The need for more sustainable products has increased rapidly during recent years. Customers’ growing interest towards more sustainable choices and legislation are acting as the main drivers.
EU’s Single-Use Plastics Directive (SUPD), which entered into force in 2021, and many other similar initiatives globally have had a markable impact on raw materials used in the production of nonwovens, driving the industry towards sustainable alternatives.
Suominen’s sustainable product portfolio consists of products made of renewable, recycled and/or plastic-free raw materials as well as compostable and totally dispersible nonwovens.
The market is swiftly changing towards more sustainable products and we are well prepared for the market change at Suominen. We launched our first plastic-free product already over a decade ago. We have a wide range of sustainable nonwoven products for different applications to offer to our customers. Our plastic-free offering consists of products that are biodegradable, compostable, dispersible or ready for recycling. The products are made of renewable fibers such as viscose, pulp, lyocell, cotton or bamboo.
In addition to renewable fibers, we also provide nonwovens made from other sustainable sources such as recycled rPET or PLA. We have a strong focus on evaluating new innovative and sustainable fibers in our R&D team. We are actively cooperating with start-ups and well-established companies that are developing new innovative fibers. For example, Suominen collaborated in 2021 with Infinited Fiber Company and developed a nonwoven sheet made from 100% textile waste.
Sustainable nonwovens is one of the four focus areas in our sustainability agenda. Our target is a 50% increase in the sales of sustainable nonwovens by 2025 compared to 2019, and to have at least 10 sustainable product launches per year. In 2021, our share of sustainable nonwovens increased by 47% (compared to 2019). The target of sustainable product launches was very well achieved; we had a total of 16 sustainable product launches during 2021.
We take pride in being at the forefront of providing solutions that address marketplace needs. Our recent launch of HYDRASPUN® Aquaflo is an example of effectively addressing emerging trends in the personal care segment of the market. The product is made of 100% sustainable fibers, it delivers premium thickness for a better consumer experience and delivers near parity dispersibility to dry toilet tissue. In addition, the product passes well-known industry flushability standards.
Sustainability is one of the key themes in our R&D. We are constantly researching new potential fibers such as nettle, hemp, and regenerated cellulose in our New Fiber Center. Suominen is a pioneer in producing sustainable nonwovens, and our R&D team has excellent know-how in sustainable fibers. Our pilot lines at Nakkila and Windsor Locks sites support our innovation work by, for example, enabling the testing of prototypes. By continuously developing new and innovative solutions with a reduced environmental impact, we are able to provide a comprehensive offering of sustainable nonwovens to our customers.
In addition to creating new sustainable products, we see the importance of evaluating and minimizing the environmental impacts of all our products. Providing carbon footprints for products is a rising trend due to ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets set by both societies and companies. In 2021, we evaluated environmental impacts of our products by calculating their carbon footprints. This means that greenhouse gases associated with the product in different stages of its value chain are added up to gain a full understanding of the climate impact of each product.
Carbon footprint values provide a comparison between our products within a product portfolio, enabling our customers to find the most climate-friendly option for their applications. During the year, we developed and launched digital Suominen’s Climate App. The Climate App provides comparable data of our products so that our clients are able to choose a suitable product with lower greenhouse gas emissions. By offering products with a lower environmental burden without compromising on quality, we are able to support our customers to reduce the environmental impact of their own products and to achieve their own sustainability goals.
Our aim is to grow our sustainable product portfolio even further for the benefit of our customers.
Definitions around what types of plastic are considered acceptably biodegradable have been incomplete and can be confusing to navigate when trying to select a nonwoven.
Below is a simplified visual guide to understanding some basics within sustainable options, and how certain raw materials can contribute to a nonwoven’s sustainability
Product contains recycled fibers, such as recycled post-consumer polyester, polypropylene or post-industrial cotton fibers
All the raw materials used are from plant-based sources. We offer nonwovens made from a wide variety of renewable fibers, from biobased plastics to natural fibers.
Nonwovens are produced by using fibers from renewable resources that are compostable in industrial composting process as defined by international compostability standards.
Nonwovens made of biodegradable fibers of natural origin, such as viscose, pulp and cotton.
Products are biodegradable and dispersible in water and comply with or exceed the latest industry flushability standards.
Suominen offers traceability certifications for FSC®, PEFC™ & SFI®, as well as skin-safe certifications like STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®. For dispersible grades, Suominen manages INDA / EDANA compliance certificates.