Circular economy

As stated in Helsinki City Strategy for 2017–2021, the City’s goal is to implement emission reductions and circular economy projects in Helsinki in cooperation with the corporate world and residents. The Carbon-neutral Helsinki 2035 action plan features around twenty procedures concerning circular economy. One of them is the creation of a circular and sharing economy roadmap. Based on the kick off event held in the spring of 2019, four themes were selected for the roadmap: construction, procurements, green waste, and sharing economy and the new business opportunities of circular economy. Workshops were held for each theme and used as a basis for creating the procedures of the roadmap. The Urban Environment Committee approved the roadmap in May 2020.

Helsinki took part in the EIT Climate-KIC Circular Cities project, the objective of which was to expedite the introduction of circular economy as part of cities’ processes. A report was published based on the work package led by Helsinki. Among other things, the report identifies potential bottlenecks in including circular economy solutions in construction procurements and proposes solutions to them. The report also contains a case catalogue that lists construction projects following the principles of circular economy across Europe. The implementation schedule for the project was from May 2018 to December 2019. Awareness of the significance of circular economy in attaining the City’s climate goals has clearly increased over the course of 2019. This is especially evident in the construction sector, in which the City has utilised different methods to find ways to promote circular economy in procurements such as those related to construction. In the autumn of 2019, Helsinki joined the working group for circular economy in construction established by the European Commission. The operating term of the group is one year, and its goal is to share information and experiences concerning circular economy projects and influence the promotion of circular economy in construction.

In 2019, the City was involved in piloting the demolition charting method of the Ministry of the Environment in one demolition project and began creating demolition instructions that take circular economy into account. Additionally, Helsinki is involved in the HYPPY project coordinated by Green Net Finland. The objective of the project is to develop and provide the municipalities involved with operating models aimed at better circulation of the construction and demolition materials of demolition or renovation construction sites. The duration of the project will be from September 2019 to January 2022.

Kalasatama is one of the largest new areas being built in Helsinki, and construction is expected to last until the late 2030s.
Kalasatama is one of the largest new areas being built in Helsinki, and construction is expected to last until the late 2030s.

Efforts are made to improve the recycling of furnishings and materials within the City organisation as well. The Tavarat kiertoon recycling system ( was introduced in late 2019. The system enables users to examine the property and materials recycled within the city.

In September 2019, the Urban Environment Committee approved the principles of utilising excavated soil, rock materials and demolition materials created by the City’s soil working group, as well as an action plan for implementing the aforementioned. The principles will guide, clarify and unify the City’s operations, while the action plan is aimed at improving the Urban Environment Division’s key processes in accordance with the objectives.

In 2019, a total of 1,869,603 tonnes of excavated earth mass and rock material was used in the construction of public areas. Thanks to reusing, ca. 11.3 million euros and 1,560,000 litres of fuel were saved and emissions were reduced by 3,689 t CO2e. The City has seven temporary recycling sites where crushed rock, excavated earth, demolition materials and contaminated soil are temporarily stored and processed in accordance with environmental permits.

Helsinki has issued instructions for using recycled soil for seedbeds, which are followed in park and green construction.

More effective reusing of various biomass flows has been identified as a significant theme in Helsinki when aiming at carbon-neutrality. In the autumn of 2019, a survey was conducted on the quality and volumes of green waste generated from the maintenance of public areas. The survey also examined the current processing processes for different green waste fractions and identified alternative methods with which transport operations could be optimised and the benefits obtained from materials improved.

Helsinki is involved in the Circ Vol project coordinated by Turku Science Park. The objective of the project is to promote business activities that follow the principles of circular economy and the utilisation of land masses and large-volume industrial effluents. The duration of the project will be from August 2018 to December 2020. In Helsinki’s sub-implementation, the City creates a path for the realisation of an industrial-scale integrated bioeconomy undertaking. An extensive placement and service need survey concerning bioeconomy and circular economy businesses, as well as a regional biomass survey, were conducted in 2019. The results of the surveys were presented and refined at an event held for businesses in December 2019.

The City of Helsinki Service Centre is making active efforts to reduce food waste. Over the course of 2019, the City of Helsinki Service Centre was involved in the Lukeloki pilot organised by Natural Resources Institute Finland, the objective of which was to survey the amount of food waste generated at serving lines. 2019 also saw the launch of the IoT–Älyvaaka development project, which measures the amount of lunch leftovers at schools, utilising smart technology. Additionally, the City of Helsinki Service Centre took part in the demand monitoring data visualisation project coordinated by the Economic Development Division of the City Executive Office.

Some of the City of Helsinki Service Centre’s locations sell take-away leftover food from the serving line after the meal time has ended. Additionally, a few locations have introduced the Lunchie mobile application in their leftover food sales. In late 2019, the Service Centre organised a campaign with the goal of activating the sales of leftover food from serving lines.

From the autumn of 2018 to the spring of 2019, the Service Centre was involved in the Urban Food change project, the goal of which was to combine the supply of and demand for food waste with digital platforms and services. The pilotwas carried out at Etu-Töölö Upper Secondary School, where leftover lunch food was sold at an affordable price to a previously agreed upon target group through an application.

In 2019, efforts were also made to develop waste management, as the service properties administrated by the City began having waste surveys conducted with the help of eco-supporters. In 2018 and 2019, Heka Oy introduced plastic container collection bins at almost all of its apartment buildings. Due to the residents’ increasing enthusiasm for waste sorting, the calculated amount of mixed waste produced by residents in 2019 decreased by more than 1,500 tonnes when compared to 2018. 

Eyes on the future:

The greatest circular economy opportunities in Helsinki are in construction, sharing economy, procurements and sustainable biological cycles. The circular economy aspect must be taken into account when planning areas. These themes are also delved into in aspects such as the circular and sharing economy roadmap, which is expected to be launched in the spring of 2020. The map is designed to establish circular economy thinking more strongly in the City’s key functions.

Clarifying the shared goals and increasing circular economy know-how require active training of and interaction among the City’s staff. Globally, a lot is happening in circular economy. This is why efforts should be made to promote and incorporate networking and information provision at the local, regional and national levels alike.