Teknos aims to develop non-fossil alternatives for paints, coatings and barriers
Teknos recently joined the ExpandFibre ecosystem, which is an R&D collaboration and an Ecosystem launched by Fortum and Metsä Group. The aim of the collaboration is to accelerate the development of sustainable bioproducts focused on pulp fibre, hemicellulose and lignin.
ExpandFibre members discussed with Pasi Virtanen and Veera Jehkonen from Teknos to learn how the company’s sustainability objectives and innovations involving biomaterials and recycling of raw materials drive the company strategy in an industry sector where traditionally, fossil raw materials are still the main component for the products.
Innovations to bring sustainable solutions to market
Chemist Pasi Virtanen (Group R&D Manager Innovations) has been with Teknos for more than 25 years and currently leads an innovation team which is looking to bring out new and more sustainable solutions to the market. For instance, they have developed solutions to replace plastic materials within cardboard coating formulations for the packaging industry, as well as utilized biomaterials and experimented with advanced recycling of raw materials. There is a wide range of innovative products in the making and some of them have already entered the markets.
The role of Veera Jehkonen (Group Innovation Process Manager) is to envision how the innovations developed by Teknos can become more impactful and hopefully engage the organisation as a whole to take the needed next steps toward increased sustainability and overall responsibility. In addition to focusing on sustainability, Teknos is developing service-based solutions to bring added value to their customers. Veera says: “Our goal is to become the most sustainable coating company in the world. Achieving this ambitious goal calls for a lot of new ideas and novel materials that are just waiting to be discovered. Our goal is shown in all levels at Teknos – our production, logistics and R&D. Each new project must have an angle that accelerates sustainability.” Social responsibility and making an impact are also high priorities in the strategy of Teknos. Pasi points out that for example Lifecycle assessment (LCA) awareness is starting to become the norm also for the paint industry, and the demand for more environmentally conscious solutions are constantly on the rise. Systematically assessing the overall lifecycle impact of Teknos’ products will help the company to demonstrate their sustainability objectives and achievements in practice.
Challenges of non-fossil raw materials
Pasi reminds about the common challenges linked to non-fossil raw materials for coatings, paints, and barriers. The non-fossil materials are not in readily usable form, but further processing is required to achieve the desired end product parameters concerning particle size, colour and other surface properties such as hydrophilicity or hydrophobicity.
An average paint formula may consist of up to 20 different raw materials and with biomaterials, one component cannot be replaced just like that. Replacing a fossil-based component with a non-fossil component is a complex process and more work is needed to create a fully functional solution. Another challenge is posed by the availability and price of the sustainable materials: there is a lot of interest in the markets, but a higher price may become an issue for end customers.
Teknos brings a unique access in a section of the value chain: coatings and barriers
Teknos can offer a unique access to a part in the value chain other actors may not be able to provide. Coating or barrier part of the value chain is perhaps not presented at the moment in the ExpandFibre Ecosystem. Another one is that prior to their earlier experience, Teknos already possesses wider understanding of the challenge that the biomaterials are not “drop-in” solutions. Teknos can provide sparring to the other Ecosystem members regarding the use of novel raw materials for industrial usage.
Strong partner network is a must
At Teknos, a strong partner network is seen as a very important way to make progress! Teknos has seen the ExpandFibre community expand and develop at a positively steady pace and considers the Ecosystem a network enabler that can get the actors in the entire logistics chain to accelerate the progress together and share the responsibility — and even costs for the development work.
Pasi concludes: “The collaboration with one of the projects in the ExpandFibre has already brought us valuable new insights. The SUSBINCO project helps us to see beyond the current supply chain of chemical raw materials and has helped us to consider alternative futures. This has been a real eye-opener.“
Original text: ExpandFibre