We fully re-use recyclable glass

Uusioaines Ltd is a pioneer of the circular economy, processing at its Forssa plant some 70 per cent of all recyclable glass collected in Finland. It fully re-uses its raw material. After processing the glass goes into industrial use or, depending on quality, Uusioaines makes foam glass from it. Foam glass is an ecofriendly insulating product and lightweight fill.

Uusioaines is Finland’s first and only cleaning and processing plant for recyclable glass. Some 80,000 tonnes a year of collected glass pass through the plant. The plant’s capacity would be sufficient to clean all the recyclable glass collectable in Finland.

“We collect and recycle packaging glass and plate glass, from which we manufacture cullet, glass powder and foamed glass. The largest supplier of packaging glass is Palpa, a company managing the systems for returning beverage packages. Flat glass comes from glass-handling, glass-cutting and glass-processing businesses,” explains Managing Director Jussi Parkkali.

The circular economy typically functions in chains.

LINKS IN A CHAIN. “The circular economy typically functions in chains, in which companies supplement each other by using each other’s wastes or surpluses. All the links of the chain are important to their common purpose. This can also be seen here in the Forssa region, where companies in the circular economy employ a lot of people,” Parkkali points out.

“Doing good deeds is not a privilege of charitable organisations; companies can also promote sustainable values. Because an activity is profitable doesn’t mean that it’s bad. The development work Uusioaines did is unique and we’ve every reason to be proud of it,” says Parkkali, who became Managing Director of Uusioaines in 2017.

FULL RE-USE. “Many people like to believe that glass recycling is an endless loop, in which used glass is melted and re-used over and over again. This is not, however, completely accurate. About 20 per cent of the glass to be fed into the cleaning process breaks down during collection, transportation and processing and becomes so fine that full cleaning and colour sorting of it is not viable. Uusioaines uses this fine material to manufacture Foamit foam glass aggregate, an earthworks product competing with expanded clay aggregate,” explains Parkkali.

“The manufacture of foam glass and the glass grades for industry supplement each other. We manage to recycle one hundred per cent of the glass we receive,” adds Development Manager Jari Pennanen.

uusioaines
The initial sorting of recycled glass is still a manual process. Jari Pennanen, Janne Tikka and Mikko Anttila were pictured in the sorting room.

“Foamit foam glass is lightweight, non-combustible, frost-resistant and thermally insulating. It has better bearing strength than competing materials, and its high friction coefficient makes it easy to handle. In infrastructure construction, foam glass is ideal as frost-heave insulation as well as a bulk lightening material. In house-building, it is suitable as a filler for floors and roofs and also cellar wall footings,” lists Pennanen.

IMPETUS FOR GROWTH. Last autumn Uusioaines received new owners when the Oulu-based investment company Partnera acquired a 58 per cent holding. Tesi also became an owner of the company by buying a 30 per cent share. With the new owners’ support, Uusioaines intends to continue as a pioneer of the circular economy, as well as to grow and internationalise. Parkkali reports there are a number of growth and development plans in progress. The company will use Foamit as a springboard for internationalisation.

Some 80,000 tonnes a year of collected glass pass through the Uusioaines plant.

“One opportunity is to duplicate our operating model in a European country lacking foam glass manufacturing capacity. We’ve looked at the Netherlands, whose exceptionally strict environmental requirements Foamit already meets. Another option is to expand through acquisitions,” Parkkali explains.

In Finland, Uusioaines envisages growth opportunities with glass sand, as well as with Foamit, because sandblasting with glass sand is safer than with quartz sand. Glass sandblasting is a milder technique than blasting with metal shot or quartz sand, but is more effective than sodablasting.

“We’re also planning our own energy production. There’s nothing to prevent us from gasifying the waste plastics we collect into fuel with which to heat our furnaces,” Pennanen muses.

“Neither is developing new products ruled out, because our value added could be higher,” adds Parkkali.

 

Uusioaines Ltd
  • What it does: Cleans and processes recyclable glass. Also manufactures and sells foam glass, an ecofriendly insulating product and lightweight fill. Receives about 70 per cent of all Finland’s recyclable glass. Exports some 34,000 tonnes of glass a year for the manufacture of recycled glass products. Saint-Gobain produces glass wool from 30,000 tonnes of this. Uusioaines produces foam glass from about 16,000 tonnes of the remainder, but it also imports raw material for foam glass.
  • Where it is: Office in Jokioinen and plants in Forssa, Finland.
  • Net sales: EUR 15 million.
  • Personnel: 33.
  • Owners: Investment company Partnera Oy, Tesi, Jarkir Oy and Jussi Parkkali.
  • Websites: uusioaines.com, foamit.fi

 

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