The Circular Economy Action Plan of South Ostrobothnia has been prepared as part of an Interreg Europe-funded project, CESME- Circular Economy for SME’s and is a joint development of the two Finnish partners, the Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia and the JPYP Business Development. In addition two expert organizations have taken part in the preparation process. The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has been actively involved in the development of the action plan in general from the vision-creation to the developing the actions. The Natural Resources Institute Finland was involved during spring 2017 in the workshops where possibilities of circularity of wood products were analyzed and recognized. During the fall 2017 another two workshops were held, where the VTT played a key role.
The Action Plan in general guides the ways how the region should systematically move towards Circular Economy. It starts with a general introduction to the thematic of Circular Economy in global, European, national and regional context, the most important European, national and regional policy frameworks and lastly, the most important funding opportunities. It then explains the circular economy vision for the region and after that presents the actions in three action groups. The first action group seeks to develop the general operational environment of the circular economy by enhancing co-operation, networking and information flows around the area. The second action group seeks to influence the knowledge-base and innovation environments and the third action group comprises of several sector-specific actions.
Circular Economy Vision for South Ostrobothnia
Circular economy vision for South Ostrobothnia was created together with local stakeholders in a workshop held in fall 2017. In the workshop several themes were raised that should guide the region’s development towards circular economy. Firstly, the regions reliance on bioeconomy and food industry was seen important. Secondly, the new business potentials and innovations were recognized as core of CE. The shift towards CE needs also change in the mind-set and new ways of co-operation and networking. In addition, resource efficiency, sustainability, efficient material flows and smart use of technology were seen important. By combining these factors the vision was captured in the following sentence: Creating new business and sustainable well-being from circular economy with co-operation and south-ostrobothnian perseverance.
Regional policy context
The policy instrument for the project is the Regional Strategy of South Ostrobothnia for the years of 2018-2021. The new regional strategy recognizes the possibilities of circular economy in various ways. Firstly, the possibilities are recognized in the development of sustainable food systems, bioeconomy and bioenergy productions. Secondly, the new strategy comprises an own chapter for resource efficiency and the circular economy, where new business potentials and business models are highlighted. It is stated in the strategy that South Ostrobothnia seeks for a systemic change to resource efficiency and circular economy. Sustainability is also identified as one of the cross-sectional priorities throughout the strategy.
In addition to the regional strategy the RIS3 strategy of South Ostrobothnia takes some of the principals of circular economy into account. The strategy focuses on sustainable food systems and new solutions for bioeconomy, smart and resource-efficient systems and regeneration of service and experience productions. From the other regional strategies the regional energy and climate strategy for 2014-2020 takes the circular economy principals strongly into account.
Influencing the new strategy
The aim of the action plan is to improve the circular economy goals presented in the regional strategy. During the project in 2017 the regional strategy was updated and now comprises the years between 2018-2021. The project partners also influenced the new, updated regional strategy by commenting the draft versions of the strategy and involving the strategy developers into the regional activities such us the workshops and local stakeholder group meetings.
Details of the actions
Action group 1: Promotion of advising, information sharing and business networking
One of the challenges of promoting the circular economy in South Ostrobothnia region has been identified the lack of knowledge, information-sharing and business networking. These are the challenges that were identified during the local workshops but also during the interregional meetings of CESME project. The region has a need for an organization or an expert who would centrally inform the circular economy possibilities, share the latest information and bring actors together to share their knowledge and new ideas. This is also important for the goals stated in the regional strategy. In order to achieve the goal of systemic change in resource efficiency and circular economy it is relevant that the networks of sharing knowledge and ideas work properly.
Action 1.1 – Starting of an advisory and information sharing project around CE
An advisory and information project on the circular economy will be launched to resolve the lack of knowledge. Through the project good practices and possibilities of CE will be informed widely in the region. This will be done by development of different information exchange and discussion platforms. Inspired by the Danish partners’ Industrial Symbiosis Database, the project will also activate the regional actors to join the most important Industrial symbiosis databases relevant in Finland. JPYP Business Service will manage the project. The project cooperates with Leader groups and R&D organizations. Target groups are local municipalities and enterprises. The project will seek funding during 2018 and will be implemented during 2019 and 2020. The cost of the project is estimated to be 100.000 € and funding is sought from The Rural Development Programme for Mainland Finland. It could be funded both from the regional or Leader-funding.
Action group 2: Developing the knowledge-base, education and innovation activities of the circular economy
The workshops and interviews highlighted the need to increase the knowledge and to identify opportunities of circular economy at different levels. In order to achieve the objectives of the regional strategy it is also necessary to increase the level of knowhow and to develop the innovation activity around the circular economy. The action group comprises of two education that have been launched in the Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences and the CESME pilot project where the CESME Green Profile Assessment and Return on Investment Calculation Model will be tested and further developed.
Action 2.1 – Circular economy as basic know-how of the engineers -education project
The first project aims at designing circulation economy to be a part of education of engineers of process and material technology. The project for engineer education includes all the Finnish universities of applied sciences providing process and material teaching and thus the Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences is also involved in the project. The project has started in the fall 2017. The planning, piloting and development of the courses will take place in 2018 and the project will end in the early 2019. The budget of the project is 140 000 € and is partially funded by Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund.
Action 2.2 – Circulation economy in the food supply chain -education project
The second project aims at developing, producing, testing and evaluating the new tools for the education in the food supply chain. The food chain project includes five different education institutes in Finland including the Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences that manages the project. The project has started at the beginning of 2018 and will end in the early 2019. The budget for the whole project is 190 600€ and it is partially funded by the Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund.
Action 2.3 - Pilot project to test and further develop the CESME Green Profile Assessment and Investment Calculation Model Toolkit
The project partners applied for a pilot action from the Interreg Europe program. The main idea of the pilot is to test and further develop the CESME toolkit created during the project for the region’s needs. The main outcome of the pilot will be a revised version of the toolkit and a proper operating model for the use of the toolkit for regional business developers and other possible users within the region. Both partners will be involved in the project. PP5 will manage the whole project and PP6 participates in the pilot as a test user of the toolkit. The main development work will be done by an external expert. The pilot project will be started in June 2018 and will be accomplished by the end of May 2019. The total budget of the project is 50 000 EUR, of which 45 000 EUR is PP5’s share and 5000 EUR PP6’s share. The funding will be arranged from the CESME projects budget.
Action group 3: Sector-specific actions
The need to develop the use of forestry and agriculture biomass was raised in the interviews with business developers in all parts of the region. According to the regional strategy, the South Ostrobothnia aims for energy self-sufficiency and various methods and technologies to produce bioenergy.
Action 3.1 – An investigation project of biogas production in the Lake District of South Ostrobothnia
The possibilities of biogas production will be clarified in a project launched in the Lake District of South Ostrobothnia. The project will investigate the necessary equipment, methods and financial calculations and operational elements for biogas production from cultivated grass and possibly wood bark. Stakeholders’ interest to set up the biogas plant will also be investigated in the project. The main aim of the biogas production is to replace 1000 tons of propane used in industrial process of aluminium profile extrusion annually and the biogas would also be used in heating of industrial facilities and road traffic fuel. JPYP Business Service manages the study project and key stakeholders are local industry and energy companies, local farms and forest industry. The biogas project will be implemented during 2018 and the planning of possible company investments will start during 2018 and 2019 and construction in 2020, if the result of the investigation is good enough concerning technical, operational and economical aspects. The cost of the ongoing study investigation project is 15.000 € and is funded by the local Leader-fund (Aisapari Ry and it’s Merkki Päällä -strategy).
Knowledge applied from CESME project has been of great importance for the action. In April 2017 representatives from JPYP Business Service and municipality of Alajärvi participated on a study visit to Bologna Italy and Sofia Bulgaria, where personnel of CESME partners, ERVET and BAMEE, arranged visits in local biogas plants and gave good information of biogas production in their regions. During the partner meeting in Thessaloniki, Greece one biogas plant was also visited. In South Ostrobothnia there are also several smaller scale biogas production plants planned for example in big farms.
Action 3.2- Company-specific bioenergy plant projects
In addition, there are also several company-specific bioenergy plant plans in the area. For example, there are plans for an abt. 6 – 10 MW biofuel CHP plant that would use the side products of wood product industry and produce heat for the kilning rooms for wood drying and electrical energy for the food processing factory process. Under investigation there is also a project to develop a process to produce biocharfrom side products of wood processing industry. One local company is aiming to develop a compact process solution and build a pilot plant in Soini and later produce and supply complete biochar plants to other customers. Currently the company is still seeking both public and private funding for the development work and investment costs of the pilot plant. Various parts of the region have also made plans to build a biogas plant e.g. in Suupohja and Järviseutu regions. The cost estimate of an industrial size biogas plant investment is 6-8 M€ and the cost of farm size plant is 0.5-1 M€. The funding for these investments is still unclear but would include both private and public funding. The actualization of these company-specific actions will also be monitored during the monitoring phase.
The forest bioeconomy and wood product industry are important business sectors in South Ostrobothnia. The building and wood products industry needs new business models and methods to meet the challenges of the future. The wood product industry also produces large quantities of by-products that should be utilized better and with the principals of circular economy. These are goals that are also identified in the regional strategy of South Ostrobothnia. The actions for wood products comprise of one certain project and few suggestions for future actions that were developed in the local workshops.
Action 3.3 - Circular Economy – Game Changer for the Wood Building Industry.
The project is launched to develop the circular economy of wood building industry and to introduce new methods and approaches for the industry. The overall goal for the project is to boost regional companies’ competitiveness on the international market by initiating new networks and business ecosystems and introducing circular economy solutions based on previous recognized success factors. Novia University of Applied Sciences manages the project and Tampere University of Technology and Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences take part in the project as South Ostrobothnian partners. Target group is the wood building industry. In addition R&D organisations are important stakeholders in the project. The project will take place from 2018 to 2020. The budget for the two South Ostrobothnian partners is 420 000 €. The project is financed by the Interreg Botnia-Atlantica program under the European Regional Development Fund. The project proposal was submitted on 13th of September 2017 and approved on 7th of December 2017.
Action 3.4 - Suggestions for actions raised in the Wood on the Move -workshops.
In the Wood on the Move -workshops held by the PP6 during spring 2017, new uses for the side products of the wood product industry were innovated. New ideas such as the separation of wood extracts and the production of fiberboard panels need further refinement and investigation. Thus, there is a need for a project to develop and investigate the possibilities of further processing of various wood side products. There are existing several very expensive fractions in wood and wood bark, but the refining is not easy and demands high level chemical expertise and specialized processes. There is also a need for a reasonable marketing chain for chemical fractions. The responsible actors or funding opportunities for the actions are still unclear. Taking into consideration the need for high-level technical skills and knowledge the possible funding instruments could be the Horizon 2020, Finnish Innovation Fund or company-specific Business Finland Funding. The project partners will follow carefully the progress made within these actions throughout the monitoring phase.
According to EU circular strategy, all packages should be recyclable by 2030. The strategy will renew the way products containing plastic will be planned, produced, used and recycled. This will affect the whole plastics industry. It will create new challenges but also new possibilities to all industries. New solutions that take account circularity can boost competitiveness in the region and nationally. The developments of the collection and recycling of plastics as well as increasing the use of recycled plastic have been recognized important in the South Ostrobothnia area. There already is some collecting and granulating activity in the area, but in relation to the amount of plastic waste, this activity is still rather slight. Circular Economy of plastics and packaging was also identified as one if the key themes and future challenges in the CESME White book. In the good practices of CESME several examples of plastics recycling were presented which inspired to drive for actions also in South Ostrobothnia.
Action 3.5 - Mapping and developing the plastics ecosystem in South Ostrobothnia.
The aim of the project is to establish a plastics ecosystem in the South Ostrobothnia area, in which the locally formed secondary plastic waste can be effectively processed and reused in the area. The project will establish a collaboration platform / value chain, gather and formulate information on the properties of secondary plastic when being reused, offer companies possibility to pilot their ideas in VTT research environments, and tighten the interfaces between science, education, companies and public sector. The project will result in scientific understanding on the properties of recycled plastics, and demo products. The project will be implemented by Into Seinäjoki in collaboration with VTT. The target group is the plastic companies in the region. Partners will also include Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences, waste management companies and trade business.Funding will be applied from AIKO (Regional innovations and experimentations programme) during March 2018. The project budget will be approximately 100 000 euros. The idea was similar with the Reuse of plastics -good practice from Denmark. The key actors withdraw from the project application at the last stage, so unfortunately the project did not start after all. The project partners will follow if other similar actions will occur in the region.
The utilization of textile waste is still small world-wide, and also in Finland. It has been estimated that in Finland in 2012 71,2 million kg of textile went out of use, out of 80 % ended up as waste and 20 % to separate collection and sorting. Majority of waste textile ended up being burned, only 1,5 % was recycled. However, the new waste directive will have a major effect on the way textile waste will be handled in the future. By 2025, all the EU countries need to organize a separate collection for textile waste. There are many challenges that need to be tackled before the material of textile waste is utilized in a larger scale, e.g. the lack of actors that utilize the material, the lack of waste that is sorted and meets certain demands, the need for more effective sorting processes etc. New kind of value creation is needed which may also mean new activities and roles. Textiles were identified also as one of the key thematic areas in the CESME white book and the textile sorting factory HUMANITA in Bulgaria has also been an inspiration for the planning of the actions.
Action 3.6 - Project for analyzing the development steps for textile recycling.
A project will be started to analyse the current state and development needs for textile recycling as well as the measures for activating actors. The aim is to recognize the actors and the needs of the textile ecosystem in the region, to analyse the investment needs for various recycling technologies in relation to cost-effective production capacity and to organize innovation workshops with a special aim to share good practices, support measures and bring actors together. The aim in the first project is to reach as many actors as possible - actors that already have a role in the textile ecosystem and that could be part of it. A coordinator, who will be responsible for the management of the project is still unclear. The actions should take place as soon as possible during the current year. The possible funding sources are Business Finland, ERDF (The regional operational programme for West and South Finland under the Programme for Sustainable Growth and Jobs for Mainland Finland) and the regional or local EAFDR (the Rural Development Programme for South Ostrobothnia or the local four Leader-funds).
Action 3.7 - Starting a company project or taking part in a research project.
Based on the findings and collaboration started in the previous, analysis project, preparations for a company project or for a research project will be started. One option for this collaboration is Telaketju project for which continuation is already planned. The responsible actor for the action is still unclear and there is no accurate schedule for the action yet. The preparations for Telaketju 2 project are expected to take place in the end of 2018, when also the preparations for joining the project should be underway. The costs for the projects have not been estimated at this point but the possible funding sources include Business Finland, ERDF (The regional operational programme for West and South Finland under the Programme for Sustainable Growth and Jobs for Mainland Finland) and the regional or local EAFDR (the Rural Development Programme for South Ostrobothnia or the local four Leader-funds).