Circular economy is a current theme globally, and its potential is enormous. The global circular economy markets are estimated to be worth over €800 billion and for Finland, the estimated growth potential from circular economy is estimated to be somewhere between €1,5–3,5 billion.1

The European Commission has established a common EU framework to promote the circular economy, called “Towards a circular economy: a zero waste programme for Europe”. EU aims to boost recycling, prevent the loss of valuable materials, and show how new business models, eco-design and industrial symbiosis can move us towards a zero-waste Europe. European Commission estimates that better eco-design, waste prevention and re-use can bring net savings for EU businesses of up to €600 billion.2

In addition to the framework to promote the circular economy, the European Commission has also adopted legislative proposal to review recycling and other waste-related targets in the EU. With the proposal, the EU aims to improve waste management practices, stimulate innovation in recycling, limit the use of landfilling, and create incentives to change consumer behavior. The proposal aims, for example, to increase recycling/re-use of municipal waste to 70% and packaging waste to 80% by 2030.

For Finland, the targets are challenging but not impossible. Firstly, Finland has been a pioneer in solutions related to energy and material efficiency for a long time. Transitioning to a circular economy requires life-cycle thinking to look at all stages of a product’s life to find out where improvements can be made to reduce environmental impacts and the use of resources. Secondly, the interest towards circular economy solutions such as recycling, raw material recovery and waste handling, has been increased significantly among companies.

Forerunners can benefit and achieve competitive advantage from the circular economy by developing innovative solutions to the growing global waste problem, and finding new ways of turning waste and side streams into added value products and new business.

1 Sitra (2014). Kiertotalouden mahdollisuudet Suomelle. Available:



One major challenge in waste business is that the handling, management and processing of waste comes at a financial and environmental cost. Whether it’s household or industrial waste, it must be collected, sorted and transported before being treated which can be expensive and result in greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. Green Growth programme is funding projects in this area that are developing new, innovative ways of processing, sorting and managing waste.

Examples of Green Growth enterprise projects

BMH Technology develops waste processing

BMH Technology’s idea is to develop new technologies for bioenergy waste handling and recycling for waste management companies, power plants, and cement factories worldwide. BMH Technology is looking for new growth from areas such as the Chinese Waste-to-Energy market.

“The Green Growth programme and Tekes funding made it possible to take a significantly bigger risk in the launching of the development programme compared with our previous ways of operating and taking risks.”

Hannu Lepomäki

Vice President, Technology,
BMH Technology Oy

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BMH Technology’s Green Growth project: BMH Strategy Booster

Enevo brings intelligence to waste management and cuts costs

Enevo’s idea is to develop service concepts in waste collection based on wireless sensing devices on containers, which allow for the reduction of emissions and savings in costs. Enevo is ready for a leap of growth onto the international market. The technology can bring a global upheaval in the waste collection field reducing costs by 30 percent.

“Cooperation with Tekes has functioned very well. From the first meeting I felt that the people at Tekes understood our concept and saw us as important clients. The cooperation gives us credibility in the eyes of clients and investors.”

Fredrik Kekäläinen

CEO, Enevo Oy

ZenRobotics introduces robotics to waste sorting

ZenRobotics’ idea is to utilise artificial intelligence and robotics technology in waste treatment systems. ZenRobotics Recycler, a robotics-based recycling system, recognises and picks out recyclable materials out of construction and demolition waste. It brings the efficiency of process automation into waste processing.

“Tekes support has had a decisive role in the product development of Zen Robotics from the outset. Sustained support from Tekes in all of its different forms has made our success possible.”

Harri Valpola
Principal Scientist, ZenRobotics Ltd

ZenRobotics’ Green Growth project: E!7897 ROBER – ROBotic End of life vehicle Recycler


Green growth stems from the need to meet environmental challenges in an economically sustainable way. In Green Growth programme, there is currently many significant research and development projects ongoing related to the utilisation of ash and slag from industry and waste incineration as value added products.

Examples of Green Growth enterprise projects

Ekokem – new business out of ash

Ekokem’s idea is to new processes for handling and utilising ash and cinders, thereby reducing the amount of waste going to a landfill. In Finland about 1.5 million tons of ash is produced through energy production each year. With the innovation, producers of ash can find sustainable uses and new business activities out of ash.

“The project for making new business out of ash (TUULI) is being implemented as a parallel project to the GEOPO project of the University of Oulu. Funding for the project from the Tekes Green Growth programme is a prerequisite for the project’s success.”

Anne Marttila
Research Engineer, Ekokem

Read More:

Ekokem’s Green Growth project: Sustainable utilization of ash, slag and pyrolysis residuals

Jyväskylä Energy Group develops waste power plant flows

Jyväskylä Energy’s idea is to develop a process in which valuable raw materials can be isolated from the waste flows of bioenergy power plants (fly ash). In addition to increasing the degree of recycling, the process reduces the dependency on imports of the raw materials from abroad. The innovation has great potential for growth – after biological power plants, there are plans to expand to coal-fired plants, plants that process waste from electronics, as well as waste incinerators.

“Tekes and the Green Growth programme have made it possible to move the project forward to the extent and within the timetable that was planned. Without the funding the advancement would have been slower and more modest.”

Risto Ryymin
Development Director, Jyväskylä Energia Group

Jyväskylä Energia’s Green Growth project: Crude material from ashes to industry

CrisolteQ makes use of industrial side streams

CrisolteQ’s idea is to promote resource efficiency by developing chemical methods based on the company’s own research. With their help it is possible to recover valuable metals from industrial side streams. Valuable constituent parts which previously ended up in landfills with the waste flows of industry can be put to practical use. Metals suitable for recycling include cobalt, rhenium, and nickel.

“Tekes has had a major role when CrisolteQ has developed an industrial-scale facility from its innovation. Next year the company will begin the further refinement of materials into end-products in industrial symbiosis with the Kemira plant in Harjavalta.”

Kenneth Ekman
CEO, CrisolteQ Oy


Much of the waste we throw away in landfills can be recycled and re-used. Recycling and re-using reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, and the amount of material needed from the natural environment. Tekes Green Growth programme helps to seek out innovations that have a significant impact on the environment. Many companies in this area have noticed that the waste sent to the landfills can be recycled into raw materials for use in added value products.

Examples of Green Growth enterprise projects

Destamatic: Re-using construction waste

Destamatic Oy has developed a completely new product innovation in the field of construction waste. This innovation is based on a re-composite material generated from recycled products. The innovation represents Finnish bio-expertise at its best. Funding for the development work came from Tekes’ Green Growth programme.

“The DestaClean concept allows us to create refined reconstituted raw materials from construction waste. We then use these in the development of the kinds of environmentally-friendly, recycled products needed in the construction sector”

Kimmo Rinne
Chief Technology Officer

Read More:

Results and impact: Destamatic: Re-using construction waste

Tekniikka & Talous, 10.10.2014: Puukivi sisältää kierrätyspuuta

Uusiouutiset 7/2014: Puujätteestä pihakiveksi

Suomen Erityisjäte recycles cinders from waste incineration

Suomen Erityisjäte utilises the mineral material from the handling of cinders that result from the incineration of waste in earth construction, and to examine other possible uses. Waste incineration is growing significantly and now cinders that previously were not utilised can be re-used. Suomen Erityisjäte wants to turn the processing of cinders into an important part of its business.

“The project and sufficiently extensive studies of the mineral material were made possible by Tekes funding. Without the funding no research would have been possible. And without the research, advancing the utilisation would not have been possible.”

Riina Rantsi
Chief Development Officer,
Suomen Erityisjäte Ltd.

Read More:

Uudella tekniikalla pohjakuonan käsittelyyn (article in Grouppari magazine, 2013)

Suomen Erityisjäte’s Green Growth project: The utilization and commodification of bottom ash from waste incineration plants


Industrial ecology can be understood as a field that systematically examines local, regional and global materials and energy uses and flows in products, processes, industrial sectors and economies. It is mainly concerned about reducing environmental load throughout the product life cycle, all the way from extraction of raw materials to the production and use of goods, and to the management of wastes.

Examples of Green Growth research projects

Environmentally friendly materials from ash and slag

The target of GEOPO project is to develop methods for immobilization of hazardous ash and slag fractions by using synthetic aluminosilicates as a binding material. The research in this study will be focused on understanding the phenomena that are responsible for structural properties of produced synthetic aluminosilicates and their ability to stabilize hazardous components. The work includes development of different binding materials and different encapsulation methods as well as analysing of product technical and environmental quality.

Read More:

University of Oulu’s Green Growth project: Stabilization of hazardous ashes in inorganic polymeric materials, GEOPO

Uncovering landfills’ material potential

The key idea behind KAIVANTO project is to understand the existing recovery potential in landfills in terms of raw materials, and to evaluate technologies for utilization of these materials with regard to applicability and development needs. In order to evaluate the potentials for utilisation of this waste, more information is needed regarding the properties and material capacity of this landfilled waste. In addition, the project aims at examining whether Finnish companies can find new business opportunities within the field of landfill mining.

Read More:

VTT’s Green Growth project: Landfill mining


One of the activities in the Green Growth programme has been bringing together the green growth community in Finland to share ideas, learn from other and find new partners. During the programme, we have been organizing large seminars of over 600 participants from Finland and abroad, small thematic workshops offering concrete help to companies, and delegation visits to countries that are leading the transition to a sustainable economy. All our events are need-oriented and have been a valuable resource to get the latest information and results.

List of all events organized by the Green Growth programme and the related materials can be found from this link.

Effective communication

In addition to technical and economic competitiveness, it is important to raise public awareness of sustainable solutions to get the relevant target audiences interested in your work and results. In addition to the general public, these audiences include industry and business people, public and private decision makers, investors, funding authorities, professional groups and researchers. Communicating and distributing information might start new interesting collaboration projects, and also help to show the concrete impacts of public research, development and innovation funding.

Green Growth programme has actively engaged in bringing the most interesting and significant results available through various media channels. Continuous collaboration and exchange of information with the media has resulted in press releases, articles, editorials, company success stories, research results and the creation of green growth community. In addition, the monthly Green Growth newsletter (over 2500 subscriptions), news and current events in Green Growth website, and event materials disseminated through the website have been pivotal in the communication activities.

All our presentation materials, media coverage, articles, editorials and event materials can be found from this link.

Transition to a circular economy

The European Union produces up to 3 billion tonnes of waste every year. The amount of waste we are producing is increasing and it is having a huge impact on our environment, causing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as significant losses of materials. The linear economy, which relies on resource extraction and placing waste in landfills is no longer a viable option.

A transition to a circular economy means that we must and shift our focus to reusing and recycling existing materials and products. What used to be regarded as waste can be turned into a resource. This transition can create new markets responding to shifts in consumption patterns away from traditional ownership towards using, reusing and sharing products.

Making money out of waste
Developing processes and technologies to capture valuable raw materials from waste flows and industrial side streams creates new business.
Smart solutions for waste handling, waste management and recycling helps the environment and saves money.
An increasingly large proportion of today’s waste is being seen as raw material which is being utilized in added value products.

Green Growth programme is funding research projects that are evaluating the existing material potential in landfills, supporting a transition towards sustainable nutrient management, and finding concepts and networking models that have a potential to create a major shift towards dematerialization in industrial production.

Green Growth programme engages in close cooperation with key partners in the area of sustainable economy. Our focused events, ranging from small thematic workshops and large seminars to excursions abroad, have served the community of companies, researchers and other experts to foster networking, collaboration and learning from each other.
Through effective communication, Green Growth programme has created a Green Growth community, gathered and forwarded strategic forecasting information, activated companies to grasp the global business opportunities offered by the sustainable economy, and communicated the latest results and achievements to key stakeholders and the general public.