Finnish researchers evaluate waste chain development needs
A considerable amount of valuable raw materials is lost in waste utilization
and processing chains. It would be worth, for example, effecting better
recovery of the valuable metals contained in electronic equipment. Research
carried out by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Aalto University, the
Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) and Lappeenranta University of Technology
has provided new information on the development needs of waste management.
Waste is being turned into a global trading commodity. Stricter recycling
targets and the rise in raw material prices are expected to promote the birth
of new innovations for reducing material loss. Because only certain materials
can be sorted at present, various kinds of waste material are mixed at the
collection phase. Recycling processes based on crushing are manifestly
unsuited to the separation of raw materials contained in ever more complex
“Material recycling can be increased by making waste collection and sorting
more efficient, and by improving processing and sorting methods to maximize
recovery of resources,” says Principal Scientist Ulla-Maija Mroueh
from VTT. Product recyclability should be taken into account as early as the
product’s design stage.
Waste utilization and processing chains in need of development
A new approach to analyzing waste value chains was developed during the
research. Based on the analyses performed, waste utilization occurring in the
chains, whether in the form of material or energy, is environmentally and
often also economically profitable. New, more cost-effective solutions are
nonetheless required for certain kinds of waste raw material.
“One of the key problems,” observes Senior Researcher Helena
Dahlbo from the Finnish Environment Institute, “was found to be a lack of
good quality information regarding waste composition and behaviour during the
treatment and utilization processes. The information is necessary in assessing
the environmental benefits of raw material recycling and to improve
“Significant development areas,” according to Aalto University Project
Researcher Maria Törn, “were found to include improving the
effectiveness of collection and sorting of material prior to crushing,
optimizing the recycling process, monitoring in real time, and analysis of
materials throughout the value chain.”
Tighter recycling targets ahead
More demanding targets for recycling, coupled with a ban on landfill disposal
of organic waste, will have a substantial impact on waste utilization and
processing. Increased producer responsibility will also bring new challenges,
particularly with regard to the processing of waste electrical and electronic
equipment, end-of-life vehicles and plastic packaging.
By 2020, 70% of annual construction and demolition waste must be recycled.
Achieving this target in Finland will require the development of new
alternatives, particularly for recycling waste wood, and utilization of
smaller raw material fractions, including plastics, insulation materials,
glass and waste gypsum.
The ban on landfilling organic waste will also bring new challenges.
Development will be required in recycling biowaste and plastics, among others.
The profitability of biowaste processing can be improved by, for example,
combining energy utilization with the production of materials, such as
nutrients and chemical raw materials.
Apart from VTT, Aalto University, SYKE and Lappeenranta University of
Technology, partners in the just-completed Tekes-funded project were Ekokem Oy
Ab, Kuusakoski Oy, Outotec Oyj, Ruukki Metals Oy, Metso Oy, Rudus Oy, Turun
Seudun Jätehuolto Oy, Jätekukko Oy and Kiertokapula Oy.
The report ‘Sustainable recycling of new materials’ on the Internet: /Documents/2013_T60.pdf