The market for bio-based binders in the wood-based panels sector continues to draw greater interest and investments.

A number of market players have been active in the eco-resins sector, including Finland-based international forestry products manufacturer Stora Enso. The company has developed the NeoLigno binder made from lignin, the bio-based organic polymer originating from wood.

Stora Enso has been producing lignin since 2015 and the company has been partnering with several panel producers of lignin-based binders, including at Finnish plywood manufacturer Koskisen and Latvian plywood producer Latvijas Finieras.

The partnership with Koskisen reached a milestone when it was announced in January this year that the plywood maker had become the first company to start using NeoLigno, with production of the Zero Furniture Board, which is claimed to be the world’s first entirely bio-based furniture board.

Koskisen has targeted the use of the binder to replace fossil-based resins used in furniture boards, with both the furniture board raw material and the binder sourced from the production process flows of both companies. This results in all raw materials of the Zero Furniture Board being entirely bio-based.

“Our new Zero product family meets the rising demand for bio-based solutions from both domestic and export markets,” said Timo Linna, Koskisen’s head of product management and R&D. “These new products allow furniture manufacturers to offer alternatives with improved sustainability and health security.”

It is clearly a significant co-operation for Stora Enso to secure a first customer for industrial use of NeoLigno and the Zero Furniture Board is expected to be commercially available in Q3 2022.

Previously, as a by-product of the pulp industry, lignin has been typically utilised as bioenergy in energy production. NeoLigno serves as an example of how Stora Enso increases the value of lignin without increasing the use of wood.

“Stora Enso has been refining lignin commercially since 2015. NeoLigno is our first own binder that replaces fossil-based adhesives,” said Lauri Lehtonen, head of innovation at Stora Enso’s Biomaterials division.

Koskisen is the first company to utilise NeoLigno in industrial production. The Zero Furniture Board will be commercially available in Q3 2022.

So how does NeoLigno’s performance compare to conventional resins and is there any trade-off between environmental profile and product performance? We posed that question to David Almqvist, vice-president biobinders at Stora Enso.

“NeoLigno by Stora Enso keeps all the technical qualities of traditional binders, and it comes with the benefits of being safe and renewable,” said Mr Almqvist. “It can pass the toughest requirements in bonding strength and water resistance.”

Mr Almqvist said the company was developing its LCA documentation that will show customers the product’s full benefits.

What about its cost of production versus traditional binders?

“The cost will depend on the application and production set-up. The comparison with traditional binders is also difficult these days as the cost of traditional binders have increased tremendously during the last year. In general, replacing oil-based materials with bio-based ones makes the cost attractive.”

Stora Enso clearly sees big things for the future of NeoLigno.

“Being a fully bio-based binder, we see huge potential for NeoLigno. It makes the end product both safer to make and safer to use, and it reduces the end product’s emissions and carbon footprint.

“According to Stora Enso’s end-user research in Sweden and Germany, 88% of the respondents find indoor air at home important. People also pay attention to emissions when buying their homes, and 59% of the respondents are willing to pay more for emission-free products.”

Stora Enso is co-operating with “many panel producers”, added Mr Almqvist, as the company tries to support the wood-based panels industry in providing the market with more sustainable and bio-based solutions.

“We started our focus on the production of particleboard and now we are looking to use NeoLigno in the production of other wood-based panels such as MDF, HDF, OSB and plywood. We are also developing NeoLigno binder systems for the insulation material market.”


Staying with lignin as a source for resins and binders, Stora Enso has also been working with Latvijas Finieris, a global producer of birch plywood products, which operates under the brand Riga Wood and is based in Latvia.

Stora Enso announced in March that Latvijas Finieris was using bio-based glue in its plywood production. The fossil-based phenols in the glue are replaced with bio-based lignin Lineo by Stora Enso.

According to Latvijas Finieris, its plywood’s potential environmental impact has thus been reduced by up to 49%.

“Plywood is usually seen as a mature product in a rather mature market,” said Maris Bumanis, head of development research at Latvijas Finieris.

“We found the idea of using a lignin-based glue interesting and we welcome new innovations. Since 2017, we have worked together with Stora Enso to test and develop the bio-based binder and finally we are proud to say that we can replace fossil-based resins with lignin-based alternatives in our plywood production processes.

“Reducing our carbon footprint offers us, as well as our customers, unbeatable environmental sales propositions. The benefits of working with Stora Enso include continuous industrial-scale availability of a wood-based raw material with a traceable origin and a stable cost structure. This complements our corporate image as an industry leader.

”Our co-operation with Stora Enso has been extremely smooth, all the way from development phase to industrial production. Step by step, we will convert our plywood production to be lignin-based,” Mr Bumanis concluded.