VTT and University of Vaasa lead ambitious partnership to build reusable packaging systems in Finland

News, Press release

VTT and the University of Vaasa have initiated an extensive research project, in collaboration with 21 stakeholder organizations, to pioneer the development of reusable packaging systems in Finland. This initiative, aimed at accelerating packaging reuse, could potentially tap into an export market of 1.45 billion euro by 2035.

Due to the growing consumption of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and food take-away, the demand for single-use packaging has increased, leading to global waste management challenges. According to Eurostat, between 2009 and 2020, the total quantity of packaging waste generated in the EU rose by 20%, now 80 million tons and 178 kg per EU citizen.  Without a drastic change, the amount of packaging waste will increase by a further 19% by the year 2030.

The thirty-month co-innovation research project named Reusify is mainly funded by Business Finland. It aims to develop reusable packaging systems and help reduce the use of packaging materials, fossil-based materials for packaging, and packaging waste. The total budget of the project is roughly 2 million euro. Thanks to this initiative, Finnish companies in all key sectors could potentially reach an export market of 1.45 billion euro by 2035.

"The transition from single-use to reuse in packaging is a major shift toward a circular economy. It demands a systemic, multi-level perspective on business practices that is only possible with a robust partnership model that engages the entire value chain, from package producers to logistics, retail, maintaining packages and waste management," says Ali Harlin, VTT’s research professor.

The consortium brings together major players such as Finland's leading retail giants S Group and K Group, plastic companies Borealis and Orthex, waste management and treatment specialist organisations such as Lassila & Tikanoja and, for example, food and multiservice company Compass Group Finland (see list of all the partners below).

"The research will explore various reuse dimensions, including the ecosystems and business models of reuse, the design of reuse systems, circular packaging solutions, and the sustainability scenarios and trade-offs. Additionally, we will also analyse consumer experience and acceptance," says Senior researcher Kyösti Pennanen from the University of Vaasa.

The research project is not just about developing reusable packaging systems. It's about creating new competence and export potential for a wide range of Finnish industry actors.  From packaging raw materials and packaging itself to tracking, machinery, logistics, cleaning, filling, labeling, and software solutions.

The Reusify project interlinks to Borealis SPIRIT Veturi-program. It also has six parallel projects that examine the critical components of the future value chain for a reusable packaging system in Finland. 

Further information:

Ali Harlin, research professor, VTT
[email protected]

Kyösti Pennanen, senior researcher, University of Vaasa, School of Marketing and Communication
[email protected]

Reusify project funding and contributing companies and organisations:

Berner Oy
Borealis Polymers Oy
Cajo Technologies Oy
Compass Group Finland Oy
Finnish Food and Drink Industries’ Federation ETL
Kamu Collective Oy
K Group
KiiltoClean Oy
Lassila & Tikanoja Environmental services
The Finnish Hospitality Association MaRa
Muovipoli Oy
Oy Orthex Finland Ab
The Finnish Grocery Trade Association PTY
Finnish Packaging Recycling RINKI Ltd
Smart Set Oy
S Group
Producer responsibility organisation Sumi Oy
Oy Tomra Ab
Transbox Oy
UPC Konsultointi Oy
UPM Raflatac Oy
University of Vaasa

Ali Harlin
Ali Harlin
Research Professor
Our vision beyond 2030

Every phase of a product’s lifecycle from raw material to end product as a part of recycling needs to be understood as well as possible. In this way, we can save important natural resources, reduce emissions and create new markets.