SPIRIT programme launch event kicked off the collaboration to transform the plastics industry

Borealis team in main photo: Mikko Rönkä, Auli Nummila-Pakarinen, Salla Roni-Poranen, Jari Lehtinen, Antti Ilves and Jaakko Tuomainen.

The launch event of the SPIRIT programme driven by Borealis brought together a wide range of companies and organisations with a common goal to make the plastics industry more sustainable. The presentations and discussions addressed the need to transform the entire plastics value circle sustainable and together focus on four key research themes within the programme. 

The participants to the hybrid event organized in Espoo on 7th of June 2022 were welcomed by  Erik Van Praet, Vice President of Innovation & Technology from Borealis Group and Borealis Finland’s Managing Director Salla Roni-Poranen. They started by reminding how important plastics are in our society and how they help us saving resources, but their production and usage is not sustainable today. Borealis is set to solve this challenge together with the partners of the newly launched SPIRIT programme. Salla said: “We need to replace fossil raw materials, transform plastics industry into circular economy and achieve carbon-neutral production. SPIRIT programme is excited to drive this transformation by means of active collaboration in the ecosystem throughout the entire value circle.”

Plastics need to end up in a closed loop

The keynote speaker Sustainable Development Director Ann Dierckx (in photo with Jari Lehtinen) from the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) touched upon the aspects of sustainability in chemical industry. She talked about the circular economy action plans within Cefic, with next steps towards a planet-centric approach. It may sound quite bold, but virgin fossil carbon needs to be brought down and CO2 capture needs to be increased. Ann says: “We need to circulate plastics as they can be an excellent carbon sink if we just keep the plastics circulating. Chemical companies can take ownership of every molecule and piece of material and ensure they find their way to the recycling process.” Ann agrees that ecosystems such as SPIRIT are the only way to work towards a more sustainable chemical industry.

SPIRIT research & development themes address the key industry challenges

After the keynote, the Borealis leaders of the four SPIRIT research and development areas aiming to address key industry challenges presented their themes.

In his presentation on Renewable feedstock, Antti Ilves explained how fossil feedstock is transformed into renewable and recyclable feedstock by various means. Finding large enough volumes of alternative feedstock from non-food chain is one of the challenges in this theme. This requires assessment of all potential alternatives and technology development. Jaakko Tuomainen continued by presenting the key areas of the Circular plastics theme, where efficient systems for large-scale mechanical and chemical recycling of plastics need to be established. “In addition to considering ecology, we need to consider economy and replacing virgin plastics,” he says. Plastics should not end up in waste, but it should be used as raw material and keep it circulating.

Mikko Rönkä leads the COreduction theme, and he told the audience how this theme focuses on carbon-neutral production of plastics with electrification, green hydrogen, and renewable energy. All of this requires partnerships and joined research efforts as well as infrastructural changes. Auli Nummila-Pakarinen covered the overarching theme of Enablers for green transition, where it all comes together. She stressed the role of the SPIRIT ecosystem in shaping the market and creating market pull. Auli said: “Together, we can increase the acceptance of circular products and make an impact on standardization and definitions applying to circular products, for instance.” Auli pointed out that there will later be a workshop after summer delving deeper into the challenge of how to shape the market – stay tuned for more news on the SPIRIT programme website.

This session ended in interesting commentary from the possible ecosystem partners, namely Lassi Hietanen from Kaipola Recycling and Ari-Pekka Pietilä from Amerplast.

Pitches from various sectors bring in their contribution

Next on the agenda were pitches from Aaro Mäkimattila from Atria, Patrick Pitkänen from  ST1, Hanna Pitkänen from Vantaan Energia, Mika Härkönen from VTT and Carl-Eric Wilen from Åbo Akademi, each speaker bringing in aspects linked to end products, industry, energy, and research. The general consensus was that we need to develop the methods how plastics and other secondary materials are recycled, reused, and processed to save raw materials and resources. All participants of the value circle need to work together to achieve these common goals and the SPIRIT ecosystem is the way to follow this path.

Markku Heino from Spinverse and Salla Roni-Poranen from Borealis hosted the lively panel discussion around the pressing question of the day: How to turn plastics industry sustainable together? The experts in the discussion were Vesa Kärhä from Finnish Plastics Industries Federation, Petri Lehmus from Neste, Mats Albäck from Rani Plast, and Risto Sormunen from Fortum (in photo above). One of the challenges many panelists brought up was related to the access of feedstock in Finland, and management of emissions related to the transport of feedstock. This is a great opportunity for the SPIRIT ecosystem to “walk the talk“ and all panelists are looking forward to seeing the work of the SPIRIT ecosystem.

Jari Lehtinen, the programme manager for SPIRIT at Borealis wrapped up the event by reminding us of the urgency of action for our planet. He said: “We have to stop the global warming and we cannot allow the overconsumption of natural resources or millions of  tons of plastic ending up in the ocean every year. With the SPIRIT ecosystem, together we can secure a future-proof sustainable plastics industry and showcase the green transformation in practice, find new business opportunities, jointly influence the regulation, and understand how the markets develop. Welcome to join the good SPIRIT! Fresh good ideas and willingness to contribute to the SPIRIT roadmap are the only prerequisites!”

The SPIRIT team thanks everyone for joining the event and is looking forward to fruitful future collaboration within the SPIRIT programme. In case you missed the event or want to revisit the materials presented at the event, you will find them on this page shortly.

Is your company interested in hearing more about the collaboration opportunities within the SPIRIT ecosystem? Would you like to keep posted on all topics SPIRIT? Contact us by filling in the form here.


Find the event recording and presentation material here.
The event is co-hosted by Markku Heino (Spinverse) and Jari Lehtinen (Borealis)

12:00 Welcome & introduction to SPIRIT the programme
Salla Roni-Poranen and Erik Van Praet, (Borealis)

12:15 Keynote: Sustainability in chemical industry
Ann Dierckx (European Chemical Industry Council)

12:45 Introductions to the SPIRIT themes by theme leaders from Borealis

  • Renewable feedstock, Antti Ilves
  • Circular plastics, Jaakko Tuomainen
  • CO2 reduction, Mikko Rönkä
  • Enablers for green transition, Auli Nummila-Pakarinen

Coffee break

14:00 Pitches followed by discussions

  • Aaro Mäkimattila, Atria
  • Patrick Pitkänen, ST1
  • Hanna Pitkänen, Vantaan Energia
  • Mika Härkönen, VTT
  • Carl-Eric Wilen, Åbo Akademi

Panel discussion: How to turn plastics industry sustainable together?

  • Vesa Kärhä, Finnish Plastics Industries Federation
  • Mats Albäck, Rani Plast
  • Risto Sormunen, Fortum
  • Petri Lehmus,  Neste

Hosted by Markku Heino and Salla Roni-Poranen

15:15 Wrap-up: How to join the SPIRIT ecosystem?
Jari Lehtinen, Borealis

15:30 Event ends.



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