How have we developed circular economy during the past year?

30.8.2021 11.44Updated: 19.10.2021 10.34

We in Espoo have taken several leaps forward in developing circular economy and sustainable development, especially during the past year.

The main goal of circular economy is to use natural resources in a sustainable way, generating as little waste as is possible. In addition to daily products and services, the entire city, including its services and districts, operates in a sustainable manner.

We in Espoo have taken several leaps forward in developing circular economy and sustainable development, especially during the past year. Below, we have listed examples of the activities we have carried out during the past year to promote circular economy.

We committed to circular economy

Towards the end of 2020, Mayor Jukka Mäkelä signed the trans-European Circular Cities Declaration, by which Espoo is committed to shared circular economy goals. The ten goals of the commitment promote the implementation of the city’s circular economy and sustainable development. We are committed to creating a clear circular economy plan by building a circular economy roadmap, improving awareness and commitment to circular economy, and taking circular economy thinking to all of the city’s activities as well as to how we are enforcing circular economy business operations in Espoo.

Together with various companies, we created new sharing economy services for Espoo residents

In autumn 2020, we carried out a study on sharing economy, which included an international comparison on the role of other cities and different ways of sharing, borrowing and renting goods and resources instead of owning them. For this study, we interviewed various sharing economy companies and experts. In order to promote sharing economy services and to learn more about Espoo residents’ attitudes and interest in various forms of sharing economy, we conducted five experiments together with Espoo-based companies in spring 2021. In these experiments, Espoo residents tested shared cars, an electric cargo bike in shared use of the residents of a housing company, sharing goods in an apartment building, sharing goods and skills in a neighbourhood and throughout Espoo through an online platform, and a rental service of used kitchenware. In the Facilities as a Service experiments carried out in autumn 2021, various solutions enabling the sharing of facilities were surveyed and tested together with different companies and Espoo Society of Associations (EJY), such as smart locks that enable keyless access control.

We promoted recycling of plastics

The City of Espoo aims to increase the recycling of plastics, particularly in schools, homes and construction sites. Since 2018, ambitious cooperation has been carried out to improve the recycling of plastics, led by the Helsinki Metropolitan Smart & Clean Foundation. The Foundation’s operations ended as planned at the end of June 2021, and the Closed Plastic Circle project will now continue under the City of Espoo’s leadership. During the past year, we organised a plastic webinar for planning the recycling of plastics in Espoo, received funding for a project promoting the circulation of plastics and the use of recycled plastic in schools, designed options for improving waste sorting at detached house areas and obtained more information on the recycling of plastics in construction sites through a thesis conducted for the city. The Story of Plastic – From Waste to Product project, launched in 2021, collects plastic waste from schools in Espoo and then studies and processes the collected waste in the plastic laboratory of the LAB University of Applied Sciences. The project aims to find more applications for recycled plastics. The full cycle of plastic is photographed and exhibited in an online exhibition for schools. In addition, the project will strengthen cooperation with various plastic operators and increase the city residents’ awareness of the circular economy of plastics.

We studied young people’s perspective on circular economy

In summer 2021, our summer employee Nelli conducted a survey on circular economy activities for young Espoo residents aged 13–18. We received 166 responses, and the results showed that while the majority of the respondents have used some or several circular economy services, such as libraries and flea markets, many are yet to familiarise themselves with newer kinds of services, such as waste food applications or clothing rental shops. Young people’s interest in conserving natural resources and mitigating climate change is clearly reflected in the survey, but on the other hand, the survey also revealed a difference between young people’s attitudes and their concrete actions. We will use the survey results in the design of Espoo’s circular economy work.

We developed circular economy in construction sites

A lot of construction takes place in a growing city like Espoo, so reducing emissions and promoting circular economy in construction sites is a significant part of sustainable development. Last year, the EU-funded Carbon neutral and resource-wise industrial areas (HNRY) project piloted a zero-emission construction site and circular economy as the criteria for public procurement competitive tendering. Public procurement is now supported by the environmental value of products, such as EPD Environmental Product Declarations, that can be used when tendering construction contracts.

The reuse of Espoo’s soil and stone materials and the development of logistics were among the measures carried out in the HNRY project. A study was conducted on the utilisation of surplus clay material from construction sites. The study focused on the manufacture of a new recycled lightweight gravel product to be used in the construction of infrastructure. A workshop on the utilisation of clay was also held together with experts and construction companies and attracted a lot of interest. Another major development target is the recycling of demolition concrete in the construction of infrastructure. The implementation of circular economy was promoted by developing the logistics and operating methods of intermediate storage, for example, by utilising digital platforms.

The measures of the two-year project, concluded in May 2021, will be actively implemented in all construction, infrastructure, renovation and demolition work in the future. This will be facilitated, among other things, by the “Public procurement, zero-emission construction sites – green deal” contract signed by the City of Espoo with the Ministry of the Environment and other major cities. The step-by-step plan –and the achievement of its goals– will be regularly monitored.

Continuing circular economy work

As a city, we have only just started to promote circular economy in Espoo’s own operations as well as in our cooperation with different stakeholders. Although various city units have developed circular economy operating methods for a long time, we now want to create a uniform, city-wide way of enabling the creation of a sustainable city. Over the past year, we have launched several new projects to promote circular economy in Espoo together with our partners. This year, we launched the new Story of Plastic – From Waste to Product project, the RAKKE project, which promotes material flows and ecosystems, and the KETO project, currently being launched, which will further develop, among other things, the circulation of demolition materials, the use of facilities and the Bioruukki area in Espoo. We also became involved in the trans-European CityLoops project, which promotes circular economy in the constructed environment as well as the treatment and recovery of biowaste. With the help of various projects, circular economy is becoming more visible in all Espoo operations, and the circular economy of businesses operating in the area is being enforced.

Reetta Jänis

Development Manager040 551 9484