Study Tour – Circular economy initiatives in Finland

On April 6th, representatives from Mažeikiai municipality, the Telšiai Regional Waste Management Center, Paide Town Government and Green Business Norway visited the Tampere region in Finland, in a two-day study tour to learn about sustainability and circular economy initiatives in place there.

The first site visited was Vuores, a new city district of Tampere, which has installed a pneumatic waste collection system. There are over 90 waste collection points spread out throughout Vuores, all of which are connected through underground pipelines that lead the waste to the central station, belonging to Tampere Regional Waste management company. This system collects 4 types of waste.

Furthermore, Tampere region has 17 (one per municipality) large waste collection points. The point in Vuores has 7 different waste containers and functions 24 hours a day automaticaly without the need for personnel. The central station of large waste collection network can accept/sort waste to 37 different containers.

Next, the group visited the Tammervoima Waste to Energy Plant which provides electricity and heat to the Tampere region by incinerating approximately 165,000 tons of municipal waste every year. The plant’s energy recovery concept for municipal solid waste (MSW) is known for its high efficiency and it has received visitors from all over the world to learn from it. It is expected that in the future biogas produced from biowaste will be used to operate a CO2 neutral waste transport system. Intensive campaigns and counseling for the local population has ensured residents are separating waste from home and resulted in less than 1% of municipal solid waste ending in the landfill.

The Tampere region has a local rule, that every new investment to the waste collection infrastructure must be done on the condition that 1% of the investment amount is allocated to art and local artistic design.

Just 15km away, the group visited Tehdassaari (Factory Island), an artificial island in the middle of the Nokianvirta river that flows through Nokia city. Tehdassaari is being developed by Cireco, a development and building company that aims to create infrastructure projects based on circular economy principles, using clean materials and designs that conserves resources and produce zero emissions.

The 28,000 km2 island was made by digging and is historically an industrial area where various industrial plants have operated for more than 100 years. This is the birthplace of the globally known Nokia Corporation.

The vision for Tehdassaari is that it becomes a circular economy centre with sustainable living by using ecological construction and renewable energy. The island which used to be closed off to the general public, will in the near future house office spaces, small-scale industry, art, culture events, cafés and restaurants, as well as sports and wellness services. All will be built and operated using circular economy principles.

The following day, the group participated in a seminar, to learn more about initiatives and projects developed locally aiming to develop the Tampere region into a global example for circular economy.

Mr. Harri Kallio, CEO of the Tampere Regional Waste Management centre presented the company and its work in waste collection and sorting. The centre recovers 99% of waste in material and energy and provides its services to the 17 municipalities that own it and their 447,000 residents. The key to their success is the close cooperation they have with partners, contractors and local producers and manufacturers.

This study tour gave the group the opportunity to meet in person Mr. Sakari Ermala, CEO of Verte Ltd, who was also our host during the tour. He offered further insights on ECO3, the industrial park and business area based on a bio and circular economy concept that was presented at an earlier webinar. The concept was launched in 2015 and within 5 years, infrastructure has been in place and units have already been sold or rented with some factories already in operation. The area is reserved for circular economy needs and promotes activities such as coordination, partnership matchmaking and creating market dialogues between the private and public sector. It also houses an accelerator for startups solving circular economy issues. A biogas production unit located on the site, produces over 4 million cubic meters of biogas per year.

Project manager Ms. Karoliina Tuukkanen from Verte, presented the PirkaCirc project which provides a development platform for bio and circular economy in the region.  It aims to identify and establish the pathways for different stakeholders including the public and private sector, citizens and universities to develop a circular economy through cooperation.

CEO of Ekokumppanit, Ms. Suvi Holm presented the services they offer for sustainable development for municipalities, companies and even consumers. Their wide ranging experience means they can design holistic solutions and tailored advisory services to help municipalities with issues from reducing emissions, through to sustainable mobility and even implementation of environmentally friendly events and campaigns. Furthermore, they can assist companies who seek to improve on corporate environmental responsibilities and implement sustainable practices in their development. When it comes to consumers, they can offer advice or support on how to live a sustainable lifestyle and event create a sustainable business.

Circular Economy Business Advisor, from Business Tampere Ms. Pirkko Eteläaho, offered insights on the circular economy opportunities and ecosystems in the Tampere Region. The main goal of Business Tampere is to match companies with opportunities and create an attractive environment for sustainable businesses in the Tampere region as well as the rest of Finland and globally. They act as a platform to foster cooperation between the public and private sector as well as research institutions. In addition, they encourage the establishment of pilot projects and offer connections to a large circular economy related network.

Finally, Prof. Marko Seppänen from the Faculty of Management and Business at Tampere University gave an overview of the research being carried out on bio and circular economy. Tampere University is among the top 3 in Finland and takes a multidisciplinary approach in education focusing on technology, health and society. Research is focused on developing solutions for climate change, preserving the environment and improving sustainability and the well being of societies. The research at Tampere Universty is opening new areas for investigation including how understanding the changes in society can help improve health and well-being, creating sustainable solutions in urban planning, using augmented reality and gamification to understand and address challenges and how future societies can be shaped through the use of light and optical phenomena.

Before their departure, the group visited the historical factory community of Hiedanranta, an area being transformed into a modern and sustainable city district. By 2030, Hiedanranta will be a place to live, work and spend leisure time for over 25,000 people with the first residents expected to arrive in 2024. The area already provides an environment for smart urban development, resource efficiency and circular economy and aims to have negative CO2 emissions.

More photos on the tour can be found on our facebook page in this link.

The Circular Based Waste Management project is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Regional Cooperation –

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