29.3 Promotion of Material Efficiency through Regional Action

Raimo K. Lilja , Department of Forest Products Technology, Helsinki University of Technology, Mikkeli, Finland



The first National Waste Prevention Programme in Finland was incorporated in the National Waste Plan that was adopted by the Finnish Government on April 10th 2008.    The strategic goals will be disseminated into the field through Regional Waste Plans that are expected to be finalised by 2010 through a participatory process administrated by the Regional Environment Centres.   As part of this exercise a pre-feasibility study was conducted for generating ideas for promotional tools and demonstration projects for Material Efficiency (MEf) or Waste Prevention (WPr) that could be applied on the regional level by public organisations or public-private partnership arrangements.

Screening of regional policy instruments

The project identified 13 potential topics focusing on specific regional or local level policy instruments or focusing on specific material streams or sectors, or on production or consumption.     After prioritisation by the Regional Centres and some modification the following topics were selected for the study in order of preference:

Top priority group:

1.      Minimisation of food waste in retail shops and in consumption

2.      Material efficiency in public procurement

3.      Promotion of reuse, repair and leasing services by municipalities

4.      Material efficiency in environmental permitting

Other potentially feasible themes:

5.      Material efficiency services for industry on the regional level

6.      Use of e-services in promoting material efficiency in public administration

7.      Material efficiency in tourism and recreation services

8.      Promotion of hazardous chemical substitution and efficient use of chemicals in industry

9.      Establishment of regional eco-efficiency information centres

10.    Capacity building for Ecodesign-training

For each of these topics the project screened available information on Finnish experiences or international cases to a limited extent - relevant to the goal.   Three types of promotion approaches were identified:  

a)       Mainstreaming of MEf promotion into public governance processes (such as permitting, public procurement etc.)

b)       Launching of local or regional demonstration or pilot projects

c)       Organising the dissemination of experiences from former demonstration projects into best practices or organisations.

For each topic potentially effective components for regional action plans were drafted and presented to the working groups currently preparing the Regional Waste Plans.   For the top 4 themes more in-depth interviews  were conducted to test some of the action ideas representing one or several of the promotion approaches.   The target was to prepare pilot project ideas for each of the four themes.    The following concepts were proposed for the regional actors to consider.   Additional examples covering some of the other topics are also provided in the presentation.

Minimisation of food waste in retail shops and in consumption

In a previous study the quantity of food waste discarded from all retail shops in Finland was estimated to be 54000 tonnes or 4.15 tonnes per 1 M€ sales value.  Of this amount about 38% was classified according to the directive 1774/2002/EC as animal by-products.    In addition to this, food is wasted in private households and institutional kitchens.  Several elements were proposed for an action plan to prevent food waste. Voluntary agreements could be used to encourage retail chains to set targets to minimise their "end-of-shelf-life waste" and to monitor and publish their progress in reducing their specific waste generation.    A case study is presented of a model for organising the collection and distribution of a proportion of food products before their end of shelf-life.   This model uses a mobile shop-bus to distribute food donated by food retail outlets to disadvantaged individuals or families that have registered with the deacon's office of the local diocese.   The rest of the food that becomes waste could be recovered in waste-to-energy units, as indicated by on-going projects.   An additional element to this proposed demonstration project is the promotion of NGO driven advisory programmes to promote sustainable shopping practices, proper storage and advice on using leftovers in the preparation of new meals in households.  Voluntary environmental management systems should also incorporate waste prevention goals in the case of institutional kitchens.

Material efficiency in public procurement

An action plan for the promotion of Green Public Procurement in Finland was presented in 2008 and a Cabinet decision in principle is expected in 2009.   Environmental management systems are seen as a key instrument in integrating environmental criteria in public procurement management.   An internet-based service and a help desk have been proposed to assist in setting the terms of references.  The special case of MEf criteria was studied in this project. The procurement of product-service systems is particularly challenging.   Material efficiency can be incorporated into the decision making by promoting the use of life-cycle cost calculations and setting criteria for extended life-time, recyclability and reuse.    Radical "factor 4" leaps by purchasing emerging technology could be promoted by new financing arrangements to share the risks for municipal investments.  

Promotion of reuse, repair and leasing services by municipalities

Enhancing reuse and promoting repair networks in member states is required by the EU Waste Directive (2008/98/EC) article 11.    This goal can be combined with the goals of combating unemployment.    Social enterprises can be used as an instrument by bringing these goals together.    The interaction between the municipalities, extended producer's responsibility (EPR) organisations, social enterprises and private sector professionals is the key for sustainable activities.    Eco-services should be recognised in the industrial policy activities of municipalities.   Employment subsidies should be tailored to improve the competitiveness of repair and share services in comparison to the purchase price of similar products. 

Material efficiency in environmental permitting

The project analysed the potential of environmental permitting procedures to incorporate material efficiency targets.   The proposed approach is to develop a best available techniques (BAT) national reference document (BREF) describing the BAT level for a material management system geared to prevent waste.  A analogue to such a guideline is the recently published EU level BREF and the national BREF application for energy efficiency.  The MEf-BREF document would present mainly horizontal techniques for improving material efficiency in industry and in material intensive services.