Work to increase the plastic recycling rate continues

23.1.2023 12.51Updated: 1.2.2023 8.19
Brightly coloured plastic pallets and boxes.

Improving the circulation of plastics leads to more sustainable business, a cleaner environment, and lower emissions. Espoo launches a new project to develop the recycled plastic market with eight other experts in plastic.

City of the circular economy

Plastic is a versatile material and, therefore, a convenient solution for many challenges. Recycling plastics improve its potential further: a circular economy enables us to enjoy the good properties of plastics while simultaneously reducing worries about littering, carbon dioxide emissions from manufacturing and the unsustainability of the culture of disposability. “Plastic recycling is important to the city not only because of the recycling itself but also because it provides good examples for better circularity of other materials as well,” says Reetta Jänis, Development Manager at the Espoo Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development.

Flea market at the Kera halls during the Espoo celebrates! -week last summer. The district of Kera is developed based on the principles of the circular economy, with several companies based on the circular economy already operating there.

Espoo has promoted the circulation of plastics for a long time, which is reflected in many of our commitments. It supports our goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a forerunner by 2025. It also fits with the vision of the Espoo story of a responsible, pioneering and innovative city. In addition, we are involved in the European Circular Cities Declaration and in the Uusimaa Circular Economy Valley -community. Our previous project to promote plastic recycling, Story of Plastic – From Waste to Product, ended last autumn.

The important work must continue, so Espoo is now launching a new project to develop the market for recycled plastic together with other plastic experts, including VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, HSY Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, LAB University of Applied Sciences, Salpakierto Ltd, Muovipoli Ltd and the Finnish Plastics Association. The new project is based on the Smart & Clean Foundation’s Closed Plastic Circle scheme, in which Espoo was also involved. The foundation set out to raise the plastic recycling rate in the Helsinki region and the City of Lahti from six per cent to 60–70%. After the foundation ended its activities as planned, Espoo took the lead responsibility for the Closed Plastic Circle scheme and is now continuing to work towards the ambitious goal within the framework of this new project.

Focus on industry

We all have a role to play in increasing the plastic recycling rate: consumers must commit to sorting and favouring products made from recycled plastics, companies to utilise recycled plastics in their products and recycle their waste materials, and experts to improve new and existing recycling processes and material knowledge. We need information and awareness-raising, behavioural change, and new methods for recycling and utilising plastic waste, products and technologies. Under the Smart & Clean Foundation, the measures to increase plastic recycling focused mostly on increasing sorting and separate collection. Now, it is time to complement the work by focusing on plastic professionals and material knowledge.

Shredded plastic waste is fed for granulation at the LAB University of Applied Sciences’ circular economy laboratory on the Lahti Campus.

The new Closed Plastic Circle – from Pilots into Practice -project aims to support sustainable business models by increasing understanding of recycled plastic materials and the recycled plastic market. The project is divided into two parts: practical experiments and increasing material knowledge. We look for and test new practical plastic circularity solutions and ideas, especially for those plastic fractions that currently are not often recycled. We also conduct laboratory analyses and surveys to increase knowledge about the properties of different plastic waste fractions, the products from them, and their processing and use possibilities. In addition, the project will explore the possibilities to promote plastic circularity in the city’s procurements and create a roadmap for plastic circularity up to the year 2050.

The circular economy offers a clear competitive advantage for companies: a study by Sitra(external link) states that the circular economy provides the Finnish economy with an annual growth potential of at least 1.5–2.5 billion euros. ”Resource efficiency reduces costs, customers and partners appreciate the sustainable development angle, and being in the forefront of change opens up new business opportunities”, lists Project Coordinator Outi Hynynen. With the new project, we will support companies in implementing these opportunities by providing information and knowledge of the properties of recycled plastic and how to best use it.

Join the development effort

The project aims to produce information intended for practical use. The goal is to promote the recycled plastics business and improve the matching of supply and demand, targeting the widest possible number of operators. Achieving these objectives requires knowledge of the actors in the plastics industry and the challenges they face – that is why we want to hear from you if you have any thoughts regarding our new project! You can contact us directly or follow the latest results, news and opportunities for participation on our project page. The circular economy concerns us all!

  • Sustainability