4Recycling Nordic Forum

4Recycling Nordic Forum addressed the need for nordic collaboration

4Recycling Nordic Forum – Towards sustainable solutions in replacing & recycling plastics – was organised on 20 September 2023. This was the 2nd time in ecosystem lifecycle when the event was organized. The event gained 46 attendees from seven countries and 30 organisations. During the afternoon, we had presentations from various projects and companies.

The event was opened by  Aila Maijanen, CLIC Innovation Head of Bioeconomy, who guided us to the theme at hand by presenting why 4Recycling is needed. To solve the plastics challenge we need to reduce the use of plastics altogether, find alternative materials and enhance circulation of currently existing plastics.

Biobased and biodegradable solution?

One solution could be biobased and biodegradable materials, which were presented to the audience by Laura Tirkkonen-Rajasalo, Regulatory Director and Co-founder of SULAPAC. She pointed out in her keynote that microplastics leak out into the nature and it is impossible to remove them, organisms higher up in the food chain (such as humans) accumulate about 5 grams of microplastics in a week. For reference, 5 grams is equal to a credit card. The solution is to have a biobased material that is also recyclable. The SULAPAC material is all of these. However, EU regulations do not seem to support these kinds of innovative materials. The packaging and packaging waste directive currently in the discussion among the EU countries seems to inhibit new material innovations and cementing the use of conventional materials and mechanical recycling methods. Decarbonization is not a viable solution in the chemical and material industry, but fossil dependence needs to be cut to  solve the plastic pollution problem.

Plastics recycling in the Nordics 

After the keynote, the three thematic sessions were on the way. The first session was about the plastics recycling in the Nordic Countries. There are a lot of challenges regarding plastics and to tackle these there are a lot of projects.  In this session projects Helsinki-Uusimaa Circular Valley, TREASoURcE and PRIMUS were presented with their findings concerning plastics. Also, Dhiraj Hathwar, Head of Technology Development, Chemical Recycling, presented the liquefaction process that is used at Neste. Collective key findings of these presentations were that plastic needs to be identified as a valuable resource, not waste. Optimizing recycling process and collecting the plastics is needed for the recycled materials to be of high quality and therefore usable in more applications. The need for Nordic collaboration was also identified. 

Plastics in packaging and construction 

Second session focused on packaging and construction, and the first presentation was given by Raija Polvinen, Chief Ecosystem Officer of Kiilto. The company just launched their SUPER Healthy Buildings ecosystem and is looking for partners. The plastics recycling in construction industry is challenging because the consumers do not frequently visit hardware stores and construction professionals do not yet have a culture of recycling. Kiilto aims to make their logistics and packaging materials into a closed loop. This would enable obtaining good quality plastics. Challenge is the logistics, since the products are already packed in recycled containers. Next up, Teknos shed light on their vision about zero waste for powder coating products. Powder coating is mostly used for metallic objects and its function is to protect the material and so prolong the time it can be used. The coating material is recoverable and recyclable so most of the waste is generated in the production process. Currently the side streams and rejects are utilized as energy sources and fillers. The aim is to reduce the energy usage and increase the amount of fillers and try out chemical recycling. Marja Juvonen, R&D Manager (powder coatings), challenged the audience to think of new and different kinds of methods for powder coating waste and side streams. 

Industrial applications of plastics 

After the coffee break it was time for the third and final session in which different kinds of industrial applications were discussed. Natalia Ahonen, Sustainability Coordinator, presented the FabPatch, the easy way to fix damaged clothing. The vision of the company is quite simple. By fixing damaged garments, it is possible to reduce the amount of new textiles needed and also the amount of textile waste. And in addition, take pride in visible mending. The FabPatch is produced from recycled PET bottles and can be considered a carbon handprint product. The next topic was in a larger scale when Pirjo Pietikäinen, Specialist of Finnish Plastics Industries Federation, introduced the audience to the KiMuRa route in which fiber reinforced plastics are collected and shredded before utilizing them in co-processing in cement industry. The biggest challenge in the process was to establish functional logistics for the materials. Kuusakoski is currently collecting the composite waste in all their locations of operation and from there the material is transferred to Hyvinkää where it is shredded. The cement plant that utilizes the material is in Lappeenranta. The KiMuRa-project was initiated by the composite industry itself with an aim to move towards a more sustainable industry. Next up was the BIO-Boost project, presented by Conny Hanghøj, Senior Innovation Manager at Food & Bio Cluster Denmark. The  aim of the project is to support SME’s operating in the bioeconomy sector. The purpose is to share information and increase the innovation potential of the participants. This is done by study visits and staff exchanges in each seven participating countries. One of the services provided for the companies is the possibility to pitch their ideas for the consortium and then gain access to expert support in developing their idea. The first pitching session was held prior to  the annual forum and the evaluation of the ideas will be done during the autumn. The final slot of the Annual Forum was reserved for Business Finland and Tuomas Lehtinen, Ecosystem Manager. He  introduced the audience for possible funding instruments and ways how to launch an ecosystem.  

The event was concluded with a poster session and networking along with cocktails.  

The next 4Recycling event, Co-creation workshop on knowledge gain and awareness raising campaigns for sustainable packaging will be held on 26 October 2023, organised within EU project Engage4BIO.  Register to the workshop here.

Join the 4Recycling ecosystem here!