Have you ever heard of banana fabric? What about leather made out of pineapple leaves? Did you know that one way of dealing with the ocean’s plastic problem is to make fabric out of it? And that wood can be turned into soft fabrics and hard, waterproof bathroom furnitures?
These issues were presented and discussed in Central Finland, where the BLOOM Nordic hub organized an exhibition called ”Get inspired from new bio-based and circular materials!” together with Creative Circular Economy project in Jyväskylä Central Library. The exhibition was open from the 12th November until 7th December 2019. During the exhibition, an open discussion session named “Let’s talk about wood!” was also arranged in the library in order to raise awareness and discussion around whether wood can replace plastics.
The „Get inspired by new bio-based and circular materials!“ exhibition presented a variety of examples of fabrics that were made either from bio-based or recycled materials. The exhibition also included material and product examples of what can nowadays be made out of wood, and on how these solutions relate to global problems. The idea was to showcase that there exists environmentally friendlier alternatives for many widely used materials or products, and that people could see and feel the concrete examples by themselves.
There were very traditional examples that have been used for decades – although somehow forgotten today – whilst on the other hand, examples still in development and not yet commercialized. Most of the bio-based fabric materials, such as hemp or nettle fabric, are very traditional fabrics which were used more commonly in the past. There were also a number of newly invented bio-based fabrics, such as pineapple leather that Pinatex is producing. These are new ways of strengthening the circular economy as the waste products of pineapple production are turned into high added value products that are suitable for those who don’t want to use animal leather. The wood-based product examples were all new innovations, from which mechanically made wood-based textile by Spinnova and wood-based cushioning material by VTT aren’t yet commercialized as product development still continues.
Guided tours were arranged in the exhibition twice a week and also tours were offered outside of predefined times on request. During the guided tours, we had the chance to have a lot of good discussion with the visitors about sustainability. Also new opportunities for collaboration were created when giving a guided tour for a student group studying in the environmental field.
All in all, the exhibition attracted attention amongst the library visitors and received a very positive reception shown through the many visitors signing the guest book.
Yes it can, but we shouldn’t replace everything, argued Senior Scientist Elina Pääkkönen from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. The topic was discussed in the „Let’s talk about wood!“ open discussion session on 21st November that was organized in the library as a side event of the exhibition.
The presentation was very topical attracting some very active participants in the audience and many by-passers stopped to listen to the discussion. Elina is a true expert in the field and with her inspiring lead, the discussion would have continued until the closing time of the library!
One of the main messages Elina brought out was that it is really important to think where the benefits of a specific material exceed the benefits of the competing materials. Conventional plastics have gotten a bad reputation in recent years but despite their drawbacks, they still are materials that outperform many others with their diverse qualities. In some applications, conventional plastics may still have better qualities compared to bio-based plastics and their use in these applications may be well reasoned. In some other applications, bio-based plastics have greater benefits than conventional plastics and therefore bio-based options should definitely be favored and further developed.
This is a topic researchers and product developers have to consider. But, from the consumer point of view, the main things are to reduce consumption and to recycle the plastics correctly – no plastics, whether it’s bio-based or conventional, should enter the environment!
Written by Aino Voutilainen from JAMK University of Applied Sciences