The vast majority of the renewable fibers were wood pulp. In addition, we use some viscose pulp also from forest fiber, annual fibers such as abaca, flax, sisal and jute. Biopolymers such as PLA-fiber are of increasing importance for us.
Abaca fiber has exceptional length and resistance, and can withstand infusion in hot water, making it ideal for tea bags. Abaca doesn’t need fertilizers or pesticides, and doesn’t cause deforestation – in fact it can help stabilize areas at risk of erosion. We regularly visit our suppliers’ farms in the Philippines and Ecuador. In Ecuador, Ahlstrom has helped the local farmers to develop their operations, thus having a positive effect on the local community.
In the Philippines, Ahlstrom supported in 2013 an industry-wide project coordinated by EDANA to advance sustainability certification of abaca according to the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standard.
The strength and stiffness of flax fiber give it real value and potential as a component in light-weight composite products. It’s lighter and less abrasive than glass, and provides good thermal and sound insulation. Flax plants, which are typically grown in France, do not require much fertilizer, pesticide or irrigation.
Sisal fibers come from agava plants, which are grown by small farmers in East Africa. Sisal can survive long periods of drought and the waste can be used as a natural fertilizer. We’re using sisal fibers in specialty nonwoven products. All of Ahlstrom’s sisal comes from Kenya, where sisal is largely grown on long established farms, often on marginal land. The Kenya Sisal Board has confirmed that all our suppliers have an annual tree planting policy, and provide social services as well as employment to rural communities.
Like potatoes, corn has supplied the starches required in papermaking for generations. It now has a new role as the raw material for the new biopolymers used to make Poly-Lactic Acid fibers. We source our corn-based raw materials for PLA solely from the US, where our main supplier employs independent third parties to evaluate the environmental impact of their operations. As the sugars for PLA can be fermented from any cellulose-based material, we are looking for feedstock diversification for the PLA.