Closed plastic circle in Helsinki region and Lahti

News 11.02.2019

Smart & Clean key partners have committed to “Closed plastic circle” goal for Helsinki region and Lahti. The change process seeks locally created solutions for global challenges.

Closed plastic circle means that cities and businesses cooperate to find solutions for all plastic to be reused or reprocessed to materials in the Helsinki region and Lahti. For example, more comprehensive and effective means of collecting should be found for recycling of the plastics not yet collected from homes as well as construction sites and service industries. These include materials and products such as plastic furniture, toys or fleece clothes. Other important topics are to find users and refiners for the collected plastics and strengthen the recycled plastic markets.

The aim of the change process is to find business solutions that can be adopted in other cities around the world. Smart & Clean community invites all interested parties to get involved in the process.

Plastic waste in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area has potential for recycling

According to Smart & Clean Foundation’s pre-study the best estimate of the share of virgin plastic recycled to new materials and reuse is merely 6 percent. This is an estimation, because there isn’t enough valid data regarding the circular economy of plastics. The most accurate knowledge is available of packaging waste from households. There is little data available of e.g. plastics used in construction sites or hotels.

Smart & Clean partners committed to the common goal in a round table held on 5 February. Present were Cities Espoo, Helsinki, Lahti, and Vantaa; businesses Caverion, Fortum, Gaia Consulting, Helen, Lassila & Tikanoja, Neste, Pöyry, and Siemens; and other actors Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY, Sitra, and VTT. Several other partners have been involved in the preparation of the Closed plastic circle change process before the round table.

The impact that the process is aiming for is that natural resources are used sensibly, we don’t drown in waste, we live healthier lives and reduce the climate footprint of Helsinki region and Lahti, their businesses and citizens – and eventually the other areas and actors that have adopted the solutions.

Shared goal: Closed plastic circle

The shared goal is the Closed plastic circle. This means developing business based industrial scale climate solutions that solve global plastic challenges and increase the handprint of the Helsinki region’s actors.

To achieve the goal, the following comprehensive actions are being concentrated on:

1. Easy-to-use recycling system for consumers and small service industries that enable also the recycling of hard plastic

2. Functioning system for recycling construction plastics and other non-consumer plastics

3. To find treatment and refining technologies and users for recycled plastics

4. Strengthening the markets for refined and reused plastics

At the same time the subprojects work as tools to grow understanding and improve data on what kind of plastic is used in the region, how, where and by whom it is used, what kind of waste is produced, and where does the waste go. One task is to ensure that the quality standards and certifications of recycled plastic products are developed in a way that plastics are always easily recyclable and users for the recycled products would be available.

Concrete actions on the way

Four concrete actions were agreed on at the round table.

Lassila & Tikanoja and Neste committed to collect a business group to look into technology solutions for treatment and processing of collected plastics to promote reuse.

HSY and the cities of Espoo, Helsinki and Lahti committed to organize an innovation challenge: How to design solutions that make the sorting and recycling of e.g. plastics, metals and glass easy.

City of Helsinki committed to develop tendering processes in a way that the criteria would include, where possible, the recycling share and recyclability. This will be done in cooperation with other cities and in market discussion with businesses.

HSY and Fortum committed to investigate how domestic hard plastics could be organized. HSY stated that they could increase the amount of plastic recycling points as soon as someone starts to use the collected plastics. HSY has already had one pilot location in use.

Next steps

The next steps are for the Smart & Clean Foundation to ensure the four agreed actions will be taken forward. Closed plastic circle process proceeds in the spring with a workshop, to which all relevant and interested parties will be invited to. Concrete actions will be designed for the four identified main actions. Smart & Clean Foundation will drive the change and create a process and leadership frame to combine all subprojects. 

We need everyone to join us in order to achieve the ambitious goal of the Closed plastic circle. Please contact us if you want to participate in building the solutions for the global plastic challenge.