HELSINKI - Brazilian pulp group Suzano and Finnish cellulose fibre startup Spinnova will build a plant in Finland to make a sustainable textile fibre from wood and waste.
The aim is to have commercial production capacity by the end of 2022, Spinnova Chief Executive Janne Poranen told Reuters.
The fashion industry is seeking sustainable alternatives to cotton, which needs large amounts of water, and viscose, whose traditional production uses toxic chemicals and polyester, blamed for pollutants such as microplastics.
Several research projects based on making cloth from wood are underway.
Spinnova has developed its technology in collaboration with fashion companies such as Bestseller, Marimekko and Bergans. It said on Thursday the world's second largest fashion retailer H&M would also join as a brand partner.
Its technology enables the production of textile fibre without using dissolvents that are harmful to the environment.
"The fact that these fibres can be recycled into a new fibre again and again makes the fibre disruptively circular," it said.
Poranen said he believed Spinnova's production method was the only one in the world that used no harmful chemicals at all in the process of dissolving the material.
This week, a venture part-owned by Finnish forestry group Stora Enso, H&M and IKEA announced it was building a demonstration plant in Sweden for another sustainable wood-based textile fibre.
Suzano and Spinnova will set up their 20 million euro ($24.3 million) plant in Jyvaskyla, north of the Finnish capital Helsinki.
Investment in the project would total about 50 million euros, which included Suzano's investment in producing the raw material micro-fibrillated cellulose, Spinnova said.
It did not disclose the plant's planned production capacity.
Poranen said in an interview it would be possible to scale up production fast if demand for the fibre rose and said the technology could be used to produce fibre from agriculture waste such as wheat or barley straw.
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(Reporting by Essi Lehto, Editing by Anna Ringstrom and Edmund Blair) ((Essi.Lehto@thomsonreuters.com;))