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“Herää Pahvi!” – a cardboard to wake up Finland

Both forest industry and food industry create a number of side products that at the moment are either used as an energy source or composted. For instance, in 2018 the food industry used 84 million kilograms of oat in Finland, of which hull content makes up 23 – 30 %. The project partners found a way to integrate oat hull fibers in the production of decorative packaging paper. This helps save virgin wood fibers.

The “HerääPahvi!” project brings together experts from creative industries and the forest bio sector: partners from biomaterial science, paper and paper board making and packaging design cooperate and bundle their excellence. The partners are Tampere University of Applied Sciences, Luke – Natural Resources Institute Finland, and Design Forum Finland. The experts in creative industries will learn to identify the possibilities of the technical innovations in biofields. The technical experts, on the other hand, will learn to appreciate the importance of design and marketing.

The project started August 2018 and will finish at the end of October 2020. It is accompanied by intensive storytelling, chiefly done by media students at Tampere University of Applied Sciences. Students have made lots of short videos about the new material and the project background in general. Videos have helped the project communication a lot: short videos get people’s attention easily and they explain very well what the project is about. Videos are targeted both at end users (e.g. customers) and companies who might use this material in their packages. One result of the storytelling (in English) is here.

We talked with Saija Malila from Design Forum Finland about “HerääPahvi!”.

What does “HerääPahvi!” mean?

Actually, it is a quite a funny story. This phrase originates from a children’s TV programme, a game show, with lots of funny phrases. One of them was “HerääPahvi!”. Although the show was from the 1990s, some phrases are still really popular. It literally means: “herää” – “to wake up” and “pahvi” - “cardboard”. Ulla Häggblom from Tampere University of Applied Sciences had the idea to use this phrase as a title for the whole project. Wake up cardboard! In our context, it means we work with a new type of paper and cardboard. New because we add side streams from the food and forestry industries.

In what way does your cardboard wake us up?

It helps us to better use resources: It is not like a normal cardboard, it is something special because we have added oat hulls to it. Oat hulls come out of mills, when you are grinding flour. They are a “waste product” and are usually burnt. We added them into our paper materials – which decreases the demand for wood. In that way, we can save cellulose, which is normally made of conifer trees. Although we have a lot of woods in Finland, there are many other innovations also making use of cellulose fibers. For example, you can make textiles out of them. In the future, I guess, the demand for wood and cellulose will even increase. “HerääPahvi!” promotes the cascade use of oat hulls, we make a higher value product out of it. And the cardboard including the oat hulls can later be recycled just like normal cardboards.

For what will the “HerääPahvi!” cardboard be used?

At the moment we mainly deal with food packaging. So far, we created a paper packaging bag for bakeries (still in development phase). As most bakery products have grease or moisture inside, we still need a barrier material. Currently, we are also investigating how to integrate further natural by-products or side streams with antioxidant and antibacterial properties. That way, we could avoid food waste by preserving the food really well. That’s our future plan. We are also going to carry out some experiments with greenhouse-grown tomato and cucumber stems because this material is hard and fibrous and is normally composted. We will test if we can use those as a part of this new type of paper as well.

What is your role in this project? In what way is Design Forum Finland involved?

Our task is to bring the design thinking methods into the project so that we end up with more feasible products. And so that people will better understand what it is about. Designers are often interpreters for such “very technical topics”. Our big role is to organise a series of workshops to involve the end users and companies that will use these materials in packaging. We are also responsible for the visual identity of the project. The present “HerääPahvi!” paper bag packaging was the outcome of our second workshop with a group of end users. We were ideating what kind of products could be made out of this new type of oat hull material. One of those ideas was this kind of packaging which also gives information to the users and the people in the shops how they can enhance the Circular Economy. The information is “printed” in the packaging already.

Is the project “only” about food packaging?

We had our third design thinking workshop just before Christmas 2019 with different companies from different sectors as participants. They were ideating how they could use this material in their contexts. There were food companies, a glue company, companies producing shampoos, washing liquids and cosmetics, even an alcohol manufacturing company took part. So it is not only about food packaging.

How was the acceptance of your first “oat-hull prototypes”?

We had quite a lot of interest in general at this development stage already! We have been in several national Finnish newspapers with our project, which doesn’t happen that often. And people locally are even starting to recognise the paper with the processed oat hulls in it.

Could you describe “HerääPahvi!” with three words?

Inspiring. Innovative. And natural.

Text from, and first published by EcoDesign Circle 17.3.2020

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