SPIRIT workshop participants discussed how to boost collection and sorting to maximise mechanical recycling

On 18th April, the SPIRIT workshop gathered a full house of actors within the plastics value chain, sharing their interest in mechanical recycling of plastics and how to optimise collection and sorting. SPIRIT Programme Manager Jari Lehtinen and Borealis Polymers Oy’s Managing Director Satu Kosonen-Kaija welcomed the participants to discuss the themes of the day.

Photo: SPIRIT Programme Manager Jari Lehtinen and Borealis Polymers Oy’s Managing Director Satu Kosonen-Kaija

To kick off the day’s workshop, Mari Kylmälä, Auli Nummila-Pakarinen and Jaakko Tuomainen from Borealis stepped on stage to discuss polyolefin  status both in Europe and in Finland as regards recycling. The presenters shared fresh statistics on polyolefin (PO) post-consumer waste, noting that currently only 35% of PO post-consumer waste packaging is recycled in Europe. Therefore, to reach the EU target of 50% for plastic packaging material-to-material recycling, we need to aim for as high as 80% in collection rate, sorting rate and recycling yield, respectively.

Different perspectives of plastics value chain

Lauri Ant-Wuorinen from Plastex highlighted how EU regulations pose a challenge to their manufacturing. He wishes to see  the actors within the SPIRIT Ecosystem finding together a solution to the main challenge: lack of recycled food-grade plastics.

Ilkka Nieminen from Finnish Grocery Trade Association (Päivittäistavarakauppa ry) presented the stakeholder perspective. He summarised: EU regulations dictate the activities, then comes corporate responsibility and requirements for recycling and requirements to use renewable materials.

Olli Miettinen from Remeo presented the waste management company point of view. The common understanding of waste management and plastic recycling is still on a very low level. Miettinen listed the prerequisites for sustainable plastic recycling, namely quality of plastics, amount and availability of plastics, market demand, logistic needs (cost & CO2) and regulatory framework setting limitations and defining ownership.

Kari Aaltonen from Fortum continued by presenting the concept of plastic recycling at Fortum and mechanical recycling. Aaltonen highlighted the safety, accuracy, quality and volume of recycling.

Summaries of group discussions

After interesting discussions and a networking break over coffee, the participants were divided into smaller groups to discuss collection pathways and sorting technologies.

The groups identified a lack of knowledge among consumers on how to do the source separation to boost collection. They also agreed that there should be an extended producer responsibility which could be expanded to cover household plastic items as well. The groups also called for a common sorting system for packaging and non-packaging where it is plastic only.

Discussions were also focusing on the need to take plastics fraction for recycling from mixed waste. Sorting should be as easy as possible for the consumers. Nordic collaboration on packaging markings, “sortability” and traceability were also highlighted as a topic to look into. Speaking of markings, it was discussed how to ensure the stickers on packaging do not affect the sorting efficiency nor recycling quality. Finally, the challenge of keeping food-grade packaging in a closed loop seemed an important topic to many participants.

Business Finland funding opportunities: next application deadline in September 2023!

Before moving on to networking, Jari described how happy he is of the 11 already approved partnership projects funded by Business Finland. He reminded that the funding opportunities within the SPIRIT programme are still available as there are still 3 years to go in the project. Why not to join the ecosystem and apply for funding for projects touching the themes of the SPIRIT programme in partnership projects? The next deadline to apply for funding is in September 2023.



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