I spend my days dealing with waste, and nothing could be more exciting, interesting and important,
writes Ismo Kuokkanen, OC PAROC Sustainability Program Lead, Europe.
Waste is often perceived as a problem – something to get rid of, expensive to handle and dispose of. I like to think that waste is not a problem, it is an engineering challenge. With proper motivation and innovative thinking, waste is something that can be utilized, recycled or turned into raw material and new products.
At OC PAROC, I lead a sustainability program called Closing the Loop. In the program, we focus on increasing waste recycling at our factories. We have challenged ourselves to ensure that no production waste leaves our factories by 2030.
To reach that goal, we define the requirements and the technological solutions. Our priority is to identify the waste streams at our factories, focusing on the most significant ones.
Decreasing the moisture percentage of wet waste
I’m currently working with our stone wool factories in Finland, Poland, and Sweden to create technical solutions that will further increase our waste recycling and then implement these solutions.
One example is something we call wet waste. It is a process waste fraction generated in the manufacturing process of stone wool at our factory in Parainen, Finland. This wool waste is wet, heavy and up to 60% of it is moisture. By experimenting and trying different methods – as engineers do – we were able to find a way to decrease the moisture percentage from 40–60% to 10–15%. This decrease reduces both the weight and volume of this waste remarkably and allows us to reuse the water in the process.
Right now, we are experimenting with different possibilities and technical solutions to utilize this processed waste in the manufacturing of new high-quality products. Our goal is to be able to circulate all of it back to the manufacturing process.
This would mean that no wet waste leaves our factories. In fact, there would no longer be such a thing as wet waste.
Expanding opportunities to receive customer waste
In the Closing the Loop program, we do not only focus on recycling our own production waste. We want to focus on a step-by-step expansion of our opportunities to receive customer waste, as well as waste materials from other industries. Since stone wool can be remelted repeatedly, we are also thinking of ways to close the loop and recycle our products at the end of their life.
I feel privileged that I can work on this kind of engineering challenge.
Sustainability Program Lead, Europe