs would decrease. Changes in methods and ways of thinking always take time, but as history shows, distant visions may become everyday practice as soon as they are simple and cost-efficient enough. Elomatic can play a major role in transforming our clients’ businesses or allowing them to take a leap to environmentally friendly materials or processes. It is inevitable that legislation and consumer demands will continue to change for the good toward circular economy, and with that, material efficiency becomes a competitive edge. Even more so than before, we must take these principles into account right from the planning phase. How can we overcome unsustainable processes? What materials shall we use? How do we repurpose them? As transition from disposable goods and fossil energy sources is accelerating, now is the moment to stay ahead of curve and help our clients produce the materials of tomorrow.

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Heikki Pirilä

Vice President at Process Industry

Heikki’s special competences are project selling and execution duties in process industry. During his career he has participated in more than fifty various types of geenfield and rebuild industrial projects, both domestic and foreign, such as turn-key, EPCM and engineering projects including also project management and procurement tasks. Heikki is an excellent team player and his willingness to travel has gained him noticeable international work experience.

Mari Vasara

Senior Consulting Engineer
M.Sc 2007 (Tech), B.Sc. 2002
Mari Vasara has more than 15 years of experience in the paper and chemical industry. She has worked as a process development engineer, laboratory engineer and process designer, gaining deep knowledge of the paper industry applications as well as extensive knowledge of unit operations in the process industry. She also has strong experience in laboratory analytics, especially on the biofuels side. Mari has worked in the Plant group of
Elomatic's Jyväskylä office for 3.5 years.

Tiia-Maaria Ketola

Consulting Engineer
D. Sc. (Tech.) 2014, M. Sc. (Tech.) 2007, B. Eng. 2003
Tiia-Maaria Ketola has worked as a Consulting Engineer at Elomatic for more than a year and a half, working on various pharmaceutical-, energy- and process design projects. She is a qualified material reviewer as well as Tiia-Maaria has performed demanding process chemistry simulations. In addition, she has more than ten years of work experience in researcher- / research- and development work both in Finland and abroad in research institutes, universities and industrial companies. Her area of expertise is chemistry and especially physical chemistry.

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