Sustainable Solutions: Kotkamills’ Eco-Friendly Paper and Forest Products

Responsible partner

Committed to developing its business in a sustainable manner, Kotkamills produces paper and other forest products, made from renewable raw materials, that are recyclable and safe to use

Located on the coast of the Gulf of Finland, at the mouth of the Kymi River, is the city of Kotka. Home to a population of more than 53,000 people, the city is part of the Kymenlaakso region and sits close to the Port of Kotka, a major Finnish sea port serving the foreign trade activities of both its home country and those of Russia. The Kotka region is also known for being one of Finland’s first heavily industrialised regions, and one long standing resident of the area is Kotkamills, which traces its roots back to 1872 and remains an important employer to this day.

“Today, Kotkamills’ sawmill offers ecological, technically sound and visually appealing wood products for demanding joinery and construction purposes,” begins Kotkamills’ Chief Executive Officer, Markku Hämäläinen. “These products are valued the world over for their excellence and uniform quality, while the company is also respected for its agile and accurate service, and its technical know-how.”

The company has three primary areas of business which centre on its whitewood sawn timber, its Absorbex® saturating base kraft paper and its consumer boards range, respectively. The high-quality spruce products created within the company’s sawmill typically go on to be used as profile boards, planed-around items, glued beams, and various parts of wooden houses. The by-products of the sawmill, sawdust and wood chips, then find themselves used in the creation of both Kotkamills’ kraft paper and consumer boards.

In the case of the former, Kotkamills has established itself as being a leading producer of the core materials used in high pressure laminates, and its Absorbex product range covers virtually all unbleached saturating base kraft grades. Typical applications of Absorbex include decorative and industrial high pressure laminates (HPL) and continuously pressed laminates (CPL), as well as different types of electrotechnical and technical products like phenolic surface films for wood-based panels.

Last, but not least, Kotkamills’ consumer boards range includes board products for both general packaging and the food service industry, with its barrier board products being specially designed to protect food or other packaged items against moisture, vapour and grease. Brands in this collection include AEGLE® Folding Boxboards and ISLA® Food Service Boards.

“One of the biggest developments in our recent history has been the start-up of our new BM2 consumer board machine, which commenced production in July 2016,” Markku explains. With a production capacity of 400,000 tonnes per annum, the BM2 machine primarily produces high-quality Nordic folding boxboard and recyclable barrier board for the packaging industry and food service sector, and represents an investment of more than 170 million euros.

“The BM2 machine was the first in the world to produce dispersion barrier coatings directly to the machine,” Markku continues. “This is truly a unique board machine concept, incorporating several presses, and film and curtain coating units, meaning that we have the ability to apply multiple coating layers at the same time. This means that we are able to produce a board that has true moulded barrier properties, and that is something that you won’t easily find in the marketplace. The BM2 is also the first piece of machinery of its kind capable of producing barrier boards that can be recycled with normal paper waste as they have zero plastic content, making Kotkamills the only industrial scale producer of this type of environmentally sustainable boards.”

The BM2 machine has also helped to facilitate a marked improvement in the environmental performance of the company’s facilities by significantly reducing its consumption of water and electricity compared to its former paper production process. “When installing the BM2 machine we publically stated our intentions to make a positive environmental difference, and this included investing around ten million euros in a new effluent treatment plant to improve the cleanliness of waste water. In the time since installation we have also seen how our efforts have greatly improved our carbon footprint, reducing our consumption of water per tonne of CTMP and our usage of electricity.”

Another ‘game changing’ product that has come about as a result of Kotkamills efforts is its ISLA Duo cupstock. Unlike traditional single-use coffee cups that include a barrier layer made from plastic to prevent absorption of liquids or greases, the ISLA Duo does not contain any plastics or harmful waxes, instead utilising a water-based dispersion coating. Of course, being plastic-free also means that these cups are easily recyclable, making them a hugely welcome addition to the fight for a plastic-free future.

One other product line that continues to bring in strong business for the company is its range of folding box boards (FBB). “The FBB market has in the past been dominated by two major players, and it has long been a request of our customers to have more choice of suppliers, which is what we are now providing,” Markku adds. “The FBB market is definitely one that is growing, and we foresee excellent opportunities for us here in the coming years.”

Markku is clearly very optimistic about the future prospects for the company’s various board business products, and he is also excited about several planned investments that he hopes to realise soon. “One of the things we announced earlier this year was an investment in laminating paper production through the building and installation of a new laminating base paper machine,” he details. “This is another facet of the business that we expect to increase in demand and in order to meet this we intend to upscale our production of laminating paper.

“By that time, we believe that Kotkamills will have all of the infrastructure in place to be running at full capacity throughout the business, utilising 100 per cent of our water, steam and electricity requirements. The result of this will not only be the production of larger volumes of products for our customers, but also bring a about a lower cost per tonne of board that we make, increasing the productivity and profitability of the business.”

Products: Paper and forest products