by CHAD WASILENKOFF
Push aside dated notions of our global forestry sector as dominated by lumberjacks focused solely on logging trees and processing the wood. Today’s forests are increasingly high-tech with employees skilled in biochemistry, genetics, computer modeling, satellite imagery, and digital processing.
Today’s bio-economy is a dynamic global market that mirrors a paradigm shift to products that originate from natural renewable sources. Mills that have focused on processing timber and pulp are beginning to diversify into bio-energy, bio-chemicals and bio-materials which include wood fibre and biomass that is converted into renewable fuel, food additives, non-toxic chemicals, solvents, plastics, textiles, and other products.
The International Council of Forest and Paper Associations, (ICFPA), which represents the global forest and paper industry, champions the role of our global forest sector as a central, thriving player in our new bio-age. The international forest and paper industry is committed to the principles of sustainable development and ensuring that the environmental, social and economic benefits of our natural resources are available to current and future generations. Studies have shown that by repurposing the chemicals and bio-materials extracted from trees, we can tap into a potential global market estimated at around $200 billion.
The global forestry industry is a vital benefactor to our world’s sustainable development. The worldwide forestry sector supports thousands of communities as a supplier of millions of jobs across the globe. The forestry sector prides itself on its use of renewable raw material and record of sustainable forest management and application of cleaner technologies in an increasing number of mill operations. More and more mills across the world are converting their wood residues into heat and power for their own operations with most of the sector’s energy coming from waste biomass with some facilities already acting as net sources of green power. With its strong reliance on biofuels, maximum recycling rates and the storage of carbon in its wood and paper products, our global forestry sector is at the forefront of the renewable era.
The forestry sector is finding new life in innovative and creative solutions that are not only helping the once struggling industry turn around, but also helping to usher in a green movement. After two years of work by FPAC, FPInnovations, and the Canadian Forest Service (CFS) of Natural Resources Canada, a new program called the Bio-pathways Project was set into motion this year with the goal of revitalizing the Canadian forestry sector. The project looks outside of traditional uses for wood, lumber, pulp and paper in an effort to create new jobs and sectors with a more sustainable future for the country and its citizens. New, innovative products include bio-active paper – paper towels than can indicate contamination; nanocrystalline cellulose composites that can replace materials in aircraft; wood-based textiles (such as rayon); and cross-laminated timber – a technology that produces strong beams and panels for construction products.
As the CEO of a security and specialty pulp and paper company, we are in the process of transforming Quebec’s Thurso mill from a traditional pulp mill to a specialty dissolving pulp operation. Dissolving pulp, a chemically refined bleached pulp of pure cellulose fibers extracted from trees that are used to produce rayon, is a popular cotton substitute in China and other markets. With our Quebec facility, we are transforming an under-utilized asset which struggled for market-share in the low-value add commodity marketplace. The evolution to dissolving pulp from traditional pulp metamorphoses the mill into a globally competitive, low-cost producer with a sustainable and profitable long-term future.
The future of the forestry sector is here today and it offers a bold, innovative, profitable and environmentally conscious path for the industry. Our global concern to reduce greenhouse gas emissions leads us through the forest to invest in renewable energy technologies that use wood fibre. As more forestry firms invest in technologies to increase their reliance on biomass for fuel versus fossil fuels, we drive the future of the forest sector to develop new biotechnologies, new jobs and greener prospects.
As our global forestry sector expands and leads the way to produce new and innovative bioproducts, we will experience greatly enhanced employment opportunities and financial returns than from traditional stand-alone mills. By incorporating new technologies into existing mills, we can ensure that these integrated operations will utilize all parts of the trees and extract the most value possible to ensure an environmentally friendly, sustainable, and profitable future.
About the Author:
As Fortress Paper’s Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Director, Chadwick Wasilenkoff, oversees the company’s production of security and other specialty papers. Based in Vancouver, Canada, Wasilenkoff is an established entrepreneur with extensive capital markets experience specializing in the resource industry and currently serves as a director with various publicly listed companies.
Vancouver Sun: “Future of Canada’s Forestry Sector is Renewable”
The Windsor Star: “A Renewable Forestry”
International Forest Industries: “Future of Canada’s Forestry Sector is Renewable”
The Post-Journal: “Future Of Global Forestry Sector Is Renewable”