Finland's first cross-industrial material recycling research programme launched

The Environmental Technology Laboratory of the Lappeenranta University of Technology, LUT is part of the ARVI research programme coordinated by CLEEN Ltd, in which research is conducted into future business opportunities involving the recycling of materials, and the development of know-how for their utilisation.

The depletion of natural resources and the related societal requirements and needs for business activities call for increasingly efficient recycling of materials. "In the programme we develop system modelling of the waste management system, we study the characteristics and composition of municipal waste from the perspective of utilisation, and the efficiency of sorting of waste by various mechanical systems" says Mika Horttanainen, Professor of Waste Management Technology.

The sections to be researched are municipal waste, plastic waste, electrical and electronic scraps, and ash. The environmental, economic, and social impacts of various material flows and the options for their processing and utilisation are analysed. The material flows are examined, starting from the emergence of the waste through the entire life cycle chain. In addition to the amount of waste material, the examination will consider what kinds of materials are in demand locally, regionally, and nationally.

Horttanainen says that the system examination will closely analyse the possibilities for utilising waste materials in a certain specific area, or at an appropriate transport distance. In addition, a system examination is to be made on what waste material is suitable for a particular application and on what would be the optimally sustainable way of utilising the waste. As an example, Horttanainen mentions the ash from energy plants, which can be utilised in the manufacture of cement and concrete, in excavation work, or as fertiliser.

"We are getting better information on the characteristics and composition of waste material flows, and better understanding of the operating environments of utilising materials. We have selected certain countries, for instance China and Brazil, as research targets and partners in collaboration. These countries are undergoing powerful development, in which waste recycling is still in its early stages. Comparisons are made with Austria and Germany where the recycling system now operates well. We are studying how Finnish technologies related to recycling could be best conceptualised and offered to developing countries."

The project utilises life cycle modelling, making it possible to evaluate environmental impact, and to compare the environmental impacts of various sorting methods with each other. The purpose is to provide tools for Finnish companies for when they go out and offer waste management solutions on foreign markets.

CLEEN Ltd's four-year ARVI research programme focusing on material value chains offers Finnish industry and research institutes a unique opportunity for long-term strategic research cooperation in the field of material efficiency, and establishes a contact with an extensive network of international partners. A total of 18 companies and 11 research and public organisations are part of the programme consortium.

Further information:

Professor Mika Horttanainen, tel. +358 40 848 5850, mika.horttanainen@lut.fi