Plastic material circulates in Espoo’s schools

27.10.2022 4.56Updated: 31.10.2022 6.08

Espoo’s schools are increasingly recycling plastic, which previously ended up as a mixed waste. The joy of recycling is intense at Jousenkaari primary school.

The most enthusiastic eco jury members are waiting at the door of the 5M class of Jousenkaari primary school 10 minutes before the lesson starts. A lesson for the recycling week is about to begin. It will be held today by a visiting teacher, Mia Johansson from the city of Espoo, leader of the Story of Plastic – From Waste to Product project.

The eco jury has worked in the school for several years already and it promotes recycling as well as energy saving in the school with various campaigns.

“Who has seen the new recycling bins?” asks Mia Johansson from the eco jury.

All hands raise.

Now plastic has also got it’s own bin. There are examples of plastic materials, which will be put in the plastic bin with a yellow top from now on. When plastic cans, food packaging wrappers and transparent packaging plastic end up in recycling instead of mixed waste, the raw material of virgin plastic, oil, is saved. An instruction sheet for plastic recycling explains that using recycled plastic saves about 90% of the carbon dioxide emissions of plastic production. 

Photo: Petja Partanen

Let’s join hands to change the city

Active members of the eco jury start asking Johansson about plastic recycling issues.

Can you use an old shampoo bottle to make, for example, phone covers? What to do if there is a cardboard cover around a plastic yoghurt can?

Mia Johansson answers and gets to ask some questions too.

“Why is recycling so important at schools?”

The children think about it from many points of view. It is important to save the natural resources – and there’s power in a group of people.

“There are so many people here that it is easy for us to influence,” the members of the eco jury say.

Exactly, that’s true. A single person cannot bring about a big change in the city, but a primary school of more than 400 students full of enthusiastic recyclers can.

“Brilliant idea,” says one of the leaders of the eco jury, teacher Saana Nuutinen, excitedly.

“Our own behaviour also affects others, friends and family,” Mia Johansson accompanies.

Next we move from theory to practise.

“Let’s go and attach these instruction labels to the recycling bins. They tell what belongs there and why recycling is useful”, Johansson advises.

The eco jury goes as one group to the recycling point in the lower lobby.

“The 5th and 6th graders lead the way, while the little ones follow,” guides Saana Nuutinen.

Nuutinen says, that lot of students want to join the eco jury. There are two representatives from each class, and students prepare to compete for the position of the Chairman of the Board with carefully prepared speeches. 

“We practice citizen influence at the same time.”

Energy and natural resources are saved

The first stop is the shiny new recycling point at the Jousenkaari primary school’s lobby. The members of the eco jury quickly stick instruction labels above the recycling bins. 

“This is a very hot topic now, when there is a shortage of energy. It takes a lot of energy to produce new material. Now it’s important to recycle everything possible, so energy and natural resources are saved”, says Ossi, 5A class’ eco jury representative.

Waste sorting is something Ossi is familiar with from home. He also found explanations for the various recycling markings on the packaging from the internet. Ossi also has tips  on how to separate the packaging suitable for plastic collection.

“If you crumple the package into a small ball, the plastic package will return to its shape. Metal, however, stays in its shape”.

Mia Johansson says that sorting has gradually expanded in all schools in Espoo.

As a new school, it was easy to bring new recycling bins to Jousenkaari primary school, which also have their own bins for plastic. In old schools, the expansion of recycling has been slowed down, for example, by small bin shelters, in which a larger number of recycling bins no longer want to fit. In the future, waste sorting in schools will expand even more.

The Story of Plastic – From Waste to Product project led by Johansson also tested in practice how recycled plastic collected from schools can be cleverly processed into raw materials for new products. The 3D printer of the plastic laboratory of LAB University of Applied Sciences created new outdoor furniture from recycled plastic.

Espoo invests in recycling especially in schools and kindergartens, and for a good reason.

“The children are very careful recyclers,” says teacher Saana Nuutinen.

“And they also gladly guide family members at home,” says Mia Johansson.


TEXT AND PHOTOS: Petja Partanen

The Story of Plastic – From Waste to Product is a joint project by the City of Espoo and the LAB University of Applied Sciences, and it has received funding from the Ministry of the Environment’s support programme for the Plastics Roadmap trial and pilot projects. The project started at the beginning of 2021 and continued until the end of September 2022.

Mia Johansson

Project Manager040 553 0439
  • Sustainability