Three Finnish companies at the forefront of reducing and reusing waste

In “re” life: See how Finnish innovations and companies are contributing to responsibly recycling, replacing, reducing, repurposing and reusing plastic and other materials.

Paptic, Zenrobotics and Fortum Recycling&Waste are three Finnish companies involved in processing waste to make it much less wasteful.

Read on to find out what they’re doing, and see the box at the end of this article for more real-life applications.

Flexibility in packaging

Small, round, green pellets are falling from above into a sea of similar pellets.

Fortum Circo is a plastic recyclate produced from post-consumer plastic waste.Photo: Fortum

Fortum Recycling&Waste is a Finnish trailblazer for sustainable circular economy innovations. The company’s granulated post-consumer recyclate product, Fortum Circo, has been developed to completely or partly replace “virgin” plastic for a wide variety of purposes.

Fortum Circo’s three different granulate grades can be adapted and customised to different uses, for example robust and durable high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes and bottles, petrochemical containers and cleaning-media bottles. Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) product applications include flexible packaging, film and plastic bags. Polypropylene suits various applications, from pots and brushes to kitchenware and household items.

Biobased alternative

Two shopping bags with string handles.

Paptic is replacing plastic in packaging.Photo: Paptic

With a whole string of sustainable industry awards to its credit, Paptic makes credible claims to be “the best alternative for plastics in packaging.” It is a biobased, recyclable and renewable next-generation packaging material made with wood fibre sourced from sustainably managed forests and produced by the Finnish startup of the same name.

Products made of Paptic can and should be used more than once, and even more than ten times. The material is strong, easily foldable, resistant to ripping and can be made using existing paper converting lines, saving the cost of new infrastructure or machinery. Paptic can be used for carrier bags, envelopes and other one-time use applications; it has print quality on a par with regular paper, as well as the durability of non-wovens and the versatility of textiles.

Redefining recycling

An enormous mechanical claw is picking up a hunk of metal from a conveyor belt carrying scraps of used wood and metal through a factory setting.

Zenrobotics’ robotic waste-sorting system increases recycling efficiency and the purity of recycled materials.Photo: Zenrobotics/Studio Kylänpää

Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to improve the quality of waste sorting, Zenrobotics’ robots are billed as being able to sort waste just as well as humans – only faster and more safely. Building on the scientific work of the neurorobotics research group at Finland’s Aalto University, the company has revolutionised recycling processes that relied on inefficient manual labour.

Zenrobotics’ robots have been delivered to waste management companies worldwide, from Australia to Japan and from Switzerland to the US. Designed to lower costs, reduce manual labour, increase recycling efficiency and increase the purity of recycled materials, the solutions are claimed to redefine ‘Next Generation Recycling’.

Recycling, reusing and replacing plastic

  • Recycling plastic: Most Finnish kitchens are equipped with bins for different wastes, including plastic packaging. All household plastic waste collected throughout the country is delivered to Fortum’s recycling plant. Plastic waste is turned into new raw material.
  • Reusing plastic: Recycled plastic is used as raw material for many items: Carrier bags, household products like storage boxes, buckets, watering cans, flowerpots, watering cans, sledges and cleaning brushes.
  • Replacing plastic: Finnish innovations for replacing plastic in an ecofriendly way: Biodegradable plastic solutions for medical and technical industries; cardboard trays for food packaging; toys made of bioplastic produced from sugar cane; lamps, packaging and hangers made of wood pulp; casts made of wood and biodegradable plastic; wash basins of wood composite consisting of wood chips.
  • Finland will comply with EU Waste Directive objectives: 50% of plastic packaging recycled by 2025 and 55% by 2030.

By Tim Bird, ThisisFINLAND Magazine 2020