More than 500 tons of mixed waste successfully sorted, scientists aim to revolutionize plastics recycling

A sorting trial of 512 tons was conducted by Remeo in September 2023, with a total of 100 waste trucks hauled to the sorting site. This trial, the first of its kind on an industrial scale in Finland, will provide invaluable data for the MSWPlast project. The aim of the project, part of the SPIRIT ecosystem, is to develop innovative solutions for separating and recycling plastics from mixed waste and evaluate the quality and valorisation capability of the plastic waste.  

Main photo: The plastics that have been mechanically separated from the mixed waste need washing prior to the recycling trials. (Photo: Remeo Group Oy)

The Business Finland funded co-research project MSWPlast is expected to increase knowledge on the recyclability of plastics from mixed waste in Finland, creating a technical concept for processing and a systemic concept for introducing post-sorting into existing recycling value chains.

A key step of the project was recently conducted, as 512 tons of mixed municipal waste was successfully sorted by Remeo at their facilities in Tampere and Vantaa. Next, the project will investigate the recyclability of the extracted materials.

“This project really shows collaboration at its best. A sorting trial of this magnitude is unique for Finland – it was the first of its kind and would not have been possible to conduct without Remeo as a partner. Their recycling facility in Vantaa utilizes state-of-the-art technology that would be a prerequisite for industrial sorting of mixed waste. We are all very excited of the good results and I think we are really onto something big,” says project coordinator, VTT’s Senior Scientist Malin zu Castell-Rüdenhausen.

Aiming to increase plastics recycling rates

Despite separate collection, a vast majority of plastics end up in mixed waste. A large proportion of the plastic fraction in mixed waste is plastic packaging waste, but mixed waste also contains other plastic items. In Finland it is estimated that the mixed municipal solid waste contains more than 15 % plastics.

Jaakko Tuomainen from Borealis highlights the mixed waste raw material potential: “The current separate collection volumes may not bring Finland to meet the future recycling targets. Therefore, the plastic fractions from mixed waste collection can provide a complementary source of plastic waste so that the plastic recycling volumes can be ramped up.”

Photo: First the mixed waste was sieved to remove the organic waste and fine matter, providing a higher quality feedstock for the mechanical sorting. (Photo: Remeo Group Oy)

The waste for the sorting trial was collected from a broad geographical coverage in Finland, such as the Helsinki metropolitan area, as well as regions of Kouvola, Lappeenranta, Seinäjoki, Tampere, Turku, and Uusikaupunki, including waste from households and services. The sorting trial generated material samples that will be further analysed to study the composition of the mixed waste, as well as the need for pre-treatment and the recycling potential of the different plastic types. Furthermore, the sorting trial also generated data that will be used for leveraging data-driven insights on the feasibility of sorting mixed waste in industrial scale.

“This was a very exciting trial that not only showed the diversity and potential of our recycling centres, but also the potential of industrial post-sorting of mixed waste. In the trial we collected accurate and reliable data on different materials and their recyclability on a large scale,” says Business Director Mauri Lielahti from Remeo.

The two-year Business Finland funded co-research project, MSWPlast, started in January 2023 and will continue until the end of 2024. The project is coordinated by VTT, with research partner SYKE, and industrial partners Borealis, Remeo and Vantaan Energia.

More information:

More than 500 tons of mixed waste successfully sorted, scientists aim to revolutionize plastics recycling (VTT 30.10.2023)
From mixed waste to plastic recovery: co-research harnesses the potential of plastics in mixed waste (VTT 13.7.2023)





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