A number of cases of circular economy in agriculture and two cases from forestry/forest sector were presented during the workshop. Felix Montecuccoli from the Austrian Land and Forest Owners presented a case study on innovative processes for wood ash up-cycling. Today in Austria, a significant amount of wood ash is produced, of which half goes to landfill and the other half to the cement industry, in both cases at a significant cost to the ash producers. The study found that wood ash could favourably be used as a binder in road construction, reducing the amount of stones needed. Furthermore, the study showed that wood ash could be an effective fertiliser and liming agent in forests. However, challenges with this include the presence of heavy metals and the current Austrian regulation which classifies wood ash as ‘waste’, meaning it cannot legally be used as fertiliser in the forest. It was discussed that this could be resolved through the currently underway revision of the EU Fertilisers Regulation. Other challenges for the use of wood ash include the need for acceptance of ash as fertiliser in Sustainable Forest Management guidelines, standardisation of the ash and public procurement guidelines.
Mestä Fibre’s Niklas von Weyman presented the circular economy case of the 1.2 billion investment in the bioproduct mill in Äänekoski, Finland. The mill will annually produce 1.3 million tonnes of pulp and use 6.5 million m3 of wood, creating around 2500 direct jobs in the whole value chain. Today 90% of Metsä Fibre’s sales are pulp and 10% are other bioproducts like tall oil and bioenergy. With the investment in Äänekoski the share of other bioproducts is expected to increase up to 20%, mainly due to energy efficiency, giving more excess energy to sell.
Christer Segerstéen, Södra, participated in the closing panel of the workshop, highlighting the importance of increasing the understanding within the European Commission and the European Parliament for the great opportunities and importance of the agriculture and forestry sectors for moving towards a circular economy. Antti Sahi from Finland's Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners, stressed that there is a need for more understanding between foresters/farmers and industry players for creating the necessary synergies needed in a circular economy.