Taking plastic circulation in the Helsinki metropolitan area from 6% to 60%
Closed Plastic Circle
The goal of the Closed Plastic Circle project is to get all recyclable plastic in the Helsinki metropolitan area and Lahti to circulate more efficiently. An ecosystem made up of actors in the private and public sectors is developing impactful actions to help reach the common goal. In the Closed Plastic Circle project, a diverse group of actors in the area have committed to the goal of maximising the amount of plastic that can be recycled into recycled material. Currently, only 6% of all recyclable plastics in the metropolitan area are circulated. At most, 70% of it could be circulating.
According to a preliminary report by the Smart & Clean Foundation, only a fraction of all recyclable plastics in the Helsinki metropolitan area are refined into new material. 6% is an estimate because there is not enough data on the plastic circular economy.
The fact that the recycling potential of plastic waste is not fully made use of is a major problem. Globally, up to 120 billion dollars worth of plastic is discarded each year.*
*Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2016).
The main goal of the Closed Plastic Circle project is to get 60–70 percent of the plastics in the Helsinki metropolitan area to circulate instead of the current 6 percent figure. The manufacturing and burning of plastics creates carbon dioxide emissions. If plastics were recycled into material, the emissions caused by burning them would be avoided. Ending the burning of plastic would reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the Helsinki metropolitan area by 336,000 tonnes. This is an equivalent amount to the yearly emissions of about 80,000 people in the capital. We are developing a tracking tool that will be used to measure the completion of the goal.
In the process, cities and businesses are working together to develop solutions for reusing the plastic used in the Helsinki Region and Lahti. At the moment, for example, households and construction and service industry businesses produce plastic products and materials that are either impossible or inefficient to recycle, or are recycled in a limited capacity.
The parties committed to the goal are developing scalable climate solutions to solve the plastic problem that will create sustainable business. The aim is to strengthen the market for recycled plastic products and increase the carbon handprint of actors in the Helsinki metropolitan area and Lahti.
All recyclable plastics can be circulated through ten measures and projects under them. The measures are listed in the figure below.
Such a comprehensive approach to solving the challenges of plastic recycling has not existed in Finland before. The goal is to comprehensively cover the entire life cycle of plastic, from product design to collection and reprocessing into new products.
Closed Plastic Circle project is led by a group of core partners, who currently are the City of Espoo, City of Helsinki, HSY, VTT, Fortum, Lassila & Tikanoja and Siemens. The right stake holders, who can drive the changes, are gathered together for different change actions.
The goal is to find business-oriented solutions that can be exported to the world. The Smart & Clean community invites all interested parties to get involved.
Where are we going
Closed Plastic Circle ecosystem works to tenfold the recycling rate of plastic in the Helsinki metropolitan area through multilateral cooperation. Currently there is a great number of projects ongoing in the area, mostly concentrating on plastics collection, separation and recycling. Some project examples to mention are Closed Plastic Circle in Schools campaign, Piloting a multi-bin collection, Service design for the shared collection of detached and semi-detached houses, and a study of the city's potential to reduce and recycle plastic in construction and construction sites. There are also ongoing activities and studies on how to tackle plastic recycling in cities' public procurement processes and, for example, how to utilize plastics from infrastructure construction and a study of synthetic materials and microplastics in landscaping.
More measures to promote and influence the recycling of plastics are needed, especially in bottleneck areas, which are increasing the recycling capacity of hard plastics, developing chemical recycling technologies, utilizing recycled materials in plastic products and creating demand for recycled plastic products in the consumer market.
The management of the process requires an adequate knowledge base on the impacts of the measures and their interdependencies. Data and modeling tools from different stages of the plastic cycle have been produced for the use of the Closed Plastic Circle ecosystem. At the moment there are more studies underway, e.g. a study focusing on plastics in construction and demolition sites.
Smart & Clean’s 5‐year work coming to an end – Watch the Legacy video
Smart & Clean Foundation’s fifth and final year is coming to an end in June 2021. Since 2016 we have been working hard to create climate solutions together with the Helsinki metropolitan cities, companies, universities, R&D institutions, and the Finnish state. The climate crisis can only be solved by working together.
Solutions for 1,5°C World – Smart & Clean newsletter
We are halfway through Smart & Clean Foundation’s fifth and final year. Since 2016 we have been working hard to create climate solutions together with the Helsinki metropolitan cities, companies, universities, R&D institutions, and the Finnish state.
Finland has the opportunity to be a pioneer in building plastic system solution
Jorma Mikkonen is the Director of Corporate Relations and Responsibility at Lassila & Tikanoja plc, which is turning the circular economy into reality. He is also a member of the Closed Plastic Circle Project’s Task Force.