Story | 07/12/2022 13:37:09 | 6 min Read time

150 years of paper making at UPM Tervasaari

Janne Suokas

Editor, Tulus

Did you know that several UPM mills in Finland are celebrating their 150th anniversary this year? One of them – the UPM Tervasaari paper mill – is particularly close to our hearts. Read on to learn how we have accumulated our paper-making experience and expertise throughout the past decades.

Today, UPM Tervasaari mill is one of our centres of expertise for label papers, with a strong focus on developing both the existing paper grades and new products in line with our Beyond Fossils strategy. Looking at the mill’s impressive past, one quickly realizes that the site has a long experience in research and development. Ever since its founding in 1872, people working at UPM Tervasaari have been finding new solutions to meet the changing needs of each era.

A revolutionary idea

UPM Tervasaari traces its roots to 1872, when office worker Carl Helin, factory owner E.J. Granberg, and businessman Carl Willgren established an integrated paper and groundwood mill in the Finnish town of Valkeakoski, located 150 kilometres north of Helsinki.

If paper makers today are busy developing new, more sustainable solutions to replace old ones, the situation 150 years ago was not that different. Newspapers were popping up everywhere and the traditional method of making paper from rags was not enough to keep pace with the growing demand. New technology and know-how made it possible to replace rags with wood chips and pulp as raw materials for paper. And with its large forests and rapids, Finland was an ideal place for the new industry.


The first paper machine in Valkeakoski started production in 1873 and the first pulp mill in 1881. Ab Walkiakoski, as the company was called at the time, soon became the largest paper producer in Finland. The main product was newsprint paper, which was in great demand in Russia.

New products for new markets

However, the vast Russian market closed its doors following the revolution and Finland’s independence in 1917. Under the new company president Rudolf Walden, a famous Finnish industrialist and military leader, the Tervasaari mill switched to making kraft paper for the  European and US markets.


This change again required new expertise and technology. A Yankee-type paper machine started producing one-side coated kraft paper in Tervasaari in 1933. It was the biggest kraft paper machine in the Nordic countries so far. In the same year, Ab Walkiakoski merged with the United Paper Mills and Tervasaari became one of UPM’s mills.

Becoming experts in specialty papers

A successful business is not only about technology but people with imagination and expertise. As early as 1970, UPM Tervasaari started the first tests for producing release liner base papers. More extensive experimentation followed in the 1980s, and this helped the mill acquire the required know-how in producing these technically demanding papers. UPM Tervasaari switched to making specialty papers, and with a new release base paper machine in operation in 1996, UPM soon became a global market leader.


Based on the expertise acquired in Tervasaari, UPM Specialty Papers has also launched several game-changing innovations to the market. For example, our expert engineers innovated UPM LinerLoop™, which was the first commercial solution for recycling used release base papers in a closed loop fashion, returning release liners back to release liner production. 

In the late 1990’s the production efficiency on silicone coating and in-house lamination lines was taking leaps forward. One way to improve production efficiency and robustness was to offer improved silicone anchorage on paper. Our bright engineers developed a way to change paper from a passive to reactive material, enhancing silicone anchorage. Over the years silicone compatibility has improved significantly both in terms of cure inhibition and adhesion, to-date we offer release base papers with UPM Forte technology.

Finally, our game-changing UPM SolideTM Lucent packaging paper has been created with the know-how we have acquired during our 150 years of papermaking. UPM Solide Lucent is a brilliant example of the type of packaging innovations the world needs right now. Through co-creation, it enables brand owners to effectively reduce the amount of fossil-based or non-recyclable materials and increase usage of materials from renewable sources in their packaging.

Moving beyond fossils

Today, the biggest challenges facing the world are global warming and biodiversity loss. UPM is one the UPM is one of the first forest industry companies to have signed the UN’s Business Ambition for 1.5°C and is committed to mitigating climate change through innovating novel products, CO2 emission reductions and by practicing sustainable forestry.

Environmental issues first became a concern in the paper industry in the 1960s as general awareness of pollution was growing. The company started investigating UPM Tervasaari’s water use and the amount of waste fibres in the wastewater released from the mill. A fibre recovery plant was built in Tervasaari in 1963, making it the first centralized wastewater treatment plant in the Finnish wood processing industry.


Since those days, the Tervasaari mill has continuously improved the efficiency of its operations and reduced emissions and the carbon footprint of its products. Currently, the mill integrate consists of two paper machines, a power plant, a hydropower plant and a biological effluent treatment plant. The site’s air and water emissions are well below the allowed limits and continue to go down, no solid waste is taken to the landfill, and more than half of the required energy is generated with biofuels.

Throughout the last 150 years, UPM Tervasaari has continued to generate well-being for the local community in many forms. In the early days, the mill owners built a school, library and various sports facilities in Valkeakoski while also helping employees to build better homes for themselves, among other things. Today, UPM Tervasaari continues to employ hundreds of skilled professionals and actively supports local associations, including sports clubs.

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