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1st International Wood BioEconomy Forum

Status quo and perspectives for the future

  • Proholz Tirol
  • Business Upper Austria
  • Innovation Salzburg

On 15 and 16 February 2023, the 1st International Wood BioEconomy Forum took place at the Rosenheim Technical University of Applied Sciences (DE). More than 200 people attended the extensive lecture programme and visited the accompanying trade exhibition. The event was organised by Forum Holzbau, an association supported by six universities, including TU Wien (Bioeconomy Austria network partner).

Bioeconomy Austria on site

The Bioeconomy Austria team was represented by proHolz Tirol, Business Upper Austria and Innovation Salzburg. In the exhibition and in personal discussions, visitors were able to learn about the network and the Bioeconomy Austria initiative. In the expert presentations, a wide variety of topics related to the wood-based bioeconomy were discussed. Recurring subjects were circular economy and recycling of waste wood, the CO2 footprint along the value chain, new adhesive technologies and possible uses for lignin as well as the effects of the EU taxonomy on the wood industry.

Insights

On the first day of the event, several presentations dealt with the topic of circular economy and new possibilities for the utilisation of waste wood. Prof. Alfred Teischinger (network partner of Bioeconomy Austria) from BOKU gave an overview of the initial situation. At the moment, used wood is mainly recycled in the production of chipboard. Research is currently being conducted on the use of waste wood in the production of other wood-based materials. His summary: The forestry industry is currently prioritising the processing of bark beetle wood. The introduction of (completely) new technologies takes 10 to 15 years. Prof. Detlef Krug from IHD Dresden presented new ways and possibilities to use waste wood in MDF production and to recycle MDF boards. A company from Israel could produce a bio-based, recyclable plastic from waste wood.

According to Prof. Ingo Burgert (ETH Zurich & Empa), new possibilities and green chemistry are needed in the development of new products and processes in order to separate wood in a meaningful way. According to him, we need resilient forests if we want to work with wood and we need to use wood in an even more targeted way. Prof. Andreas Michanickl (Rosenheim Technical University of Applied Sciences) sees a trend in wood-based material development towards more materials that are not solid wood but consist of fibres. In addition, intensive research is being conducted on new adhesive technologies based on renewable raw materials. According to Dr. Erik van Herwijnen from Wood K plus (also a Bioeconomy Austria network partner), lignin, proteins and carbohydrates would be particularly suitable for the production of adhesives for the wood-based materials industry. Adhesives can also be produced from tannins, which are extracted from bark with hot water, among other things. Thomas J. Halletz and Cornelia Frank (Kiefel) illustrated the upheaval taking place in the packaging industry. According to them, a colourful bouquet of technologies is developing. The general goal must be to make more from less wood in the future.

Discussion

Critical and challenging statements were heard in a concluding panel discussion. One participant, for example, said: “The more prosperous a society is, the more damage it produces”. If it is up to Dr. Veronika Auer from the Rosenheim Technical University of Applied Sciences, we need to think about whether or not bioeconomy means infinite (economic) growth and what we will use the raw material wood for in the future.