Plastic recycling challenge tackled at virtual morning coffee

News 09.04.2020

A new, concrete, circular economy solutions is being built in the Helsinki region. The required major change is achieved with an overarching public private cooperation in the Closed plastic circle project. Action is required from all stakeholders. The Smart & Clean Foundation organised a virtual morning coffee session on the topic on April 2. Project partners told the participants about what is being done about driving plastic recycling.

Climate crisis requires systemic solutions

Smart & Clean Foundation’s Iina Oilinki said that for us to make an impact in mitigating climate change, we have to understand the complete picture of where emissions come from in the Helsinki region and we have to talk about consumption based emissions as well as area emissions. The consumption based emissions (food, mobility, textiles, goods) are even three times larger compared to the area based (mobility, heating, energy, waste). This means we have to alter our consumption (for example reduce the production of virgin plastics and burning it), if we want to truly solve the climate crises.

Goal raised high

Smart & Clean partners have agreed a common target for the recycling rate of plastics. It is higher than the EU 2025 target and aims at lifting the recycling rate of all plastics to materials to 20 percent and packaging plastics to 50 percent by 2025.

Smart & Clean Foundations Jaana Pelkonen said that to achieve concrete and impactful results the project needs to be led with a shared impact goal. Additionally, a new kind of data model has been created in the Closed plastic circle project that enables knowledge-based leadership.

City of Espoo to involve citizens

Espoo city Mayor Jukka Mäkelä stated that Smart & Clean cooperation is an excellent way to accelerate actions. He sees the city’s role in the project to involve all partners, citizens, customers and other stakeholders, to the process. One way to do this is to involve children in day care and primary education. They will then entice the parents to participate.
It is also important to Espoo that the whole cycle is managed. It is not enough to collect plastics, but one also needs to think how it is processed, reused and what are the markets for reused materials. This requires all the stakeholders.

Fortum invests in quality

Head of Fortum’s recycling and waste business, Kalle Saarimaa says that their part in the whole process is to look into how the collected plastics get back to the markets. Saarimaa emphasized that it is time to concentrate on the quality of the recycled plastics instead of volume. If the recycled material is of good quality, it can replace virgin plastic and therefore minimize the environmental impacts of the whole plastic cycle. Simultaneously the recycled material has better market value. This requires good separation of plastic types in the collection.

At their recycling facility, Fortum produces good specific recycled plastic material to match the needs of their customers in cooperation with them. This process places emphasis on quality of the material.

Lassila & Tikanoja sees good developments in the construction industry

Director Jorma Mikkonen from Lassila & Tikanoja said that improving plastic recycling is being worked on in many ways in Finland and Europe. He sees that the messages from plastic producers indicate that EU’s recycling goals, such as recycling 50 percent of packaging plastics to materials by 2025 have a good chance of being reached in Finland.

The recycling of plastics has taken off well in the construction industry and the best sites already get to recycling rate of 45 percent. The collection of hard plastics has also started, but the challenge in this is often sorting, Mikkonen says. If different types of plastics are mixed, it is difficult to find users for the reused materials.

Now it is important to make sure all the phases of the cycle are in good state and stakeholders are able to use the collected and especially dirty materials fully in order for the ecosystem to be able to use the good growth rate of collection and sorting.

In addition to building up their own processing capacity, Lassila & Tikanoja have codeveloped closed circle solutions with their partners. Mikkonen mentioned Ikea, Kiilto and Kesko as partners who have, in their part, started to work on closing the plastic cycle.

 

More about Closed Plastic Circle project here.

Listen to the whole conversation (in Finnish) here.