From wood to fabric - Kinnarps develops paper furniture prototypes
We consume 90 million tonnes of textile fibres globally per year. As the world's population increases and standards of living improve, it is estimated that demand for textile fibres will double by 2040. Production of oil-based textile fibres, such as nylon and polyester, is a burden on the environment, and therefore not an alternative from a sustainability point of view.
At the same time, we are in a situation where there is no more land to be used for growing cotton, a practice which can also be questioned from a sustainability point of view, because of the large quantities of water and chemicals it consumes. It is therefore important to find new, commercially viable textile alternatives to cotton and chemical-based synthetic materials. And that's where Swedish raw timber comes in! Paper is not just a natural material - it's also recyclable. From a single tree, it's actually possible to make 150,000 km of cellulose fibre, which is enough for 200 pairs of trousers. Classic textiles such as cotton, viscose and lyocell are also cellulose materials, just like wood. Wood-based fabrics are nothing new, either; they have been made for a long time from plants such as bamboo and hemp. Cellulose from Swedish forestry has the potential to play an important role in the supply of raw material for the global textile industry. It's just a matter of cracking the code!
Designed for recycling
Kinnarps is one of the participants in 'Designed for Recycling', in cooperation with Smart Textiles and 13 other companies in the Swedish forestry, paper and textile industries. The aim has been to develop bio-based furniture and interior fittings made of recyclable paper material. The idea is to create a cycle in which the furniture and its constituent parts can be recycled – and be given a new life as paper and cardboard products – instead of being thrown away. In this way we can create a better effect by means of a cycle in which, instead of throwing raw materials and textile fibres away, we can use them again and again.
"In the project, Kinnarps has developed a prototype screen which is completely recyclable, both the core and the fabric upholstery, and which is manufactured from raw timber from Swedish forestry. Designed for Recycling developed paper yarn from two different types of paper, which was then knitted into textile, and this is what we used for the screen. The project also developed a tougher paper structure that could be used for the core," says Christina Calisir, Technical Manager Cover Materials at Kinnarps.
On the basis of the two materials, Kinnarps designed prototypes of two desktop screens. In order for the furniture to be really recyclable, it is important that all components can be properly separated. For this reason, a paper textile covering was sewn, which could then be threaded over the paper core. Smart fasteners make it easy to assemble and disassemble the screens.
The screens thus pass through the entire cycle, from paper to yarn, textile manufacturing, finished product and, finally, recycling.
"The reception has been really positive, both in the project group and among the customers we've presented the screens to," says Calisir.
One tree turns into 1,500 pairs of trousers
The activity formed part of the project 'Establishing locally-grown textiles in Sweden', extending over several years, in which Kinnarps also took part. The aim of the project was to find new ways of using Swedish raw wood, with a focus on the furniture and interior design industries. The fabrics manufactured in the project framework, and also used for Kinnarps' prototype screens, are made of Swedish fir and pine wood pulp. The fabrics have proved to be remarkably hard-wearing, in a way that makes them very suitable for use in offices and public environments. They have also been used for various items of clothing, including a 'paper dress' designed as part of the project.
The project led to an innovative and informative exchange between different industries such as the furniture, textile, paper and recycling industries. "Doing things together gives you a deeper understanding of each other’s' challenges in the different industries. We also showed the potential there is in creating textiles and furniture out of paper from Swedish biomass," says Calisir.
Continuation in 'Forest fabric'
Now the project is to be continued in a new three-year project – Forest fabric – in which Kinnarps will also take part. The big challenge is now the further development of industrially and commercially viable fabrics and processes for furniture, interior design and fashion. "It's only natural for Kinnarps to take part in this kind of project," says Johanna Ljunggren, Kinnarps Sustainability Manager.
"In order for our customers to feel that sustainable choices are both simple and economically smart, we have to offer a concrete business benefit. The furniture industry needs new, sustainable business structures – and we want to be at the forefront of this development" continues Johanna.