Have you ever wondered what happens to the big logs piled up next to the small forest road? You might say, “of course I know what happens to them – they’ll be exported to sawmill and made into construction materials”. Or, you might know that they’ll be exported to pulp mill and made into pulp which is used to make newspapers and carton packages. Or perhaps you first thought of a handicraft worker making wooden toys and scoops out of them. But did it occurred your mind that wood can also be used to make toilet seats, window glasses, mini computers or bullet-proof armor plates?
Here in the North, we basically live from forests and wood and because of our strong emotions towards them, it’s only natural that we have long traditions to innovate how wood could be used in new ways. Wood has proved to be the most versatile material that can be used to make clothes soft as a lamb wool, packaging materials that are transparent and composites used in different applications. Wood can be processed into materials that are light as a feather or materials that are extremely strong. Wood can replace basically anything – even plastics! What might now seem to be impossible could actually be possible in the near future.
How would you feel to wear clothes that are made from wood? A bit wooden perhaps? You’ve probably already have, because, for example, viscose is made from wood and it’s been used in clothing industry for decades. What makes it more interesting though, is that nowadays these woody clothes can be produced much more environmentally friendlier than before. Also, making textiles from wood actually consumes significantly less water than making them from cotton.
What about in a super market, would you choose a product that is packed in ordinary plastic package or would you prefer a product that is packed in wood-based plastics? Or how would you feel to listen the morning radio from wood-fiber speakers and, after that, drive to work by wooden bicycle? These are already existing examples on how wood is coming into the markets in totally new applications.
One of the many advantages of wood is that when the basic material of wood, celluloce, is cut into tiny pieces, the outcome is nanocellulose which can, for example, be printed with 3D-printers. And with 3D-printing, you can do almost anything!
And this is just the beginning! Hop into the exciting world of wood and see why wood is definitely the new black!
For more examples about what wood can do, check out the forest bioeconomy future catalogue by the Finnish Forest Association.
Writer of this article is Aino Voutilainen and she works for BLOOM-project in JAMK University of Applied Sciences in Finland.