Metsä Board's fossil free mills target helping to reduce the carbon footprint of the carton packaging industry
The results of a recent study for Pro Carton – the European Association of Carton and Cartonboard Manufacturers – show that the fossil carbon footprint of carton packaging has fallen by 17% since 2018. Metsä Board is proud of the positive contribution the company has made towards to reducing the carbon footprint of the carton packaging industry through its efforts to be fossil free by the end of 2030.
The Pro Carton study, conducted by Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE), analysed the cradle-to-grave carbon impact of carton packaging. The cradle-to-grave fossil greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for cartons were 17% lower in 2021 compared to the last calculation, which covered the 2018 calendar year (852kgCO2e in 2021 vs. 1,025kgCO2e in 2018). This reduction increases to 24% if the total carbon footprint (fossil, biogenic, removals and direct land-use) is considered (249kgCO2e for 2021 vs. 326kgCO2e in 2018).
An important tool to identify progress and areas for improvement
Metsä Board participated in the study by supplying comprehensive data from its folding boxboard, BCTMP and pulp mills in Finland and Sweden as well as data from Metsä Fibre pulp mills. The data from 2021 – which included information about raw material consumption, production volumes, emissions and waste – was gathered and validated during spring 2022.
Lari Oksala, Sustainability Specialist at Metsä Board, was part of the team responsible for gathering and validating the data.
“Metsä Board has been conducting life cycle assessments since 2016 and carbon footprint calculations for even longer. Because we have participated in Pro Carton studies before, we were in a good position to deliver the primary data that RISE needed,” he explains. “These kinds of studies are important for the industry as a whole because they help us to transparently report our impact, show the progress we have made and identify where we can improve,” he continues. “The results of the latest study are very promising for Metsä Board. They suggest that as an organisation we continue to perform better than the industry average.”
Oksala also points out that Metsä Board customers, such as packaging converters and brand owners, often use industry data when performing life cycle assessments (LCAs) for their packaging or when benchmarking different suppliers against industry-wide values. “We can help our customers with paperboard-specific LCAs that we update annually. These assessments are based on ISO life cycle standards as well as specific product category rules for the industry. We have also used an external independent third party to verify the correctness of our methodology and calculations.”
Excellent progress towards 2030 fossil-free target
Metsä Board’s goal is that by the end of 2030, its mills will not use fossil fuels or buy fossil-based energy. Progress towards this target is illustrated on the Metsä Board Roadmap.
“Our target to be fossil-free by 2030 plays a big role in reducing our carbon footprint,” explains Oksala. “This target covers our own energy production and the energy we buy in from outside. All the pulps that we use in our paperboards are produced by Metsä Group, meaning our own pulp mills and Metsä Fibre pulp mills. This has a positive impact on our carbon footprint because the entire Group is committed to fossil-free production by 2030. We are in active discussions with other raw material suppliers like chemical suppliers to improve the accuracy of the data we receive so that we can improve performance across the value chain.”
Concrete examples of the actions Metsä Board is taking include eliminating the use of peat as a fuel at its board mills and increasing the share of fossil-free power in its electricity mix. Fossil-free energy already accounts for 87% of the energy used at Metsä Board’s mills. The latest investments in the Husum pulp mill in Sweden and the Kemi mill in Finland represent another important step towards 100% fossil-free production. Husum’s new recovery boiler and turbine will increase bioenergy production and improve electricity self-sufficiency, while a new Metsä Fibre bioproduct mill at Kemi, due to start up in 2023, will fully replace fossil fuels with production side streams from renewable wood raw material to generate energy.