To create Iggesund’s high-quality paperboard, the raw material must be carefully looked after over a long period – and the way to achieve this is through responsible forestry. Join us on a century-long journey from seed to finished packaging or graphical product.
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The journey to the pulp mill is a long one, taking up to 100 years. The time frame depends on where the tree has grown and what species it is. This example is based on a pine sapling in northern Sweden.
The Swedish forest grows slowly. It has a lot of spruce and pine that produce high-quality long-fibre pulp, which is perfect for the new-generation packaging types that require low weight and high strength.
Iggesund’s raw material comes from the parent company Holmen, which owns large areas of forest and has been in forestry since 1609. Sustainable forestry is conducted according to clear guidelines, which means the raw material can be exploited while still nurturing the forest’s many values. The forestry is certified to the international standards fsc and pefc.
In Sweden, the forest has an extremely long turn-around time compared to forests in other parts of the world. In Brazil, for example, some species can be harvested after five years.
“The long turnaround time calls for a long-term approach to forestry, as well as large areas which we manage in a sustainable way, and an infrastructure and industry that are adapted accordingly,” says Jan Åhlund, forestry manager at the company’s forest division, Holmen Skog.
For every tree harvested, at least three new ones are planted, which is standard in Nordic forestry. This approach means that growth is greater than the harvested volume. The wood stock in Sweden’s forests today is twice what it was in the 1920s.
“Every 10 years we take a meticulous inventory of our entire forest holding, ”Åhlund says. We then make a felling calculation for the next 100 years. This in turn determines how we plan our harvest, forest management measures and consideration for natural, cultural and social aspects.”
Various silvicultural (forest management) measures are important to ensure good value development. Around 5 to 15 years after final felling, depending on the area, it’s time for clearing. This involves removing unwanted saplings and trees to make the remaining ones (of one or more species) grow thicker. At this point the trees are about 2 to 4 metres tall.
Thinning is often performed in two stages. The first thinning takes place when the thickest trees are 12 to 14 metres tall. The basic principle is to remove weak and damaged trees, which improves the conditions for higher-quality trees to continue growing. A thinned forest looks spacious and healthy. The thinned trees are primarily used in pulp production.
The second thinning takes place when the thickest trees are 16 to 20 metres tall. This leaves a high-quality forest of 700 to 800 trunks per hectare, compared with around 2,000 after the earlier clearing. Many forest owners fertilise the forest 10 years or so before final felling to give the growth a final boost.
A 100-year-old pine tree in northern Sweden is 24 metres tall and ready to be harvested. The trees are felled, delimbed and cut. The parts are sorted by quality and recipient. The bottom logs often become timber for sawmills, the top logs are used in pulp production, and branches and tops become biofuel.
Iggesund uses the felled forest, both softwood and hardwood, to make solid bleached board from chemical pulp. The pulp is used to make paperboard for graphic products and packaging of the highest quality. The products are the result of a century of forest management!
There are various forest management systems. In Sweden by far the most common approach is clear felling, whereby forest of the same age is harvested at the same time, and replanted and managed as outlined above.
TEXT NILS SUNDSTRÖM ILLUSTRATION RICKARD GRÖNKVIST