Data is widely seen as an enabler for future circular economy. Data is needed to design sustainable solutions and value chains, from raw materials management to end users in a circular economy. Data can be used to extend the lifetime of products, to replace tangible products with services, to create a resource-based business, and to boost the reuse of materials.
Still, many opportunities are yet to be discovered. Circular Design Innovation Community together with our partnering organisations is looking for novel data solutions to circular challenges!
How and what data can and should we collect?
How could it be utilized for a circular economy?
What kind of tools could be applied?
What new business can be created?
How can end users, consumers or residents participate?
Can public stakeholders operate in a circular economy?
Our collaboration partners Valio, Helsinki City & Motiva Services, Espoo City, Akkukierrätys Pb, Recser, Finnish Mining Association and Lounais-Suomen Jätehuolto are looking for solutions to practical challenges: read the descriptions below and sign up for the competition!Sign up here!
Agricultural side streams challenge
Only a fraction of agricultural side-streams, such as manure, straw, crop residues and surplus grass, are used in the best possible way – or at all. However, these side-streams contain carbon and nutrients and could be used to replace fossil raw materials in the production of materials, chemicals, fertilizers and fuels.
One alternative way of utilizing agricultural side-streams is biogas production, ie. digestion, in which the microbes naturally occurring in the biomass decompose the biomass. Biogas contains 60% methane and 40% carbon dioxide. Biogas can be used to produce electricity and / or heat, or up-graded to biomethane by removing carbon dioxide. Biomethane is almost pure methane and can be used either as a transport fuel or in industrial processes to replace natural gas. In addition to biogas, the process also generates nutrient-rich processing residues, ie digestate, which can be used as fertilizer either as such or processed into recycled fertilizer products.
In 2020, biogas was produced in Finland in total 877 GWh, of which 733 GWh was used for energy production and the rest was burned in a flame. Most of the biogas used for energy production was used to produce electricity and / or heat, 111 GWh was used as transport fuel and a small part was used in industry to replace natural gas. Natural Resources Institute Finland has estimated the total biogas production potential to 10,200 GWh, most of which (86%) comes from agricultural side-strams. When this figure is compared to the energy consumption of agriculture (10,700 GWh) or the energy consumption of road transport (42,400 GWh) in 2020 in Finland, a significant share of both could be covered by biogas. In addition to biogas and recycled fertilizer products, side-streams from agriculture and food industry could be used to produce many other biobased products and thus increase the number of local bio refineries.
One of the factors holding back the exploitation of large-scale agricultural side-streams is the lack of information on the geographical availability of the biomasses. The information should be as accurate as possible, ie. information obtained at company level linked with location data. The first step in this direction is the Biomass Atlas service maintained by the Natural Resources Institute Finland. Motiva, on the other hand, maintains the Materiaalitori service to improve the recycling of industrial waste and by-products.
Valio is a Finnish food company owned by dairy cooperatives with factories in 12 locations in Finland. In accordance with its responsibility program, Valio is involved in developing e.g. carbon sequestration in the soil and utilization of cow manure. Valio now invites actors to ideate how data can be used to promote the utilization of agricultural side-streams!
How can we create an information-sharing approach or platform where farms and other biomass producers and users, such as operators and manufacturers in the value chain, can share information on the volume and characteristics of side-streams? What data is needed? And how to motivate actors to collect, share and update information, what could be the benefit for them? How can we use data to enable and activate the exploitation of agricultural side-streams?
Circular textiles challenge
In the Finnish climate, clothing is a necessity to protect us from the rains and frosts of the seasons. However, clothing also carries other meanings for us: clothing can also be a social message, a work of art, or a business, and these factors also motivate us as producers or consumers in the value chain.
In Finland, about 70 million kilos of textiles are disposed of every year. The majority of this is consumer-generated waste textiles. Discarded textiles can be reused as such or as part of new products, or recycled as fibers into raw materials for new products in other industries. So far, only a small part of the disposal textiles has been recycled, as about 80% of the disposal textiles generated in Finland are utilized for energy (Suomen Tekstiili ja Muoti ry, 22.11.2021).
The new waste directive obliges municipalities to collect textiles separately starting from 1 January 2023 at the latest. As the amount of textile collected separately increases with the new obligation, new business opportunities in the circular economy will also open up for reuse, refurbishment and remodelling of clothing, as well as materials recycling. Companies, customers and the environment can benefit from these operating models. Materials will stay in circulation longer, virgin raw materials are saved and the burden of waste management is reduced.
Lounais-Suomen Jätehuolto Oy (LSJH) is a municipally owned waste management and circular economy company that has pioneered the collection and recycling of consumer waste textiles. LSJH has just started a mechanical fiber opening line in Paimio, with a processing capacity of approximately 5,000 tonnes per year. The line produces recycled fiber, which is sold for e.g. chemical recycling, the manufacture of nonwovens, and the mechanical manufacture of yarn and fabrics.
At present, LSJH is already receiving separately collected textile waste from ten different municipal waste facilities throughout Finland. By the beginning of 2023, the collection is expected to expand to the whole of Finland. Municipalities and their waste management companies are responsible for the collection and treatment of household waste textiles.
Pre-sorting takes place as close as possible to the collection of the disposal textile, as the textile is perishable. If desired, the regional waste companies can also arrange the sorting until the next stages or send the pre-sorted waste textile to LSJH for further sorting. Waste facilities handle sorting as their own work or with the help of partners. Sorting is done manually and takes place in four different steps.
In the first stage, all non-collected textiles that are not included in the collection and, for example, strongly impaired textiles, moldy or damp textiles are sorted out of the stream. These are directed for energy recovery. This step takes place locally in the area where the textiles are collected.
In the second stage, textiles suitable for re-use and remanufacturing are sorted separately from the stream according to the circular economy and the waste hierarchy. These are resold in the Turku region at LSJH’s discarded textile store or in the areas of other waste companies through various co-operation channels.
In the third step, textiles that are currently unsuitable for recycling are sorted separately from the stream. This current is diverted for energy recovery. These include multilayer clothing such as quilted jackets.
The fourth stage depends on the needs of the exploiting companies. At this point, the remaining textiles to be recycled can be sorted and identified by material composition, texture, or color.
Lounais-Suomen Jätehuolto is now looking innovative ideas and data solutions to increase the reuse of separately collected waste textiles.
How can individual specialty batches be identified and separated for reuse by small companies, without slowing down the sorting too much? Can textiles in good condition but currently ending up in the disposal be redirected at an earlier stage to consumers for reuse? Can data help, how?
For more information on disposal of textiles and recycling, please see the links below:
Looking forward to your great ideas!
The battery recycling challenge
Batteries are the heart of vehicles, electric bikes, phones, computers, fire alarms, and many other electronic devices. Batteries move us and make our daily lives smooth. They enable remote work and accessibility regardless of place and time.
The recycling of lead-acid batteries has a long tradition, and the recycling processes are efficient. More than 90% of the lead in the batteries can be recycled as raw material for new batteries. However, the rapid increase in the use of lithium-ion batteries has brought new concerns about where and how to get enough sustainably produced battery raw materials in the future.
Significant environmental benefits can be achieved by recycling batteries when the raw materials in batteries are recycled into raw materials for new products, while saving virgin natural resources. However, the concrete environmental benefits of recycling often go unnoticed, and recycling rates are not high enough. We believe that making the benefits visible would highlight why it is so important to recycle batteries.
At the moment, only a fraction of the estimated annually decommissioned lithium-ion batteries used in cell phones and computers, as well as in many other small electrical appliances, return to official collection systems. There are certainly many reasons for this, but it should not depend on the ease of recycling, as Finland’s collection system for batteries and accumulators at 13,000 collection points is one of the most comprehensive in Europe, in terms of population. What would motivate us to recycle batteries and accumulators as efficiently as starter batteries or even paper? At EU level, the collection rate for batteries and accumulators is expected to increase from just under 50% in the next decade to as high as 85% over the next decade. For this to happen, used lithium batteries must be properly sorted and recycled from our desk drawers.
The responsibility for recycling batteries lies with their manufacturers and importers, who have set up producer organizations to manage their waste management responsibilities in a cost-effective way. The producer organizations Recser Oy and Akkukierrätys Pb Oy are now inviting organisations and individuals to participate in the challenge competition to innovate data-based concepts and solutions for the challenge!
How can we use data to support the collection and increase the collection rate of portable lithium batteries? How can we use data to make the environmental benefits of recycling lead and lithium batteries visible? How could the quantities of batteries and accumulators accumulated in desk drawers and storages be mapped out, and could this data be used for motivating recycling?
The solution to resource sufficiency necessitates circular economy. By recycling we can make battery materials circulate almost endlessly and enable electrification – as long as we get them into the recycling. Join the innovation!
For more information on batteries and battery recycling, see the links below!
We are looking forward to your data-based solution to the battery challenge!
Mine waste challenge
The ongoing transition to an electrified, carbon neutral, and digital world requires increasing amounts of mineral and metal raw materials. Several emerging raw materials need to be supplied from mining and the production volumes of many established metals increased dramatically to provide raw materials for production of renewable energy, electric mobility, energy storage, and digital technologies. The green transition aims at shifting to sustainable, low-footprint solutions with a technological and digital change.
The mining industry strives to fulfil the green promise from the start of the raw material chain by developing mining processes with minimized environmental footprint. Circular and digital solutions are key to development of new design-based approaches to constantly improve the way things are done. Advances in circular economy support sustainable mining because they increase the lifetime of the mining-produced raw materials in the economy. However, mining also has its own circular economy challenges to be solved that provide opportunities to further reduce the footprint of mining projects.
Mining typically produces mineral wastes, tailings and waste rocks, and the industry is constantly seeking ways to better utilize these waste streams. Waste rocks are country rocks mined to gain access to the actual ore. Tailings are produced when the crushed and ground ore is processed to separate the minerals of interest from the gangue minerals existing in the ore. Tailings are thus fine-grained mineral powders consisting of those minerals in the ore rock that were not recovered for utilization. At present, mineral wastes are efficiently utilized at the site by the mining operations themselves but more efforts are needed to boost off-site utilization..
FinnMin now invites everyone to ideate and develop data-based solutions that could promote utilization of mineral wastes from mining operations.
How could we promote utilization of waste rocks with data-based solutions? Can new digital solutions be developed for the logistics of waste rocks and to solve the challenge of long transport distances? Which kind of solutions are available for the utilization of tailings materials in applications such as soil amendment in which trace metal concentrations may be a limiting factor? How could data from the mills and deposits be utilized to better utilize mining wastes?
FinnMin (Finnish Mining Association) is a lobby organisation for companies operating in the mining industry in Finland. These include mining operators, contractors, suppliers of machinery and equipment, service providers and exploration companies.
More information on the circular economy of wastes in the mining industry can be found at:
Approximately 1.6 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste is generated in Finland. About 85 percent of this is generated from repairing and demolishing entire buildings. Finland’s goal is to increase the utilization rate of construction and demolition waste as a material to at least 70 per cent.
The new zoning and construction law should require a construction and demolition material inventory in all projects where demolition waste is generated. The demolition survey provides preliminary information for the investigation, which is updated in connection with the final inspection of the demolition site, for example by utilizing waste shipment document data.
It is recommended that the demolition surveys be carried out in accordance with the Ministry of the Environment instructions, and by using the demolition survey report form (Excel). A digital tool for reporting demolition information is currently being developed by MikseiMikkeli and XAMK. When available, it will be possible to export demolition mapping data via interfaces, e.g. the construction and demolition materials register. The materials available for reuse can be advertised in the Materiaalitori (materials market) service or other digital platforms.
Photo: Harri Hakaste, Ministry of the Environment.
With the demolition survey form, the materials can be divided into 21 different categories, and the building components into 21 categories. In addition, the demolition surveys include asbestos and pollutant surveys separately.
The City of Helsinki’s Circular Economy Cluster Program pilots circular economy practices in construction. One of the pilot projects is taking place at the demolition site in the area of the Vattuniemi center in Helsinki, where 16 properties will be demolished during 2022-23. The demolition surveys have been carried out for a large part of these properties. Motiva Services is leading a project to develop a data-based operating model that promotes material recycling at the Vattuniemi pilot site.
The City of Helsinki and Motiva now invite solutions to how the demolition survey data could be utilized more widely.
The findings of the demolition survey are currently not widely utilized. Where and how could the demolition survey data be utilized further? Could new solutions be built on top of the data?
On the basis of the demolition survey, a plan for the utilization of demolition materials and parts can be prepared. How can the demolition survey data be better used to make a utilization plan?
How and in what form should the information be presented to improve its usability? In addition to the amount of demolition waste, what information should be combined with these? How could the quality of information be improved?
Looking forward to innovative data-enabled solutions for demolition data uses!
For more information, follow the links:
City open data challenge
Espoo is the second largest city in Finland. Its special feature is an urban structure based on five different centers, combining urban and low-rise housing close to nature. Espoo’s goal is to be carbon neutral in 2030. In line with the new Espoo story, Espoo is moving towards an ambitious goal together with residents, communities and companies by investing in clean energy, a circular economy, sustainable land use and construction, and sustainable modes of transport.
At the end of 2020, Mayor Jukka Mäkelä signed a Europe-wide Circular Cities Declaration, the ten goals of which promote the realization of the circular economy and sustainable development of the City of Espoo. In accordance with the objectives of the commitment, Espoo will develop procurement criteria, strengthen the circular economy in regional development projects, and promote recycling, repair and reuse. Progress will be reported annually.
The circular economy is reflected in many ways in the current operations of the City of Espoo, from library services to the development of urban areas such as Kera. The commitment will continue the circular economy work that has already begun in Espoo. The city has promoted circular economy practices in projects such as the Carbon Neutral and Resource-Wise Business Areas (HNRY), the City of Espoo as a Service through Innovative Procurement (InnoCaaS), the Sustainable Neighborhood Partnership Model (KIEPPI) and the Story of Plastics – From Waste to Product projects.
Espoo’s circular economy challenges and opportunities are typical of urban areas and relate to housing and business: food waste management, targets to increase the recycling rate of small electronics, textiles and plastics, and carbon-neutral construction, heating, transport and mobility. Servitization and sharing platforms could bring new operating models and opportunities for residents and also for the SME sector.
In Espoo, we now invite organizations, teams and individuals to participate in a challenge competition to ideate measures to strengthen Espoo’s circular economy using the existing data available at https://www.espoo.fi/fi/espoon-kaupunki/tutkimus-ja-tilastot.
What kind of circular economy functions and measures does the population, urban and economic structure enable? What is the role of the city in promoting the circular economy? What kind of data is needed for circular economy actors to make more effective decisions?
For additional info, see also:
RULES AND IMPLEMENTATION
- Organization: The competition is carried out as part of the Circular Design Network project (Academy of Finland, CircDNet project, WP5). VTT is the competition coordinator, e.g. manages competition materials and proposals, and coordinates the proposal evaluation and events. A contact person has been appointed for questions on general and specific topics, please see below. Challenge sponsors have ideated the content of the challenges.
- Participation: Individuals or teams from different organizations can participate in the challenge competition without restriction by submitting a short description of the concept or idea to the Lyyti system in Finnish, Swedish or English. Teams with participants from different organizations are especially welcome.
- Proposals: The challenge competition organizers are looking for ideas, concepts, operating models, solutions or business models that solve the particular circular economy challenge using data elements in the solution. A successful proposal includes a data element in a key role and takes into account both business and sustainability, technology and regulatory aspects, if feasible and depending on the topic. At the very best, a proposal can have potential for a groundbreaking innovation or a new approach that takes the circular economy to another level.
- 4. Intellectual property (IP) rights and patentable ideas: The idea or proposal belongs to the organization or person who created it, unless he or she agrees otherwise. If an idea or proposal is the result of teamwork, it will be co-owner by the contributors, from the start of the collaboration onwards. If a joint patentable or otherwise inventive (copyright, etc.) concepts is created during the competition, the organizations’ own invention guidelines and the normal rules for joint inventions and development will be followed. We follow the instructions of the Research Ethics Advisory Board, https://www.tenk.fi/sites/tenk.fi/files/TENK_suositus_tekijyys.pdf.
- Presenting and rewarding: Proposals (ideas, solutions, concepts, models, etc.) selected for the second round will be developed by the teams and formulated into about 10 minutes pitch in free form or according to the template by the competition organizers. The results of the work will be pitched at the Circular Innovation Fair on March 17, 2022 in Helsinki (hybrid event / live streaming), for a jury and live / live streaming audience. From each challenge area, a winner will be selected. At least one winner per challenge topic will get to present their proposal in more detail to the challenge sponsor in a one-on-one meeting and may, upon idea feasibility, get the opportunity to further develop the idea together with the challenge sponsor. A challenge sponsor may also include a challenge-specific bonus award for the winner. The winners will also be given the opportunity to pitch their proposal in the ChemBio Fair on March 30, 2022 at Messukeskus, Helsinki.
- Evaluation criteria: the panel consisting of the challenge sponsor and organizer representatives will evaluate the proposals as a whole on the basis of the following criteria (not in order of priority): 1) how comprehensively the solution solves the challenge and how essentially data is part of the solution; 2) novelty and impact; 3) feasibility. Proposed solutions can be early-stage ideas or more mature concepts.
Tip: We aim for data-driven solutions that have the potential to make a significant contribution to the circular economy. Consider building your idea or concept based on circular business models like as-a-service concepts, resource minimization, or sharing platforms, for example!