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Story | 07/17/2017 11:18:00

Zero Solid Waste project continues – No more solid waste to landfills from UPM Plywood and UPM Timber in Finland

UPM Plywood and UPM Timber in Finland are the first businesses to have reached the tight recycling target set by the Zero Solid Waste project. The company aims to send zero waste to landfill operations globally by 2030.

The amount of solid waste is decreasing and waste is utilised more and more efficiently at all of UPM’s mills. However, operations vary in different businesses and units, so reaching the zero solid waste to landfill status is more challenging to some and easier to others. How do UPM Plywood and UPM Timber manage to recycle all waste components generated in their production process?

UPM Plywood: careful waste sorting and joint projects

UPM Plywood’s production process does not generate process waste or difficult waste components. Reaching the target of the Zero Solid Waste to landfill project was a result of consistent efforts.

“What we needed was an attitude change: this is how things will be done from now on. Landfill waste containers have disappeared from our sites, and only a few of them have industrial waste containers,” says Sanna Kontinen, Manager, Environmental Affairs.

In plywood production, the waste is mainly moist, sandy bark waste that gathers at the bottom of soaking ponds, as well as other sandy wood waste. To find further uses and new applications for this type of waste, UPM Plywood has started various collaboration projects.

“With the Finnish expert organisation Pro Agria, we are testing the usage of sandy bark waste in arable land cultivation, as a soil conditioner that loosens condensed arable land. With South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences (XAMK) we are investigating how sand could be taken off the bark for new applications. In addition, three farmers have taken bark to their fields. In the town of Joensuu, the moist bark waste goes to Kekkilä, the Nordic market leader for gardening and landscaping products,” Kontinen says.

Forest trail construction and fertilising are new end use areas for ash. In addition to wood waste, UPM Plywood’s processes generate industrial waste, energy waste, paper, cardboard and metal waste. Previously, industrial waste was collected in landfill waste containers, and waste that could have been sorted and utilised often ended up in the containers. Now there are no landfill waste containers at the mills, and only a few sites collect industrial waste such as grinding belts, PVC gloves or other waste that is unsuitable for making recycled fuel.

All waste is meticulously sorted for the best possible environmental and financial benefits.

“Applications for recycling are continuously increasing, and plastic sorting in Joensuu is a good example: clear plastic packaging material is collected separately, and the local waste management company picks it up without charge,” says Kontinen.

Industrial waste is burnt in waste-to-energy heat and power plants. Energy waste is utilised in making recycled fuel, after metal separation and crushing.

UPM Timber: Korkeakoski power plant resolved the problem of stony bark

The main waste fractions at UPM Timber are wood-based waste and plastic, e.g. plastic packaging materials and plastic rims. Wood-based waste consists of bark, spreading particles and plank pieces. Bark is crushed and either used in UPM’s power plant in Korkeakoski or sold to an external power plant from which UPM buys heat. Spreading particles and plank pieces go directly to the power plant or they are piled for crushing. All piled wood-based waste is crushed once a summer.

UPM’s power plant in Korkeakoski has facilitated recycling significantly.

“A common problem for sawmills is the stony bark we get from the field and underneath log intake manifolds. Traditionally, it was driven to a field corner, and from there it travelled to landfills, landscaping or greater power plants. For sawmills, the waste used to cause significant costs. Five years ago, we invested in Korkeakoski power plant, where we can burn all waste wood without crushing. The power plant takes in all decks, log pieces and even head-size stones, which is a very positive thing,” says Mika Lampola, Project Manager, Maintenance, UPM Timber.

The company uses all ash generated in the power plant in its own earthwork.

In addition to wood-based waste and plastics, UPM Timber sawmills generate mixed waste and construction waste such as concrete, wools and metals. They are recycled by UPM’s waste management partners.

According to Lampola, UPM Timber’s personnel has adopted the new, more accurate sorting style well. “We have organised training and waste sorting tests for everyone. One year, we missed the test – and the prize – so people started to ask around for it,” he says.

Sorting is not difficult, but some may still think that small amounts don’t matter.

“It is important for everyone to understand why every little can must be sorted right. When as many waste fractions as possible are either used as raw materials or sorted correctly, it helps us and our partners alike,” Lampola says.

Read more

UPM pursues Zero Solid Waste to landfill status by 2030

Enhancing the utilisation degree of sludge by improving fuel value and mapping out new applications

Wood-based side streams efficiently utilised in energy production at UPM

The moist green liquor dregs are a recycling challenge

The best way of disposing mixed waste is minimising its production

UPM and circular economy


Saara Pakarinen