VTT, a Finnish research organisation with a focus on technology and sustainability, has drafted a new discussion paper addressing what is needed to achieve the transition from a linear to a sustainable circular economy.
In ‘A Circular Economy of Plastics’, the emphasis is on how to solve the environmental problems caused by plastics while preserving the benefits gained from them through design for circularity, circular business models and advanced recycling technologies.
In the paper, a multidisciplinary effort by experts from a wide range of fields, VTT envisages a future in which the circulation of plastic material is ensured through various technological and operational solutions. Plastics will no longer end up in the environment and the production and recycling of plastics will be carbon neutral.
“Plastic is everywhere in our day-to-day lives. It revolutionised our way of life and soon it will do so again. This time, plastics will be modernised through circular economies and ecodesign without compromising their performance,” said vice president Tuulamari Helaja of VTT.
“The creation of real circular-economy solutions requires us to overhaul the handling, use and processing of our raw materials streams – including plastic waste. Here at VTT, we have developed sustainable technologies and materials for the needs of the industry. Around these technologies, we can gather actors from various sectors to develop the circular economy of plastics and simultaneously create opportunities for growth and prosperity.”
The most important contributing factors in this transition are ecodesign and circular economy business models. Intelligent waste collection, sorting and separation techniques, various reuse concepts and modern recycling technologies are needed in order to reduce plastic waste. Alternatives to plastics must also be explored.
To reduce the effects that the value chains of plastic products are having on climate change, it is necessary to transition to using renewable raw materials, recycled materials and carbon dioxide as raw materials in plastics.
Carbon neutrality also requires a transition to renewable energy. VTT is under no illusion that the transition will be an easy one, and well aware that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.
‘The best solutions must often be evaluated on a case-by-case basis’ says the institute.
“Their sustainability must be evaluated at an early stage to avoid carrying waste and harmful substances into the following life cycle’s products.”
VTT is hosting a Redesigning Plastics for Circularity webinar on 1 June 2020.