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How to ensure the sustainability of future packaging solutions?

Text: Sari Saavalainen, Product Safety and Sustainability Engineer / Metsä Spring​,

Tarja Heikkilä, Product Manager / Metsä Spring

The Circular Economic Action Plan considers the food packaging industry as one of the critical sectors that are resource-intensive and have a high potential for circularity. Circular economy solutions provide significant positive environmental impacts.

Novel, sustainable and bio-based Muoto™ products help protect the environment as they replace fossil-based alternatives. Using wood-based packaging materials is a major step towards carbon neutrality and circular economy.

Muoto™ products provide both value creation and new solutions, as the concept enables tailored product designs to meet the requirements in the intended applications, conditions of use and ensures positive climate impacts of the whole value chain by following key factors:


1. Tracking the origin of raw materials and aiming for 100% fossil-free materials

Muoto™ products are pure and white fibre products manufactured from fresh wood pulp originating from sustainably managed northern forests with traceable origin. Metsä Group’s biggest advantage is that the entire wood raw material value chain from the forest to the Muoto™ demo plant via pulp mill is managed by Metsä Group’s own business units. In 2023, 89% of the wood converted by Metsä Group came from Finland and 93% of the total wood procured was from forests that are either PEFC™ or FSC® certificated. The rest of the procured wood comes from a known and legal origin with an acceptable and sustainable supply chain.

Metsä’s target is to utilize only fossil-free raw materials and packaging materials by the end of 2030. Therefore, Muoto™ R&D team is actively seeking substitutes for fossil oil-based additive materials in the production of Muoto™ products. As Muoto™ products are manufactured from fresh fibres there is less risk of non-intentionally added substances (NIAS). Also, no PFAS substances are used in the manufacturing of the Muoto™ product.

All substances and additives used in the Muoto™ products comply with European food contact material regulations and recommendations.


2. Towards fossil free, resource-efficient production

Following Metsä´s objectives not to use any fossil fuels in production by 2030, Muoto™ demo plant in Äänekoski is already running with entirely fossil-free energy.

Muoto™ production process is adaptable and resource-efficient, producing zero waste. The production process from wet pulp to the automated packing of final products is integrated into a single production line. Energy use is minimized with innovative processes and technological solutions. The location of the Muoto™ demo plant in a unique bioeconomy ecosystem is ideal to gain the most synergies from Metsä´s resources. The supply of raw materials, fossil-free energy, water, and other production resources are secured.

3. Tackling the recycling targets for packaging

Muoto products are made of renewable and recyclable materials. This will make the product easy to sort and recycle in paper or board recycling systems or compost. The recyclability has been tested and verified by CEPI Standard mill method with the “Best-in-class” results. Ultimately, however, recyclability depends on the local collection and recycling infrastructure availability. Metsä Group as a packaging producer has a responsibility to take care of the end of the life cycle waste management and related costs. Metsä Group participates actively in the 4evergreen and European Paper Packaging Alliance communities, which promote the recyclability of fibre-based packaging and food and food service packaging.


4. Supporting sustainability with good product design

Due to the comprehensive product design options, i.e. multi-layer possibility, each product is designed according to application-specific needs and requirements. This allows, for example, the lightweight product design created by an optimal mix of raw materials. The accomplished product has high-quality properties, for example, in terms of functionality, strength and surface smoothness compared to existing products on the market.

Novel 3D-fibre technology and sturdy material give vast possibilities to design also product shapes in an optimal way. We consider the following aspects; consumer experience and handling in the usage situations, compatibility and performance on the packing process, efficiency in the logistics as well as development of complementary packaging materials to make a well-functioning and outstanding packaging solution for different end uses. A great example of sustainable packaging concept is where we combine a printed carton sleeve made of Metsä Board´s material to a Muoto™ tray – fully renewable and recyclable .

Well-designed packaging helps to reduce environmental impact throughout the value chain. This means that future packaging fits for purpose, saves resources, streamlines transportation, storage and shelving as well as is easy to recycle or compost.

Muoto™ products tick all the aforementioned boxes as an everyday easy and carefree packaging solution while having a positive impact on global challenges.


Sari Saavalainen, Product Safety and Sustainability Engineer, Metsä Spring


Tarja Heikkilä, Product Manager, Metsä Spring