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By now, it’s clear that our environment needs a lot of help, or the consequences will be dire. While few seem to agree on what exactly is the best way to combat our environmental issues, plenty of governmental and other organizations across the world are taking important steps, using the resources that are available to them. In Sweden, one of those resources is the heavy forest growth across the country. Paper Province is an industrial cluster that aims to turn away from plastic and toward wood and paper-based products, taking advantage of Sweden’s abundant forest.

But won’t that lead to deforestation problems? Not at all – Paper Province, which is supported by the EU Cohesion Fund, plants three new trees for every one that is harvested, making sure that the forests remain healthy. European Union forests have actually been expanding over the past 60 years, in contrast with the world’s forests which have been shrinking.

One company working in the Paper Province industrial cluster is Melker Kayaks, owned by Pelle Stafshede. Stafshede uses a 3D printer that runs on corn and wood pellets to create his sustainable kayaks.

“I decided that I wanted to do the absolutely best-looking kayaks in the world combined with sustainability, thinking that I would change the industry completely,” he said. “That’s why it all happens when business understands that we also need to see the business value of going into the change from plastic into a fossil free future.”

Stafshede’s wood 3D printer is the largest in the world for that type of material, and it can print an entire kayak in only a few hours. Failed prints are no big deal, as they can easily be shredded and recycled. The kayaks are printed with a honeycomb structure that makes them both stiff and lightweight. 3D printing has shown itself to be an effective method of fabricating kayaks and canoes, and Melker kayaks have the added benefit of being completely sustainable.

Paper Province is heavy on the use of advanced technology, beyond just 3D printing. 21-year-old Sophie is a driver of a gripper crane, which she uses augmented reality glasses to control. She enjoys her work, and points to Paper Province’s emphasis on gender equality in the workplace. The cluster encourages its businesses to hire women in traditionally “male” jobs.

“There are starting to be more and more women in this sector of activity, I think,” Sophie commented. “You see a lot of women driving big trucks like this one, and also other types of trucks.”

Much of the world believes that fossil fuels and plastics are indispensable to industry, but Paper Province is working to prove that that isn’t the case. It’s unlikely that fossil fuels will ever be done away with completely, but environmental initiatives like this one show that our reliance on them doesn’t have to be nearly so heavy – there are, in fact, alternatives. Paper Province is no fringe group, either – currently the cluster has 103 member companies with a total annual turnover of about €2.2 billion.

Concerns have been expressed, justifiably, about 3D printing’s effects on the environment – after all, it does use a lot of plastic. But companies like Melker Kayaks demonstrate that even 3D printing doesn’t have to rely on tons of plastic, but can instead take advantage of more sustainable and recyclable materials.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Source: EuroNews]

 

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