NOKIA, Finland — Could birch bark be the next talking point among those searching for sustainable alternatives for rubber—
That's the core of work being carried out by Sweden's Reselo A.B., a company whose mission is to enable sustainable living by replacing fossil-derived materials with renewable alternatives.
Reselo recently was declared the winner of Nokian Tyres P.L.C.'s "Fast Race, Big Change," a sustainable tire innovation challenge.
The inaugural event was held recently at Nokian's test center, White Hell, in Lapland in northern Finland. The winning entry, chosen from among 50 applications from 18 countries, involved making renewable rubber from birch bark residue.
Reselo's renewable rubber utilizes birch bark sourced from the residue from the global pulp, paper and plywood industry. According to Reselo, a single mill creates 100,000 tons of birch bark residue annually each year. The company said the forestry industry in Finland and Sweden alone produce enough raw material for 200,000 tons of Reselo's rubber.
Reselo's biorefinery concept is designed to minimize the environmental impact of the material.
Teemu Soini, head of Innovation & Development of Nokian Tyres, said judges were "really impressed with the capabilities and versatility of the material. It was also important for us that the material was produced from the side stream of other industries."
Soini said Nokian Tyres wants to be part of Reselo's "success story, and we believe that Reselo will be one of the steppingstones toward our own goal of having 50% of the raw materials in our tires renewable or recycled by 2030."
As the winner, Reselo received a money as well as the chance to explore a business or development partnership with Nokian Tyres.
Henrik Otendal, CEO and one of the founders of Reselo, said he was amazed his company won the competition.
"It is a confirmation for our invention and the material itself," he said. "Our journey together is just beginning, but the early results are promising. We hope that our renewable rubber can one day be part of a Nokian Tyres tire."
The four finalists for the Fast Race, Big Change challenge each had to pitch their products from an electric vehicle while racing on an icy tire test track for one lap. The pitches were streamed to a panel of judges, who then heard more details from each entrant.
Other finalists were Microwave solutions GmbH from Switzerland; Universal Matter Inc. from Canada; and a simulation modeling expert from Italy.
Nokian Tyres said it wants to show sustainability leadership in tire industry. It has set ambitious targets in decreasing greenhouse gas emissions as well as increasing the share of renewable or recycled raw materials without compromises on safety.
"We launched this competition because we want to stay at the forefront of sustainable tire industry and for that we need new innovative partners joining our quest," Soini said.
He said he feels strong that the right winner was chosen. "I am sure we will make great things together in the future,"
Members of the grand jury were Anke Blume, head of the chair of Elastomer Technology and Engineering from Universite Twente; Sven Thiele, senior R&D Leader, Process & Product Development from Synthos; and Christer Steinsson, manager, Global Customer Service from Volvo Cars.
Nokian's representatives on the jury were Soini; Vice President Sustainability & Quality Teppo Huovila; Senior Vice President Communication, Investor Relations and Brand Päivi Antola; and Senior Manager, Materials Development Anne Ojala.