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A dumpster full of plastic for recycling collected on Ämpäristöteko day

Published on 12.6.2023
Tampere University
A dumpster almost full of hard plastic rubbish.
The Finnish Plastics Industries Federation organized an Ämpäristöteko event for World Environment Day on Monday, the 5th of June. Hard plastic was collected from consumers for recycling around the entire country. Tampere University took part in the event for the first time ever.

In the nationwide event, the collected plastic is recycled and returned to the plastic industry as new raw materials. The recycled plastic can be used in place of fossil materials. 

In 2019 the event collected nearly 21 000 kilos of hard plastics around the country for recycling. After the pandemic, the Ämpäristöteko event was organized on a slightly smaller scale last year, yet nearly 11 000 kilos of hard plastics were collected. 

During this year’s Ämpäristöteko event, a dumpster was brought to the Hervanta campus, and the members of the community as well as the citizens of Tampere had a chance to bring their hard plastic items to be recycled. After the windy yet sunny day, almost a full dumpster of plastic had been collected. Around the Tampere city area, Tampere University was the only one to take part in organizing the Ämpäristöteko event. 

- I think the most important thing with events such as these is to awaken discussion and thoughts in society about circular economy, the importance of consumption, and how to affect them. Circular economy is one of the most important tools in managing the climate crisis, and consumption, or rather, reducing it, is the most important one. Small conversations about these things were born with the people bringing their plastics to be recycled during the day. This also produced discourse in the work community, associate professor Essi Sarlin says. 

According to sustainable development specialist Matias Nurminen, a lot of people in the Tampere Universities community took part in the event. The partner companies in the Hervanta campus as well as the local media were reached out to spread the word about the event. 

- This was a great one for a first try, even though there is a lot to learn and develop for next year, if and when we’ll take part again! Our University is pleased to be part of events such as this, but our plastic researchers’ initiative and activity definitely got us to get down to business, Nurminen says. 

The active personnel of Material Science behind the event 

Most of the volunteers taking part in organizing the event were faculty members and researchers from different research groups in Materials Science. Sarlin’s research group of Plastics and Elastomer Technology researches different kinds of polymer and elastomer-based materials, such as plastic, rubber, and their composites. The reasons for the importance of this kind of research often lie in sustainability and its challenges. 

- The importance of recycling plastic can be summarized in the same things as recycling any other kind of material: it reduces the need for virgin materials. The special characteristic of plastic is that it is used a lot, especially in short-living items. The target of this campaign was plastic items that last longer, and that don’t have a proper recycling system in Finland yet. With the current consumption habits, non-packaging plastic materials such as hard plastic are consumed in massive quantities, and we should take note of the cycle of the materials in them, Sarlin reminds. 

Text and photo: Teija Ruoho