University of Vaasa and VTT lead ambitious partnership to build reusable packaging systems in Finland

The University of Vaasa and VTT have initiated an extensive research project, in collaboration with 21 stakeholder organizations, to pioneer the development of reusable packaging systems in Finland. This initiative, aimed at accelerating packaging reuse, could potentially tap into an export market of 1.45 billion euro by 2035.

Due to the growing consumption of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and food take-away, the demand for single-use packaging has increased, leading to global waste management challenges. According to Eurostat, between 2009 and 2020, the total quantity of packaging waste generated in the EU rose by 20%, now 80 million tons and 178 kg per EU citizen.  Without a drastic change, the amount of packaging waste will increase by a further 19% by the year 2030.

The thirty-month co-innovation research project named Reusify is mainly funded by Business Finland. It aims to develop reusable packaging systems and help reduce the use of packaging materials, fossil-based materials for packaging, and packaging waste. The total budget of the project is roughly 2 million euro. Thanks to this initiative, Finnish companies in all key sectors could potentially reach an export market of 1.45 billion euro by 2035.

"The transition from single-use to reuse in packaging is a major shift toward a circular economy. It demands a systemic, multi-level perspective on business practices that is only possible with a robust partnership model that engages the entire value chain, from package producers to logistics, retail, maintaining packages and waste management," says Ali Harlin, VTT’s research professor.

The consortium brings together major players such as Finland's leading retail giants S Group and K Group, plastic companies Borealis and Orthex, waste management and treatment specialist organisations such as Lassila & Tikanoja and, for example, food and multiservice company Compass Group Finland (see list of all the partners below).

"The research will explore various reuse dimensions, including the ecosystems and business models of reuse, the design of reuse systems, circular packaging solutions, and the sustainability scenarios and trade-offs. Additionally, we will analyse consumer experience and acceptance," says Senior Researcher Kyösti Pennanen from the University of Vaasa. 

The research project is not just about developing reusable packaging systems. It's about creating new competence and export potential for a wide range of Finnish industry actors.  From packaging raw materials and packaging itself to tracking, machinery, logistics, cleaning, filling, labeling, and software solutions.

"The project fits perfectly with the expertise profile of the Marketing and Consumer Research group at the University of Vaasa, particularly our strength in producing business concepts based on consumer understanding within business networks. We have had positive experiences with similar circular economy projects, especially regarding the sustainability of product packaging. Therefore, it is great to deepen this expertise and generate new knowledge to meet the development needs of society and businesses," says Professor Hannu Makkonen, the project leader at the University of Vaasa.

The Reusify project interlinks to Borealis SPIRIT Veturi-program. It also has six parallel projects that examine the critical components of the future value chain for a reusable packaging system in Finland. 

Reusify project funding and contributing companies and organisations:

  • Berner Oy
  • Borealis Polymers Oy
  • Cajo Technologies Oy
  • Compass Group Finland Oy
  • Finnish Food and Drink Industries’ Federation ETL
  • Kamu Collective Oy
  • K Group
  • Kiilto Oy
  • Lassila & Tikanoja Environmental services
  • The Finnish Hospitality Association MaRa
  • Muovipoli Oy
  • Oy Orthex Finland Ab
  • The Finnish Grocery Trade Association PTY
  • Finnish Packaging Recycling RINKI Ltd
  • Smart Set Oy
  • S Group
  • Producer responsibility organisation Sumi Oy
  • Oy Tomra Ab
  • Transbox Oy
  • UPC Konsultointi Oy
  • UPM Raflatac Oy
  • University of Vaasa
  • VTT
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