From research, the innovations that are happening in the biorefinery segment which uses the by-products of paper and pulp manufacturing to create solutions/products include the integrated product biorefineries model, the development of conversion technologies, and the development of efficient, low-cost pretreatment technologies while innovations in the cosmetic segment include the use of bioengineered ingredients, the use of nanocellulose as a cosmetic thickeners, and the development of alternative, environmentally-friendly compounds to replace non-biodegradable ones. On the other hand, startups in the biorefinery segment that uses the by-products of paper and pulp manufacturing to create innovative solutions/products include Anomera and Metgen while startups in the cosmetic segment that uses these by-products to create solutions/products include Stenders and the Exilva Project. A detailed overview of our research findings follows below.
Innovations in the Biorefinery Segment
1. Integrated Product Biorefineries
- Traditional paper and pulp manufactures are facing a lot of competition from companies that use the latest and largest installed technologies and that have wood and labor cost advantages.
- This increasing global competition has resulted in traditional producers adopting the production of bioenergy and biomaterials alongside wood, pulp, and paper products in what is known as an integrated product biorefinery.
- The integrated product biorefinery model allows the industry to produce chemicals, fuels, and/or electric power at the same time as traditional wood, pulp, and paper products. Once fully developed and commercialized, the model will result in numerous energy and environmental benefits for the industry and the planet.
- The impact of this innovative production model on the biorefineries industries is evident in how “all product lines have become highly integrated and energy-efficient” providing the paper and pulp industry with a unique opportunity to increase financial performance and improve environmental sustainability.
2. Development of Conversion Technologies
- Today, a large percentage of the world’s energy and chemical production depends on fossil fuels that have uncertainty in future availability and that come with environmental concerns. Consequently, the feasibility of oil exploitation is expected to continue to decline in the near future.
- Alternative solutions that are offered by the biorefinery industry mitigate climate change and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. These solutions replace oil with biomass (from industries such as the paper and pulp industry) as raw material for the production of fuel and chemicals.
- The development of jointly applied conversion technologies that enable large scale conversion of biomass feedstock to “different classes of biofuels and biochemical” is part of the innovation that is motivating a move towards a bio-based economy. Examples of these technologies include hemicellulose integration, lignin valorization, and highly efficient fermentation processes.
- Technological innovation and advancements in biomass conversion technologies are expected to impact the industry by helping to develop efficient, sustainable, and cost-competitive bio-based processes that can be implemented on an industrial scale.
3. Development of Efficient, Low-Cost Pretreatment Technologies
- According to Biotechnology for Biofuels, the implementation of biorefineries that are based on lignocellulosic materials as alternatives to fossil fuels requires the development of efficient and innovative methods for fractionation and recovery of the products.
- Lignocellulosic materials that include wood, agricultural, and forestry wastes are a mix of “natural polymers based on lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose, and tannins with more than two hydroxyl groups per molecule.” Consequently, the paper and pulp industry is a good source of lignocellulosic materials that can be used in biorefineries.
- Pretreatment is among the first processes of a biorefinery for the production of energy carriers and chemicals. Consequently, the development of efficient, low-cost pretreatment technologies is important because it enables efficient recovery of carbohydrates and lignin, products that are important to the biorefinery process.
- In a mill that produces pulp, pretreatment facilitates the production of lignin and the excess lignin is used to satisfy the energy requirements of the biorefinery process. In an optimized pulp mill, it is estimated that around 20%-30% of the lignin is available for purposes other than internal energy requirements.
Innovations in the Cosmetics Segment
1. Use of Bioengineered Ingredients
- Cosmetic preferences have changed over the last decade with consumers demanding green products that are produced using natural ingredients as opposed to classic products. However, consumers are aware that natural does not always mean clean or environmental-friendly.
- In the cosmetic segment that makes use of the by-products of paper and pulp manufacturing, companies have turned to innovative bioengineering processes that optimize the natural ingredients derived from the by-products such as nanocellulose, microfibrillated cellulose, phytosterols, and lignin.
- Bioengineered ingredients are molecules that come from plant materials where “the desired molecule is extracted and optimized using biotechnological techniques such as bio-fermentation.”
- The impact of these ingredients in the cosmetic segment is in the fact that the use of biotechnology allows the segment to achieve large scale production of sustainable cosmetic ingredients that will redefine the concept of natural cosmetics and bio-cosmetics.
2. Use of Nanocellulose as Cosmetic Thickeners
- In the cosmetic segment, research and development is a key tool for discovering new uses of the by-products of paper and pulp manufacturing. Nanocellulose is a popular compound and its applications have gained attraction in the segment because of its desirable traits such as “excellent mechanical properties, high surface area, rich hydroxyl groups for modification, and natural properties that are 100% environmental friendliness.”
- Because of its attractive properties, innovative ways of using nanocellulose have been developed in various industries. One key use of the compound is as a rheological modifier or thickener in cosmetics.
- According to Bio Resources, the flow characteristic of nanocellulose that makes it a rich aqueous suspension is of great importance to emerging applications such as in bio-cosmetics.
- The impact of this innovation on the segment will be a move away from inorganic thickeners to more natural and environmentally friendly alternatives such as nanocellulose.
3. Development of Alternative, Environmentally-Friendly Compounds
- As mentioned earlier, the cosmetic segment that makes use of compounds derived from the by-products of paper and pulp manufacturing developed because consumer demand in the beauty and cosmetic industry is currently satisfied by cosmetic products that are natural.
- As consumer needs and preferences continued to change, the segment adapted by developing innovative alternatives to non-biodegradable compounds.
- A good example of this is the development of cellulose acetate technology to replace banned polyethylene beads with renewable and biodegradable alternatives. The microbeads used in “personal care products are mainly made of polyethylene (PE), but can also be made of polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) or nylon.”
- When creating alternative, environmentally-friendly compounds, cosmetic formulators consider a number of characteristics of the materials available on the market that appear to be similar to what is being replaced such as color, abrasiveness, suspension capacities, cost-effectiveness, stability in various products, and worldwide regulatory approval. The impact of innovations in the segment is the removal of microplastics from the segment resulting in environmental benefits.
- Anomera is a Canadian startup that produces the highest quality cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) in the world. The company’s carboxylated-CNC, called DextraCel can be supplied in liquid or powder form and its applications include use in cosmetic ingredients, paints and coatings, medical, pharma, and life science, and agriculture.
- Using its sustainable manufacturing processes, Anomera converts forest industry pulp and wood waste into next-generation bio-products such as natural cellulose ingredients that have an enhanced performance in the global cosmetic and skincare sector.
- The company was founded in 2016 and has its headquarters in Montreal Canada. Additionally, the company’s disclosed funding amount is $6.7 million and its most recent funding round was a grant that raised CA$5 million ($3.84 million) in June 2020.
- Metgen is a startup that created “biological enzymes that can be added into the pulp mix to separate wood fibers more effectively before the thermo-mechanical pulping stage, radically improving the energy efficiency of the whole pulp-making process”
- The company is a comprehensive biotechnology solution provider that combines chemistry and process engineering to develop full industrial solutions that enable better utilization of raw materials and a new wave of bio-based materials.
- The company was founded in 2006 and has its headquarters in Kaarina, Finland. Additionally, the company’s disclosed funding amount is €4.2 million ($4.96 million) and its most recent funding round was a €500,000 ($590,405) venture round in January 2019.
- Stenders is a cosmetic startup that produces and sells showering, bathing, and body care products. The company has product lines that make use of environmentally-friendly ingredients from the by-products of paper and pulp manufacturing to make cosmetic products.
- One of the company’s sustainable product is a natural body scrub that is made from “100% natural scrubbing agent which is obtained from a seemingly unexpected source – wood pulp.”
- The company was founded in 2001 and has its headquarters in Riga, Latvia. Additionally, the company’s disclosed funding amount is €2.5 million ($2.95 million) and its most recent funding round was a €1 million ($1.18 million) private equity round in March 2015.
2. Exilva Project
- Startups that are developing nanocellulose products in 2020 include Exilva, a company that develops a new type of bio-based additive that is sourced from Norway Spruce in Scandinavian forests. The additive can deliver “improved performance in anti-settling and anti-sedimentation through improved yield stress, versatility and flexibility in formulations through robustness to shear, pH and temperature.”
- Exilva produces solutions/products in the cosmetic segment using its Borregaard’s microfibrillar cellulose (MFC) that represents the next generation of natural performance enhancers for beauty, cosmetic, and personal care systems. The additive can be used in skincare, sun care, and hair care because of its desirable properties in the cosmetic industry.
- The Exilva Project was founded in 2016 and has its headquarters in Sarpsborg, Norway. Additionally, the project is funded by Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. Information on the specifics of the last funding round was unavailable in the public domain.