Behind the scenes

Woodworking industries redefining the circular bioeconomy in Northern Europe

25 November 2021

Circular bioeconomy has a strong support from public decision makers and authorities in Northern Europe. Carbon neutrality 2030 roadmaps among national climate change mitigation strategies have been established during the recent years for the basis of public decision making and industry support for the different industry sectors, sawmill, woodworking and construction industries among them. Sawmills and woodworking sector have either created independent roadmaps and initiatives for development, like in Finland, as a part of forest industry, like in Sweden, or among processing or infrastructure industries, like in Norway or Baltic countries. Depending on the country, financial tools have been established or outlined.

Advanced industrial co-operation, business model innovations and supportive governmental environment are the key assets of the wood-based circular economy and wood construction value networks in Northern Europe with a multitude of different industrial ecosystems. They combine forest, woodworking, chemical and energy industries and construction into supply and value chains, locally integrated or regionally decentralized. Seamless collaboration between public and private entities, academia and research organisations in RTDI activities, policy and regulation implementation and a strong knowledge basis enable circular transition in Northern Europe.

The expansion of material supply for new products for reuse and recycling is, however, limited by the current economic reality, caused by small sized local markets, challenging logistics with long transportation distances, and sometimes scattered sources of raw materials. There is also a strong need for redefining the cascading principle to better address and integrate the macro-regional specificities. When economically and environmentally preferable, advanced wood-based bioenergy solutions have to be considered as an option to replace fossil energy sources. Fossil fuels and fossil-fuel-based electricity can easily be substituted by wood-based sources in the boreal climate and energy-intensive society and industries of Northern Europe.

Innovative recycling and waste management systems exist, but further improvements in sourcing and sorting of construction, demolition and packaging wastes and upgrading of industrial side streams for cascading uses are needed in Northern Europe. Adding value remains a key challenge in expanding cascading use in the wood construction value chains. In future, the requirements of sustainable development, eco-design and customer-based functionalities should be stressed also in the utilization of side streams and wastes. Developing material and product properties as well as services toward recyclability and reusability, including long service life and potential for reassembling, renovation and modification of buildings should become the future industrial competitive edge.

Combining value-add, resource efficiency, renewability and recyclability, sustainability and financing of investments are key issues for the success of woodworking industries and building and living with wood sector in circular economy. The companies need stable, predictable and up-to-date regulatory framework conditions to develop their operations and markets for novel products. Research has generated a lot of innovative showcases for the utilization of industrial side streams from wood product industries, but the problems often lie in their commercialisation, proofs-of-concept, funding availability, company and investment risks. There is a large potential to position climate friendly woodworking products in the core of forest-based industries, and enlarge and develop the markets for innovative and sustainable solutions.

European macro-regions and countries have specific framework conditions and therefore different challenges and opportunities. In Northern Europe, circular bioeconomy is composed of resource efficient woodworking industries (sawmill, plywood and LVL in the core, in addition some other panel industries and well-known furniture companies), pulp and paper, bioenergy, construction and waste management value chains, which can easily make the next steps towards climate positive and carbon neutral industry and society.

Erkki Verkasalo
Research Professor of wood
science and technology, LUKE
Co-leader of WP2

Kai Merivuori
Managing Director, Finnish Sawmills Association

Giovanni Tosi, COSMOB
Co-leader of WP2

Giovanni Tosi is the R&D manager for COSMOB. He has a master degree in Ecology of climate change (Faculty of Sciences and Technologies for Environment) and he also got a PhD title in Chemical Sciences after a research about VOC indoor pollution from wood-based products. For about 10 years he has been involved in several R&D activities at national and international level focused on wood-furniture sector. For WoodCircus project, he is co-leader of WP2: Fact finding & Review of State of the Art.

Erkki Verkasalo, LUKE
Co-leader of WP2

Erkki Verkasalo, Dr.Sc. (Agr.&For.) is Research Professor of wood science and technology at the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke). He is a leading RTDI expert in Northern Europe on raw materials sources, properties, utilization, product and service markets and value networks among wood products and selected biorefining industries. He has experience for more than 35 years in Finnish and international RTDI activities. In WoodCircus project, he is co-leader of WP2 and partner in other WPs.

Mariapia D’Anghela, COSMOB m.danghela@cosmob.it

Mariapia D’Anghela is an industrial Ph.D. student in “Global Studies. Economy, Society and Law” at University of Urbino, Italy. She is currently collaborating with COSMOB, the Italian technological centre for the wood-furniture sector, for the implementation of several R&D projects in different fields with particular regard to Circular Economy.


Interested in joining the WoodCircus network? Please use the contact form to get in touch with us or contact directly the WoodCircus Ringmaster :

Project Coordinator
Anne-Christine Ritschkoff, VTT


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Anne-Christine Ritschkoff