Geopolitics, sustainability, and technology: key insights from Tissue World Düsseldorf 2023

More than 1,500 tissue professionals from 80 countries gathered at Tissue World Düsseldorf 2023 (TWD) to network with global colleagues and explore the future of the tissue industry.

During the nearly four dozen educational sessions, presenters focused on key concepts driving global tissue markets and how they influence change — and success — in all aspects of the tissue business.

Geopolitics, sustainability, and technology were recurring themes in both casual conversations among attendees and in TWD presentations. The three topics aren’t new in the tissue industry, but the related challenges and opportunities amplified at TWD provided a lot to consider.

Geopolitics: unrest continues to reshape economies and partnerships

The impact of global unrest continues to fragment once robust international partnerships, causing financial and supply chain instability. 

Inflation spikes and ongoing fear of a looming, prolonged global recession mark a reserved outlook. However, for all of the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) these geopolitical and geoeconomic factors generate, there's cautious optimism within the tissue industry.

Generally speaking, the tissue industry has weathered COVID-19 and geopolitical crises. Noteworthy accomplishments include:

  • An industry that's still growing, albeit at a slower pace than in the past
  • Responsiveness in production to meet extreme shifts in product demand, especially in consumer and AFH during the first year of the pandemic
  • Managing price volatility, supply chain turbulence, and substantial price increases to turn marginal profitability

Sustainability: carbon neutrality goals and new approaches to fiber

What lies ahead geopolitically remains to be seen, but that doesn’t prevent tissue manufacturers from taking action now to secure a brighter future for themselves and the tissue industry. 

Sustainability initiatives continue to underpin many tissue industry innovations. The scope of responsibility and accountability generally centers around addressing climate change.

In Europe, the highest producing tissue mills emit about 7 times more greenhouse gasses than the lower producing mills.1 The variance in carbon emissions is one reason that nearly 60% of pulp and paper companies in Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) member countries target carbon neutrality by 20502:


Source: Confederation of European Paper Industries, Renewable, Recycled, Responsible European Paper, TWD 20232

Achieving these goals requires more from the tissue industry than acknowledging it is the largest industrial generator and user of renewable energy.3 Actionable steps need to be taken, especially regarding the bioeconomy and circular economy.

Two prominent tissue manufacturers — Metsä Tissue and WEPA Group — shared their perspectives on sustainability with TWD attendees:

Metsä Tissue

As part of the Metsä Group sustainability value chain, Metsä Tissue focuses on local, responsible production of sustainable everyday hygiene tissue products. To that end, the paper supplier has leaned into more sustainable practices, including:

  • Efficient use of wood and sustainable fresh fibers for production of hygiene solutions
  • Regionalization by collaborating with trusted brands and long-term partners to keep tissue production near distribution markets
  • Leveraging technology to maximize sustainable and efficient production, a trained and engaged workforce, and continuous improvement

WEPA Group

WEPA Group, the third largest manufacturer of hygiene paper in Europe, is also pursuing more sustainable practices and solutions, including:

  • Increased use of tissue fiber biomaterial with emphasis on miscanthus (aka Silvergrass) — a durable, fast-growing, and fibrous straw
  • More recycled cardboard content incorporated into tissue production
  • Unbleached products to eliminate chemicals and process steps that are ecologically harmful

Technology:Warm-up Contactless redefines hot embossing

Pulp is the single biggest cost for every tissue manufacturer. Managing pulp prices requires reducing the amount of fiber used per roll by improving bulk and reducing grammage, or using less expensive fiber — which can all be accomplished with hot embossing.

Warm-up Contactless technology is a breakthrough in hot embossing. It uses electromagnetic induction heating to heat the roll externally instead of the traditional inside-out heating systems using hot water or oil. 

From a productivity standpoint, Warm-up Contactless will help reduce fiber costs and produce more tons of product per year because:

  • Heating is at least 70% faster than traditional hot embossing methods, which means quicker production and substantially less energy consumption
  • Pattern changeover doesn’t require any internal piping retrofitting; existing embossing rolls are used as-is
  • It is easier to install on existing equipment, helping operators be more efficient and safer

Tissue World Düsseldorf 2023 was informative and inspirational. As the tissue industry continues to evolve, so do solutions to the prevalent challenges presented by world events, sustainability, and technology. Partnering with a leader in innovation and leveraging the benefits of the Valmet ecosystem can help you go farther, faster. Contact the Valmet experts to discuss your next project.



1Fisher International, Challenges and Uncertainties Ahead, TWD 2023

2Confederation of European Paper Industries, Renewable, Recycled, Responsible European Paper, TWD 2023