Finns soft-launch Waste-To-Value Centre in Singapore

On 14 November, initiated by Finnish experts and with support from the Embassy of Finland, a Waste-To-Value Centre was soft-launched in Singapore, with Ms Katri Kulmuni, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Affairs, Finland in attendance.

Marko Kärkkäinen is the brainchild behind the soft-launched Waste-To-Value Centre in Singapore. Photo: Joakim Persson

The Waste-To-Value-Centre was inaugurated in connection with a seminar at Nanyang Technological University, whose Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute, NEWRI, is hosting the new centre.

The Finnish person Marko Kärkkäinen, is the brainchild behind it, heavily supported by Riku Mäkälä, Counsellor, Innovation and Trade of Team Finland in Singapore. The new initiative is in tandem with how Finland is looking to create new value in the use and resource-efficient cycle of products and materials.

“This centre launched at NTU Singapore leads back to the global movement of circular economy and back to our Finnish roadmap to circular economy that we published already a couple of years ago, as the first nation to do so, to become as circular as possible as a nation. Then, a year later, we published in Finland, in a big co-creation project between a lot of stakeholders, also a plastics roadmap on how to avoid plastics waste, how to still use plastics but in a smart way. And then all this leads back to the fact that there are many parts of the world where waste is a huge problem, so waste goes to nature, to landfills, and that’s it,” Riku Mäkälä, introduced the centre to ScandAsia.

“Marko, with 29 years of waste management experience mainly in Asia, got the idea that he cannot sell good waste solutions, waste-to-energy and so on, in Southeast Asia because regulation does not support it. So he started thinking that something has to be done about regulations and the only way to speed up the change of that is to start sorting what does work and what doesn’t, and provide good information, education and knowledge. And that has to be done between the public sector, meaning the regulators; universities and researchers, meaning understanding; and the industry, meaning companies who already have existing solutions – all these players have to come together and start to talk to each other. They have to start piloting things. They have to start writing white papers, obtaining the understanding of different cities and nations and what the local conditions are, what the situation is like right now, what it could be, what it should be and what to do about it,” Riku continued.,

Marko Kärkkäinen in panel debate during SWITCH in Singapore. Photo: Joakim Persson.

As for bringing Nordic Circular Economy expertise to Asean, in terms of solutions and know-how, Marko Kärkkäinen, Head, commented: “The most important thing to know is what is really happening here within the waste management and Circular economy businesses, including what the policies are. And once you know that – and our centre will help that – then you can offer solutions for the local companies or local governments. What fits in Finland, Sweden or Norway does not fit straight away one by one or one to one here in Asia.”

“Resources are being lost into soil, water and air, and this is due to lack of knowledge. And that knowledge we want to bring in; our expertise and our companies’ expertise, and the universities’ research.”

“The idea with the centre is really to collaborate with the key stakeholders out there. We want to work directly with the policy-makers, to make sure that the governments are well equipped and know which the best decisions are and that they can make using the tools that could be available to them,” Director Erik Hertzman explained as the new centre was also introduced in the Nordic Pavilion by the Nordic Innovation House Singapore during SWITCH (Singapore Week of Innovation & Technology).

“We want to produce policy-relevant research, and make sure that anything available to the stakeholders is something that can bring waste to value; something that can not only reduce the cost to society but to actually also bring value back to the people. In order to do this, the centre will provide training, thought leadership and consulting solutions to help to drive through this change.”

“The value proposition the centre provides brings both academic and practical solutions, so it will be based not only on practitioners and what the industry is saying but also something that can be validated through academic research: objective studies that can see how it has been done before and how it can function in the future. In order to do this the centre will design waste management policy papers. It will show which cases studies that have been done in the region, that are directly transferable and relevant; that one can feel is developed specifically for this region,” Erik continued.

Erik Hertzman is Director for the new Waste-To-Value Centre in Singapore. Photo: Joakim Persson.

The centre has established an academic team that involves so far NTU Singapore, NUS (National University of Singapore), Chiang Mai University in Thailand, and LUT University (Lappeenranti-Lahti University of Technology) in Finland.

The home base is with NEWRI, who is at the forefront of driving waste-to-value and waste-to-energy research in the region. “For NUS and from Chiang Mai we are working with the policy departments, who are extremely experienced in deciding, implementing, enhancing, and enforcing policies – on all levels,” presented Erik.

“As immediate action we are looking at development of both downstream and upstream processes in commercialisation of chemical recycling of polymer waste. This is more related to waste plastic, something close to most people’s heart – we want to reduce the plastic that goes out into the sea and the land.”

The first proposed case study will be to develop a a waste management index based on a selection of key Asean cities, with studies of policies, what kind of waste treatment support there is, and the entire waste aspects from production all the way through to collection, transfer, transport, recycling, processing and extraction of waste.

The overall theme at SWITCH 2019 was ‘Urban Solutions and Sustainability’, where Marko Kärkkäinen was also a conference panelist within the topic ‘What a Waste! – What does it take to create a Circular Economy?’

“I see huge opportunity for the Circular Economy but there are always hurdles to climb up – how you scale it up. Why the centre of excellence Waste-To-Value is being set up is because we want to bring together the policy-making, the governments, technology, academies and the business. And it’s not easy because in Southeast there are many different kind of policies even within one country. And somehow we want to involve this process so that we can make Circular Economy scalable.”

More details on the Waste-To-Value Centre will follow in ScandAsia’s Circular Economy Theme in 2020. Stay tuned.

About Joakim Persson

Freelance business and lifestyle photojournalist

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