Plastic waste is a valuable raw material

Published: 15.4.2021 11.39Updated: 23.11.2021 12.56
Sorted plastic waste.
The recycled raw material, processed from recycled plastic, replaces plastic made with virgin crude oil.

Plastic waste collected from schools in Espoo will be given a new life as outdoor furniture in a pilot project. 

Only a fraction of Espoo’s plastic waste is recycled for reuse. Enthusiasm among households to recycle packaging plastic is a source of joy but there is unexploited plastic everywhere. The project, funded by the Ministry of the Environment, produces concrete solutions for the reuse of plastic. 

The Story of Plastic project organises efficient recycling of plastic waste at ten pilot schools in Espoo. The collected material is processed into new plastic products in the plastic laboratory of the LAB University of Applied Sciences.  

“Through schoolchildren, information about plastic recycling spreads to homes and their circle of friends,” says Project Manager Reetta Jänis. 

Recycled-plastic products suitable for outdoor use are designed by the design students of the LAB University of Applied Sciences. Furniture giant IKEA is involved in the project to assess the commercial potential of the products. One idea for future recycled products is park furniture. 

“HSY, in charge of waste management in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, proposed plastic impact guards for waste bin shelters. In this way, plastic would return to where it came from,” says Jänis. 

In LAB’s plastic laboratory, recycled plastic gets a new life. Once the recycled plastic has been found safe by laboratory testing, it is turned into finely crushed plastic suitable for use as an industrial raw material. From this crushed plastic, the laboratory’s 3D robot printer manufactures product prototypes, which will be used in Kera, Espoo’s model area for circular economy. 

Finally, the cycle of undesirable plastic waste, from schools in Espoo to a new commodity, is documented as an exhibition about the journey of plastic. 

“Hopefully, the Story of Plastic online exhibition will end up as teaching material in schools all over the country,” says Reetta Jänis. 

 

The Story of Plastic has received funding from the Ministry of the Environment’s support programme for the Plastics Roadmap trial and pilot projects.

The City of Espoo implements the project together with the LAB University of Applied Sciences. The project partners are Lassila & Tikanoja Oyj (L&T), the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY), IKEA and Smart & Clean Foundation. The latter ended its operations as planned in June 2021. 

 

Text: Petja Partanen

The article was originally published in Länsiväylä 31.3.2021.

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