Focus on environmental issues
Trends already noticeable today will continue also in future: The global population has grown to much more than nine billion, most people live in megacities. Clearly visible effects of climate change like water shortage, floods or the desertification of vast areas have caused a strategic rethink: Climate-neutral green technologies are no longer an officially promoted option - they have become mandatory. Constantly rising drinking water prices have led to an entirely new sector – companies specializing in the abstraction and eco-friendly use of this valuable resource. The continued loss of agricultural areas has pushed the development of new, more efficient and resource-saving ways of food production. People are much more aware of the value of food. These changes can be felt drastically in the paper industry – they are both risks and chances. Towards the end of our century, the acceptance of paper-based products will increasingly depend on the development of carbon-neutral products. The pulp and paper sector will have to further diversify its product range to enter new markets.
Premises for 2050
- World population has grown to 9–10 billion; 2/3 live in cities.
Climate change has increased the demand for flood protection and irrigation systems, more efficient food production and adequate supply of clean drinking water can only be realised by means of eco-friendly products and green technologies.
- New farmland has been sustainably developed in previously barren areas (self-sufficient greenhouses), cities (Vertical farming) and oceans (Aqua farming) for vegetarian food production; decreased land demand for conventional farming; maximum agricultural yields through systematic watering and fertilization.
- Meat is produced in large-scale laboratories; Functional Food with individualized ingredients prepared by “food printers” enables healthier and more balanced diets. Monitoring of bodily functions by sensors integrated in the clothing makes it possible to detect diseases and health risks much earlier to reduce the consumption of medical drugs; less food is wasted or thrown away.
- Innovative packages with freshness indicators keep food actively fresh and usable whilst increasing its safety – also in remote areas.
New technologies for drinking water treatment – often local and decentralized treatment of rainwater, service water or sewage.
Ideas directly related to paper until 2030
- Agricultural films with climate control function: paper films enable higher crop yields despite global warming; films work as UV filters and water management devices to create an optimum climate for crop plants.
- Food production: recultivation papers are used to revegetate desertified areas and industrial wasteland or to grow crop plants; seed is combined with specifically selected fertilizers on paper-based substrates to optimally start the plantation, protect it against predatory herbivores and erosion, regulate the water supply in the first months of growth; substrates rot when the plants have taken root.
- Drinking water purification: papers with smart coatings are used as nano filters in municipal sewage treatment plants to remove ultrafine drug particles, hormones, bacteria, viruses etc.; seawater desalination contributes significantly to meeting the global drinking water demand.
- In everyone’s mouth: paper itself becomes food through vitamin and mineral additions – low-calorie, available immediately and in manifold flavours.
Ideas indirectly related to paper
- Smart living: intelligent packaging materials prevent waste and significantly extend shelf-life of food; best-before dates are communicated in the environment – fridge knows which of contents are about to perish and must be eaten up soon.
- Floating islands: rapidly growing population makes oceans increasingly attractive as housing and agricultural areas; shipyards build huge artificial islands –an entirely new market segment; water-based energy and food production (farms).
- Artificial steaks: rapid progress in food technology makes it impossible to tell the difference between meat that comes from a farm and meat obtained from cultivated non-animal cell tissue – they taste the same, but artificial steaks have a better eco-balance and healthier nutrient composition.
- Hydro cultures: paper shreds serve as substrate for sowing and growing seedlings.