Together with key actors in the Kilpilahti area, the STRIIM project aims to create an idealistic vision on the plastic recycling ecosystem operating in the area. The future goal is to utilise raw materials from plastic waste with optimal use of resources and innovation, and to adopt chemical recycling solutions in addition to mechanical recycling of plastic. But how does one collaborate with various actors to create a joint vision on a plastic recycling ecosystem? This is what we wanted to find out together with Gaia Consulting.

Collaboration to develop the plastic recycling ecosystem at Kilpilahti

The STRIIM project – Strengthening the Regional Industrial Innovation Model is piloting a new type of collaboration model to promote discussion, unite actors, and identify new opportunities to enhance the transformation of the Kilpilahti industrial area at Porvoo. One such opportunity is the innovative recovery of plastic waste and enhancing the profitability of recycling. During the project, another goal was to further investigate the opportunities for plastic recycling at Kilpilahti.

In collaboration with Gaia Consulting, the vision work on plastic recycling ecosystem broadly discussed various future opportunities and needs from the perspectives of, e.g., increasing local partnership networks and opportunities for collaboration. The report discussed the current state of circular economy of plastics in Finland, examined an international case study, constructed a value chain description for the plastic recycling ecosystem at Kilpilahti, analysed its flaws and areas for development, and formed a joint vision for the plastic recycling ecosystem at Kilpilahti.

In Kilpilahti, there is interest for both mechanical and chemical recycling of plastics. The goal is to introduce more chemical recycling alongside mechanical recycling, as all plastics cannot be recycled mechanically.

When constructing the vision for the plastic recycling ecosystem at Kilpilahti, not only different plastics but also different roles and duties within the value chain should be taken into consideration. In addition to companies, other key actors in the ecosystem creation process include the City of Porvoo, the development company Posintra, and other partners. The figure below illustrates the roles of the actors.

Kilpilahden muovinkierrätysekosysteemin toimijat

The figure shows that a plastic recycling value chain requires the participation of various actors for facilitating circumstances, producing materials as well as processing and reprocessing them. The operation requires joint organisation and practices for, e.g., data sharing.

The current state of circular economy of plastics in Finland is influenced by several factors

When discussing the current state of circular economy of plastics, five factors were discovered to influence the current state. When constructing a plastic recycling ecosystem, these factors should be taken into consideration:

1. Regulation

The circular economy field of plastics is strongly defined by regulation, which is in transition. For example, the single-use plastics regulation is opening the market for re-usable solutions. The field is heavily regulated, and new legislation is being actively constructed, too.

2. The market

The European Union strongly controls the plastics market. There is need for more legislation that creates demand for recycled raw materials in order to scale up circular economy. In addition, the market demand for solutions to replace fossil-based plastics is driven by the need for companies to reduce emissions and plastic waste and to promote sustainable use of natural resources.

3. RDI activities

It is important to create new business operations via research and development. Several remarkable RDI projects in Finland, such as SPIRIT, PULSE, Carbon2x and PlastLIFE, are striving to solve the challenges in circular economy of plastics from various perspectives.

4. New business operations

In addition to the mechanical and chemical recycling of plastics, bio-based products with plastic-like characteristics are being developed to replace plastics.

5. Partners

Major enterprises such as Neste, Borealis and Fortum operate in the Finnish value chain whose operations require a network of partners. This creates business opportunities for smaller actors as well.

In addition to the aforementioned five factors, the project examined the operations of an ecosystem that is already active abroad. Quantafuel ASA, operating in Denmark and specialised in the chemical recycling of plastics, was chosen as the case study. Its operations are based on a strong network of partners that secure its supply of waste materials.

The kind of collaboration between the public and private sectors promoted by the STRIIM project is strongly needed for creating and developing plastic recycling ecosystems as well.

>> Get to know more about the STRIIM project

Company interviews to map the joint vision

The vision concept for Kilpilahti was mapped in the Porvoo area by carrying out a preliminary survey and interviews among companies operating in the plastics value chain. Participating companies included ABB, BEWI, Borealis, CE Lindgren, Neste, Muovi Heljanko, Remeo, and Rosk’n Roll. The interviews aimed to analyse the role of the companies in the plastics value chain, upcoming development projects, challenges, the state of partnerships, and needs for developing collaboration in the Kilpilahti area.

Head of Feedstocks and Production Platform Chemical Recycling Minna Mentzer at Neste and head of the SPIRIT programme Jaakko Tuomainen at Borealis explain how it was to participate in the project, what are the goals in their roles, and how the collaboration has been.

Minna Mentzer says they find it great to be able to develop chemical recycling in Finland. As an international actor, it is interesting and extremely intriguing to operate on the national level as well.

“Finns love to recycle plastics, and it would be great to be able to raise Kilpilahti to a pioneer position. Here at Kilpilahti, we have so much expertise for utilising chemical recycling in particular.”

Neste have made their first decision to invest in the processing of liquefied waste plastic. Porvoo refinery are striving to enable the utilisation to a greater extent of liquefied waste plastic, such as pyrolysis oil, as a raw material for manufacturing plastics and replacing fossil feedstock. The PULSE project, supported by the EU innovation fund, is in the background of this project. Mentzer explains that chemical recycling is a good form of recycling alongside the mechanical one:

“We have a global waste plastic problem. Mechanical recycling should be utilised whenever possible. However, some plastic materials cannot be recycled mechanically, and it is important to recycle materials in order to reduce the carbon footprint. Chemical recycling can also be used to replace the fossil feedstock currently used in the manufacturing of plastics. In our case, we are also offering a feedstock made of renewable raw materials for the manufacturing of plastics.”

Jaakko Tuomainen of Borealis, head of the SPIRIT programme, thinks along the same lines. Borealis’ SPIRIT programme aims to develop the plastics industry towards renewable raw materials, recycling, and carbon neutral manufacturing and use of plastics.

“Chemical recycling should not be seen as a replacement for mechanical recycling but as a parallel process and an alternative to burning plastic waste. Borealis’ agenda is to keep plastics and the carbon bound therein in a closed loop system. Expertise in plastic materials, i.e., polymers, is Borealis’ strength because we have developed different grades of plastics for different applications. However, circular economy is a field where no company can operate alone. It requires forming different types of value chains between different actors. Obviously, each company still has its own agenda, but joint discussion is certainly needed in order to highlight new perspectives and to deepen collaboration.”

The vision concept aims for an effective ecosystem

The vision concept aims to develop the Kilpilahti area into an effective plastic recycling ecosystem focusing on reprocessing of pyrolysis oil, pyrolytic liquefaction of waste plastic, and recycling-based polymer production that complies with the quality requirements for various applications with flying colours. The core to this ecosystem is having strong partnerships in recycling and sorting plastic waste as well as recycling processes. The goal is to get chemical and mechanical recycling to complement each other.

Drafted together with Gaia Consult, the envisioning report summarizes the results into four themes to develop in order to create a well-functioning ecosystem:

  1. Creating a management model and partnership networks for the ecosystem.
  2. A plastics circular economy concentration in the Porvoo area to expand the Kilpilahti Transformation Center concept.
  3. Ensuring the supply of raw materials and specialisation.
  4. Invest-in-case for waste plastic liquefaction in the Porvoo area.

A circular economy ecosystem focused on plastics, remarkable by European standards, can be built around Kilpilahti. This requires long-term collaboration and a joint focus on the chosen top themes.


Get to know more about the vision concept for the plastic recycling ecosystem at Kilpilahti. Read the entire report here!

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