Aihearkisto: Articles in English

Improving the Economy of Universities of Applied Sciences using Artificial Intelligence

Finnish economy has been suffering for almost a decade now, and the field of education has also had to participate in the required savings of public resources. Focusing the reduced resources efficiently on targets and activities that best improve the measured results has become essential. Applications of artificial intelligence could help in identifying these targets and activities.

Author: Antti Salopuro

Battlefield of Universities of Applied Sciences

For the Finnish universities of applied sciences (UAS), the prolonged depression has caused a reduction of public funding by 22% (Arene 2018). In the current UAS funding model, 85% of the total funding depends on the UAS performance in educational measures such as number of degrees granted and progress of the studies (Opetushallitus 2014). The UASs have thus had to focus on making the students proceed faster with their studies and eventually graduate in higher numbers. As the motivation and capabilities of a student are important in enabling a successful study path on a personal level, a successful assessment of these measures and using them as criteria in student selection could be an asset for any UAS. Equally, identifying the students that most probably will have difficulties with their studies at an early stage could help in targeting supportive activities to correct individuals.

Improving selection of students

A successful match of students with different study programs has always had an impact, not only on UASs, but also on the success of the whole nation, and, therefore, it has been a topic of research. Rantanen (2001) identified this being a difficult problem in general, and specifically for Finnish UASs. The power of the entrance test in forecasting study success was found to be much poorer than previously assumed. In his follow-up research, Rantanen (2004) created stepwise regression models to explain success in studies with all information available at the time of applying to a UAS. In general, the average grade of the high school final certificate was found to be the most significant single factor (r2 = 0.18) in explaining the success. Also, matriculation exam grades were found to correlate to success in studies more significantly than the entrance exam scores. One impact of this can be seen in the methodology of the future application process of UASs. Starting in 2020, the principle of student selection will mainly be based on the grades of the certificate of the applicants from the previous education (Opintopolku 2018). The admission score of an individual applicant will be calculated as a weighted sum of a set of grades, which is both a practical and a transparent method. The weights applied are the same in almost all programs with only a few exceptions.

This new approach of student selection is thus even more straightforward and simpler than the current one and no longer allows individual UASs or their programs to decide on the criteria independently. But could a better solution for building such scoring models be found by applying artificial intelligence (AI) and by, again, acknowledging the requirements of the study program? Kabakchieva (2013) experimented with six different classifiers to model the university performance (output) of a set of Bulgarian students using some pre-university data (input). In addition to the secondary school final grades and entrance test scores , some background information such as the place and profile of the pre-university education was also used as input data. In general, the applied classifiers were able to predict with an accuracy of 60% or more only on three levels (1, 3 and 4) of the five-level scale. The classification of the students falling in either ‘average’ (2) or ‘excellent’ (5) classes were identified poorly, with accuracies of less than 10%. On the other hand, the ability to identify students that would finally perform the weakest were identified with an accuracy of 80%. It is exactly this kind of ability that would be helpful for a UAS to filter out the worst performing students from the group of applicants.

Identifying students in need of help

While the renewal of the entrance criteria, again, will most likely not be possible in the near future, another question could be made if there were any ways to make it easier for a UAS to identify the students that managed their ways into a program but have a high risk of being left behind or even drop out of the studies? This would allow, already in an early stage, focusing the limited student counselor resources on students for those it would be the most helpful. Huang and Fang (2013) studied the ability of four different methods, each considered to be an elementary part of the standard AI toolkit, to predict the student performance in the final exam of an engineering dynamics course. Six combinations of a set of input variables, consisting of the total sum of grade points collected so far and grades of seven previously studied courses, were applied. The results were promising: for the 24 different models (combinations of the methods and the variables) assessed, the authors report a minimum average prediction accuracy of 86.5%. This implies that even with a simple method (e.g. linear regression) and a single predictor (e.g. grade of single previous course) it is possible to foresee student success in a future exam accurately.

A natural follow up to the works referenced above would be to combine the prediction power of the pre-university grades with that of the university course grades in seeking for a better prediction of the university graduation performance. Asif, Merceron and Pathan (2015) have done exactly this: in addition to the pre-university grades (as in Rantanen 2001 and 2004), some marks from the first two years in the university were also included in the set of predictor variables as they predicted the overall success of students in the university level studies. The study applied two separate datasets, both consisting of data from two subsequent academic years (four full years covered), thus simulating a real life situation where the data of the previous year is used to build a model to forecast the performance of the following year. Splitting the data (N = 347) into four subsets has, however, resulted in relatively small sizes of both the predictor and the test data sets. This has, very likely, reduced the predictive power of the models created. Despite this, the paper reports some sufficiently high precision values, especially with respect to the use case of identifying the students that would best benefit from specific supportive activities. The students whose final grade would most likely be one of the two lowest (D or E) are, at best, identified with an accuracy of 89.5%. The best performances are achieved with models applying a decision tree with different hyperparameters. The study concludes that including both pre- and past-admission marks improves the prediction power of the graduation level grades significantly compared to cases where only one of these is used as a predictor.

Conclusions

From these few referenced examples it is possible to conclude that applying statistical models and artificial intelligence has potential in helping to recognize the applicants that most probably do not have the capabilities required for graduation and especially the students with the highest need for an intervention by a study counselor. Not selecting applicants that have a high risk of not ever finishing the degree would -even if it meant groups of program students being smaller- benefit all stakeholders. It would leave more resources to be targeted on students with good enough acquirements which would serve both students and teaching personnel. Accurate identification of students in most need of help would allow focusing the supportive resources such that it optimally improves the graduation rate and thus the most important measured result of UASs. Therefore, both these applications of AI would further help the Finnish UASs to manage themselves in the world with less public funding.

References

Arene.  2018. Osaaminen ja työllisyys kasvu-uralle – Amk-rahoitus kuntoon. [Cited 20 Oct 2018]. Available at: http://www.arene.fi/uutiset/osaaminen-ja-tyollisyys-kasvu-uralle-ammattikorkeakoulujen-rahoitus-kuntoon/

Asif, R., Merceron, A. & Pathan, M. K. 2015. Predicting Student Academic Performance at Degree Level: A Case Study. I.J. Intelligent Systems and Applications.  Vol. 7 (1), 49 – 61. [Cited 20 Oct 2018]. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287718318_Predicting_Student_Academic_Performance_at_Degree_Level_A_Case_Study

Huang, S. & Fang, N. 2013. Predicting student academic performance in an engineering dynamics course: A comparison of four types of predictive mathematical models. Computer and Education. Vol. 61, 133-145. [Cited 20 Oct 2018]. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131512002102

Kabakchieva, D. 2013. Predicting Student Performance by Using Data Mining. Cybernetics and Information Technologies. Vol. 13 (1), 61 – 72. [Cited 20 Oct 2018]. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/269475545_Predicting_Student_Performance_by_Using_Data_Mining_Methods_for_Classification

Opetushallitus. 2014. Yksikköhinnat vuodelle 2014. [Cited 20 Oct 2018]. Available at: http://www02.oph.fi/asiakkaat/rahoitus/rahjulk14/09_ammattikorkeakoulut.pdf

Opintopolku. 2018. Mikä korkeakoulujen opiskelijavalinnoissa muuttuu vuoteen 2020 mennessä? [Cited 20 Oct 2018]. Available at: https://opintopolku.fi/wp/opo/korkeakoulujen-haku/mika-korkeakoulujen-opiskelijavalinnoissa-muuttuu-vuoteen-2020-menessa/

Rantanen, P. 2001. Valintakoe vai ei? Ammatillisen Koulutuksen ja ammattikorkeakoulujen opiskelijavalinnan tarkastelua. Helsinki: Opetusministeriö. Koulutus ja tiedepolitiikan osaston julkaisusarja, 83.

Rantanen, P. 2004. Valinnasta työelämään. Ammatillisen koulutuksen ja ammattikorkeakoulujen opiskelijavalinnan tarkastelua. Helsinki: Opetusministeriö. Opetusministeriön julkaisuja 2004:19.[Cited 20 Oct 2018]. Available at: http://julkaisut.valtioneuvosto.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/80386/opm19.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Author

Antti Salopuro is Senior Lecturer of Business Information Technology at Lahti University of Applied Sciences, private practitioner at Tietokutomo and student of Data Sciences at University of Helsinki. He believes that using natural wisdom could sometimes protect against problems that can be solved using artificial intelligence.

Illustration: https://www.pexels.com/photo/accomplishment-ceremony-education-graduation-267885/ (CC0)

Published 22.10.2018

Reference to this publication

Salopuro, A. 2018. Improving the Economy of Universities of Applied Sciences using Artificial Intelligence. LAMK Pro. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2018/10/22/improving-the-economy-of-universities-of-applied-sciences-using-artificial-intelligence/

IWAMA – Capacity Development Activities

The wastewater treatment sector is under the challenge that are caused not only the global drivers (e.g., urbanization, climate change, aging population), but also the rapid development of the water management technology with the increased requisites for the water purification (e.g., micro-plastics, medical residues, etc.). IWAMA-project introduces capacity development activities and -tools for the wastewater treatment sector of the Baltic area to tackle these challenges.

Authors: Katerina Medkova and Sami Luste

Introduction

The lack of training, awareness and interactive international information share have been identified as one of the major limitations regarding the energy- and resource-efficient management of the wastewater processes in the Baltic Sea Region (E.g., PRESTO project 2011-2014; PURE project 2007-2013).

By increasing knowledge and providing up-to-date technical information, the efficiency of wastewater treatment plants, regarding both the energy savings and nutrient removal, can be noticeably improved. At the same time, continuous learning alongside with the technology development can lead to a better environmental state of the Baltic Sea.

IWAMA – Interactive Water Management project aims at improving wastewater management in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR). The triple fields of IWAMA activities include the capacity development of the wastewater treatment operators, improving the energy efficiency and sludge management.

LAMK is responsible for the Capacity Development for wastewater sector experts. Capacity development is also enabled through international onsite workshops and online webinars. During the capacity development workshops and webinars, the most recent knowledge on smart sludge and energy management is presented. An added value is brought by sharing the lessons learned from the pilot investments conducted in IWAMA. In addition, the formation of national knowledge-based communities (NKBC) of the lifelong learning in each partner country is enabled.

What has been done?

 All six workshops and four webinars have been organised on different themes (Figure 1). The onsite workshops consisted of topic related presentations, lectures, case studies, and dedicated neighbourhoods’ sessions. Site visits to the local WWTPs were an integral part of the international workshops held in different BSR countries. The content of the workshops have been continuously evaluated and developed and new elements have been added later on: panel discussions and suppliers orienteering sessions. The valuable and up-to-date presentations have been recorded for their later use in capacity development. Carefully selected presentations have been also transcribed with English subtitles and some of them translated into national languages, such as Finnish, German, Estonian, Russian and Lithuanian. At the same time, these events provided an opportunity for networking, gaining new information and continuous knowledge and experience exchange with other water stakeholders in the BSR.

Figure 1. IWAMA Workshops and Webinars Overview

These recorded presentations will be available in a Training Material Package (TMP), an online Moodle-based platform, built by LAMK, providing educational materials for WWT sector, associations, universities, NKBCs, or anyone interested in WWT. The TMP is under the development and the first testing of the elements has been conducted. Besides the presentations and recordings, other lifelong learning tools are being developed during the course of the project, such as the WWTP game (Image 1) and virtual learning tests.

Image 1. Screenshot of the WWTP game being developed by LAMK

The water-, waste and wastewater associations and universities (LAMK, ECAT-Lithuania, LNU, EVEL, DWA) have started to modify and fill the national sections of the online TMP, translate materials for WWTP game and virtual tests.

Insights from the WS6

The theme of the last international Capacity Development workshop was in the name of “Constructional and operational challenges” and it took place in Gdańsk, Poland on 20.-21.9.2018. The first day started with a visit to Kazimierz Water Tower, located on an island (Image 2). Besides the technological purpose of the modern tower, it serves as an educational centre.

Image 2. Kazimierz Water Tower (Photo by Katerina Medkova)

The second day was filled with presentations, discussions, case studies and targeted parallel sessions. Case studies presented solutions to personnel demand and management challenges in Germany, Finland, Estonia and Poland. For instance, Ms Sirpa Sandelin from Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, Finland, emphasized the importance of ageing personnel and diminishing workforce in wastewater treatment plants. Managing knowledge, especially the tacit knowledge and its transfer to new generation employees, is essential for water utilities. Knowledge management supports learning in organisations, as only 20 % is learned at schools. The majority of knowledge and skills (80%) is achieved at work through work experience and on-the-job training. Lifelong learning is seen as an investment for the future and a key in today’s competitive and fast-changing world. (Sandelin 2018) “Lifelong learning of the personnel should be seen as a responsibility of both the employer and the employee”, Ms Sandelin (2018) stated.

The last day took place in the premises of the Gdańsk wastewater treatment plant, where the theoretical presentations followed by a detailed visit of the large plant, including the plant, combined anammox- constructed wetland pilot-plant, and the incineration and CHP plants. A beautiful Hevelius Fountain Show ended the workshop.

Image 3. Gdańsk wastewater treatment plant (Photo by Katerina Medkova)

IWAMA, funded by INTERREG Baltic Sea Region Programme 2014-2020, is a flagship project of the European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. More information about IWAMA project is available at https://www.iwama.eu/.

References

IWAMA. 2017. About IWAMA. [Cited 10 Oct 2018]. Available at: https://www.iwama.eu/about

Sandelin, S. 2018. Knowledge Management and Retention in Finnish WWTPs.  IWAMA 6th Capacity Development Workshop. IWAMA. [Cited 10 Oct 2018]. Available at: http://www.iwama.eu/sites/iwama/files/8._knowledge_management_and_retention_in_finnish_wwtps_sandelin.pdf

Authors

Katerina Medkova and Sami Luste both work in the IWAMA project in LAMK.

Illustration:  Gdańsk wastewater treatment plant. Photo by Katerina Medkova.

Published 22.10.2018

Reference to this publication

Medkova, K. & Luste, S. 2018. IWAMA – Capacity Development Activities. LAMK Pro. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2018/10/22/iwama-capacity-development-activities/

 

Informal Sector and Waste Management in Rustenburg, South Africa

Informal sector forms a considerable part of economies and employment especially in less developed countries. Waste collection and recycling is one of the sectors that offers income for the officially unemployed and migrants in many African countries.

Authors: Maarit Virtanen, Antti Eerola and Päivi Lahti

Characteristics of informal economy in Africa

Although informal economy is often associated with small-scale business, it does actually provide a living for about 60 % of people working outside of agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, with transnational trading and remittance networks (Meagher 2017, 18, 21). According to the International Labour Organisation (2013, 3), the gross value added (GVA) contribution of informal enterprises in non-agricultural GVA is approximately 50 % in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. In South Africa, the informal sector is much smaller than in less developed African countries, but it is still represents 16,7 % of total employment (Skinner 2016). In South Africa, about 41 % of those working in the informal sector are trading. This is followed by construction and community and social service. (Skinner 2016.)  Waste collection and recycling has been and still is a significant part of informal sector in many cities and municipalities.

The official unemployment rates are high in many African countries, and they do not include immigrants. The unemployed still need to earn some kind of livelihood, and informal economy is silently accepted in local communities. Illegal immigrants are a small but probably the most problematic part of informal sector, because they live in unauthorized settlements and on illegal businesses or crime. This may raise xenophobia and increase insecurity especially in the poorest townships. (Crush et al. 2015, 1.)

IMAGE 1. An example of informal economy services at a township (Skinner 2016).

Informal economy and waste management in Rustenburg

The informal sector plays a significant role in Rustenburg’s economy and is also a political issue. Municipal authorities strive to keep the informal sector under control and do not want it to grow. However, as both internal and external migration is growing fast, the municipality is not able to keep up with infrastructure and basic services for new arrivals. This results in an increasing informal labour force and unauthorized housing. In Rustenburg, the official unemployment rate is 26,4 % and youth unemployment rate is 34,7 %. Only 8,9 % of inhabitants have a higher education degree. (National Government of South Africa 2016.)

Waste management and household waste collection in Rustenburg is coordinated by the municipality’s Waste Unit. Residents leave their waste bags outside their houses on a certain date for the weekly collection. The waste is then collected and transported to the Waterval landfill site. (Rustenburg Local Municipality 2018.) The collection covers most parts of the city, but not the fast spreading informal settlements. In the poorest townships, the residents do not pay for the services, which increases the pressure on the municipality resources.

The Waterval landfill site was opened in 2016 with the aim of providing modern sorting and recycling services.  However, recycling has been slow to start and most of the reusable waste is still handled and collected by informal waste pickers working both on the streets and at the landfill site. (Virtanen 2017.) The informal pickers sort mainly plastics, metal, cardboard and glass from household waste. Pickers walk long distances collecting and transporting the waste to local buy-back centres. Work is hard, dirty, sometimes even dangerous, and cash compensation is small and varies a lot.  Buy-back centres do not register the collectors and it is difficult to estimate the impact of recycling as employment, but clearly it has an impact. The municipality is working on the registration of informal pickers, but the work has proved challenging. Most pickers are immigrants from neighbouring countries and they do not stay long in one place.

IMAGE 2. Waterval landfill site (Photo: Maarit Virtanen).

Currently informal sector is a significant part of waste management in Rustenburg. Formalising the whole chain of waste management could lead to a more efficient recycling and better working conditions, but implementation is not easy. The Rustenburg Local Municipality plays an important role in providing space and facilities for recycling activities, but it is struggling to provide services for the fast growing population.

About the project

Co-creating Sustainable Cities – Lahti (Finland), Rustenburg (South Africa), Ho (Ghana) Local Government Cooperation – project is a cross-sectorial development project implemented in 2017-2018. The project focus is on developing municipal services through circular economy and urban planning, emphasizing particularly waste management and sanitation through local pilots and initiatives.

The expected outcome of the project is to co-create viable businesses and generate capacity for more efficient municipal services by means of improved recycling, material recovery, nutrient recycling and sanitation coverage. Local stakeholders are encouraged to take action in turning waste into wealth. Co-creating Sustainable Cities project is coordinated by LAMK and funded by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

References

Crush, J., Skinner, C. & Chikanda, A. 2015. Informal Migrant Entrepreneurship and Inclusive Growth in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.  Cape Town: Southern African Migration Programme (SAMP)/Bronwen Dachs Müller. [Cited 11.9.2018]. Available at: http://samponline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Acrobat68.pdf

International Labour Organisation. 2013. Measuring informality: A statistical manual on the informal sector and informal employment. Geneva: International Labour Office. [Cited 14.9.2018]. Available at: http://www.ilo.org/stat/Publications/WCMS_222979/lang–en/index.htm

Meagher, K. 2017. Cannibalizing the informal economy: Frugal innovation and economic inclusion in Africa. The European Journal of Development Research. Vol. 30(1), 17-33. [Cited 25.8.2018]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41287-017-0113-4

National Government of South Africa. 2016. Rustenburg Local Municipality. [Cited 13.9.2018] Available at: https://municipalities.co.za/demographic/1191/rustenburg-local-municipality

Rustenburg Local Municipality. 2018. Services/Waste Management. [Cited 11.9.2018] Available at: https://www.rustenburg.gov.za/services/waste-management/

Skinner, C. 2016. Informal Sector Employment: Policy Reflections. REDI 3×3 Conference, 28 November 2016. [Cited 14.9.2018]. Available at: https://www.africancentreforcities.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/REDI-input-Skinner-final.pdf

Virtanen, M. 2017. Co-creating Rustenburg Circular Economy Road Map in South Africa. LAMK Pro. [Cited 14.9.2018]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2017/12/08/co-creating-rustenburg-circular-economy-road-map-in-south-africa/

About the authors

Maarit Virtanen is the Project Manager for Co-creating Sustainable Cities project that promotes waste management and circular economy in Rustenburg. Päivi Lahti is a planner in the same project. Antti Eerola studies International Business at LAMK and did a two-month internship in Rustenburg.

Published 19.9.2018

Reference to this publication

Virtanen, M. & Eerola, A. & Lahti, P. 2018. Informal Sector and Waste Management in Rustenburg, South Africa. LAMK Pro. [Electronic magazine]. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2018/09/19/informal-sector-and-waste-management-in-rustenburg-south-africa

Biowaste Collection in Selected EU Countries

The European Commission has set stricter regulations on waste separation, including biowaste. By the end of 2023, biowaste must be completely separated or recycled at source. Separate biowaste collection and composting play an essential part in the bio-based circular economy. This article analyses current biowaste management trends in selected European regions.

Authors: David Huisman Dellago & Katerina Medkova

Introduction

The ever-increasing resource consumption is causing waste production to be growing each year. In an effort to achieve sustainable development, cities across the globe are pushed to improve the waste management. An important part of household waste comes in the form of biowaste. EU considers as biowaste every biodegradable waste in the form of food (households, canteens, enterprises etc.) and green waste (parks, gardens etc.) (Council Directive 2008/98/EC).

Biowaste comprises waste from biodegradable nature, meaning it can be broken down naturally. The degradation, however, has negative environmental impacts as it produces Greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as methane. Additionally, if not correctly handled, it can pollute the waterways through run-offs. Even though environmental issues are known, the reality is that still many cities are dumping high amounts of biowaste in landfills.

Biowaste collection is an essential part of the waste management systems. It is considered the first step in biowaste management and if carried out correctly, it can positively impact the posterior steps in the process. The importance of adequate collection systems is due to the need of separating biowaste from general waste.

Therefore, correctly managed biowaste not only has environmental benefits but opens a market to new possibilities. The treatment aims at converting the waste into useful by-products, such as fertilizers or energy (biofuels). Conversion is a sustainable method that is a part of the biological cycle of circular economy ( Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2017). Some examples of biowaste treatment include the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass from food waste into ethanol, anaerobic digestion to create biogas (methane) or liquid bio-oil creation through pyrolysis (Khanal & Surampalli 2010). Composting is an attractive method, which is proven to directly benefit households, as it can be practiced domestically by citizens (Mihai & Ingrao 2018).

Treating biowaste as a valuable resource for products and energy challenges many governments, including the EU. Through the creation of the waste package, the EU addressed four different directives. The main directive is the waste framework directive (WFD). WFD sets the guidelines on waste management for national policies. The landfill directive aims at reducing the amount of waste destined to landfills, including biowaste. The packaging waste and the electronic waste directives regulate the use of packaging and electronic waste respectively. (Council Directive 2008/98/EC)

In a new effort to improve waste management in the EU, the European Council reached a provisional agreement with the Commission (with the ambassadors’ approval) (European Council 2017). The provisional agreement is a result from the action plan following the 2015 Circular Economy Package (European Commission 2015). It aims at reinforcing the objectives of the waste package by updating current standards. In fact, it sets stricter regulations including extended producer responsibility and mandatory waste separation (including biowaste). In addition, the agreement sets that by the end of 2023 biowaste must be completely separated or recycled at source (European Council 2018). Finally, with the new agreement, countries are expected to comply with higher standards. The situation of biowaste management in the EU is of special interest. This article analyses the biowaste management trends throughout different European regions, in order to understand how it works.

Research

Biowaste management practices are collected through the implementation process of two Interreg Europe projects, BIOREGIO and ECOWASTE4FOOD, due to their common aim at promoting bio-based circular economy and moving towards a sustainable and inclusive growth. Both projects desire to promote biowaste and foodwaste as a valuable resource for an efficient and environmentally friendly economy.

BIOREGIO focuses on regional circular economy models and best available technologies for biological streams. The project boosts the bio-based circular economy through a transfer of expertise about best available technologies and cooperation models, such as ecosystems and networks. The project runs from 2017 to 2021 and involves eight partners from six European regions. (Interreg Europe 2017a)

ECOWASTE4FOOD project supports eco-innovation to reduce food waste and promotes a better resource efficient economy. The project brings together seven local and regional authorities throughout Europe to address the crucial issue of food waste. The project runs from 2017 to 2020. (Interreg Europe 2017b)

Besides the project partners, both aforementioned projects actively involve groups of local stakeholders in the identification of local good practices, recognition of good practices from other EU regions, and their selection and implementation in the regional action plans. At the same time, by increased knowledge gained during the project, regions will be better equipped to improve their own policy instruments, in particular by funding new projects, improving the management of the instruments and influencing the strategic focus of the instruments.

Specifically, questionnaires were distributed in the framework of the BIOREGIO and ECOWASTE4FOOD projects in the participants regions. Those include regions in Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and the UK (Figure 1).

Questionnaires were distributed to 11 regions by emails and completed electronically. To avoid any misunderstandings, the researcher had a close monitor of the procedure. All data were subjected to quality control and measurements not satisfying the requirements were rejected. Studied countries were responsible for providing the most relevant and up-to-date information based on their regional trends.

The questionnaire was distributed during March-April 2018. The questionnaire involved a series of questions based on biowaste collection, processing and future policies. However, only biowaste data will be presented in this article. A qualitative assessment was carried out at the collected data.

Figure 1. The studied regions

Results

The survey proves existence of different biowaste management services and operations among the European regions. An overview of the results can be seen in Table 1.

Table 1. Biowaste Collection in select EU countries

The majority of the regions separately collect biowaste. Sud Muntenia (Romania), on the other hand, does not collect it separately.

The percentage of biowaste separately collected from the total amount of bio-waste produced in a region varies significantly. In fact, regional differences are observed even within the same nations. For example, Finland’s Päijät-Häme region separately collects about 50% biowaste from the total biowaste in contrast with 24% in the South Ostrobothnia region. In Castilla-La Mancha (Spain), Pays de la Loire (France), and Central Macedonia (Greece), only 5% of biowaste is separately collected from the total biowaste production. Other regions, like Catalonia (Spain) and Ferrara (Italy), operate between 33 and 48%. The results are based on both garden waste and foodwaste. However, for instance, in the city of Devon, UK, the majority of the biowaste separated (65%) includes garden waste (39%). Regarding Castilla- la Mancha, the data collected constitutes from garden waste only.

In every separate collection service, except in Greece, households are responsible for the biowaste separation. In addition, enterprises and food industry participate to the biowaste management in Finland, Spain, France, UK and Italy. Enterprises include businesses and institutions such as education centres, government offices, businesses and zoos. Currently, Greece focuses only on enterprises as the main responsible for separating biowaste, however, responsibility of municipalities has been piloted.

The concern of the EU for reduction of food waste ending up in landfills is linked to the concern of waste packaging as expressed in the recent waste management agreement (European Council, 2018). According to the questionnaire, the waste generator (supermarkets, consumers, etc.) usually removes food packaging. However, in the regions of Central Macedonia and Pays de la Loire, no food packaging rule is applied upon producers before its disposal. Nonetheless, it is important to mention that in France, further treatment regarding food packaging is voluntary on the waste collector. On the other hand, Finnish regions and Devon (UK), implement an extensive food packaging management system, where consumers and industries are responsible for the separation. Furthermore, processing plants are capable of removing the packaging on site (e.g. anaerobic digestion plants have front-end technology to remove plastic packaging).

In the majority of the regions who separately collect biowaste, household biowaste is defined as a pure household (domestic) and biowaste produced in small businesses (cafeterias, schools, offices etc.). Only Finnish and Spanish regions consider additionally green/garden waste as household biowaste. In the UK, other types of waste, such as cooking oil, fall under the biowaste umbrella for that region.

Household biowaste is collected for further treatment, in either separate (bin) collection or in collective (shared bin) collection, except for the Spanish and French regions. Separate collection is mainly collected twice a week, although in South Ostrobothnia this is done every week.

An interesting method of biowaste handling, which is linked to household waste management, is self-composting. This method is used on a smaller scale in comparison to separate bin collection. Households in Devon, Pays de la Loire, Catalonia and Ferrara do not exceed 10%. This is a significantly small amount if compared with Päijät-Häme 62% private composting rate. In Finland, the limitations are seen in winter, when the temperatures can freeze the compost. Halfway, we can find Nitra’s 20% separation rate. Self-composting is also implemented in several municipalities in the Region of Central Macedonia but without recording a number of users.

Overall, biowaste collection services are charged in two different ways: to the Municipal authority as a tax or directly to the waste management company in the form of a private contribution. Finnish, Italian and Polish regions opt for the latter, making biowaste collection a private business, which is managed by the collection companies. In Romania, waste fees are collected either by local authorities or by private companies. The rest of the European regions tax the families for the collection services, acting as a mediator between the waste management companies and the waste producers. In France, there is a possibility of delegation where the municipal authorities give the responsibility to waste management companies directly and/or associations (recycling companies). In Slovakia, there are two methods taking place. The waste collection is financed according to the producer status. This means local domestic waste is financed by a municipal tax whilst business generated biowaste is managed by private contributions to a waste transportation company.

According to the study, there is a positive change envisioned for the future. In Castilla-La Mancha, a recent regional proposal was approved making biowaste separation mandatory for the food industry, restaurants, enterprises and households. It will be implemented in late 2018 and the collection method will be decided by each council.

Furthermore, the recent regional law implemented in January 2018 in the region of Wielkopolska, is still progressively being implemented in the remaining municipalities. This means that for now only, the city of Poznan is implementing mandatory biowaste separation and the rest of the municipalities are to follow in the upcoming years. Those are indeed, promising news for the biowaste collection situation in the European Union.

Conclusions and discussion

To conclude, it is important to point out the main trends regarding waste management in the selected European regions. Major disparity has been found in biowaste separation from general waste, as some regions such as Päijät-Häme, Devon or Ferrara are recovering 50% or more of their biowaste, whilst others are struggling to meet a 1% separation rate. Differences between regions in the same territory have been found. For example, in Spain, Catalonia separates 32% more than Castilla-La Mancha (0.9%) or in Finland, Päijät-Häme separates double the rate of South Ostrobothnia. Regarding Spain, Catalonia is one the pioneering regions in the implementation of household biowaste collection. As a result, other regions nationwide are found to be behind in that aspect but are working on improving their collection systems. Thus, Catalonia can be considered an exception within the country.

Out of all the countries, Romania does not collect nor separate biowaste as it ends in the landfills contributing to the country’s waste management concerns. Whilst other regions, such as, Castilla-La Mancha do not separately collect biowaste but rather separate later on in waste management centres.

In the region of the Pays de la Loire, France, composting is the main method of handling biowaste and a separate collection exists for garden waste only. The rest of the regions are separately collecting biowaste through a variety of methods. Mainly it includes the use of private containers for single families or common containers that are shared among different households/businesses. Composting is also practised in combination with this method; however, the main limitations include freezing winter conditions (Finland) or lack of infrastructure (Poland).

Biowaste is mainly collected once a week (Finland, Poland, UK), once in two weeks (Finland, Slovakia) or twice a week (Italy). Furthermore, in Spain, biowaste is collected up to 4 times a week during the hotter summer periods.

The topic of the study was actual and had a direct connection to the goals of both Interreg Europe projects: BIOREGIO and ECOWASTE4FOOD. The study contributed to a better overall understanding of the disunited biowaste terminology, various collection systems and rates, local challenges, and preferences in the selected regions. Identification and sharing of good practices related to biowaste and foodwaste may considerably accelerate the achievement of completely separated or recycled biowaste at source as required by the European Council. Findings are also useful for future research and development purposes of waste management systems.

 Acknowledgments

The authors would like to express their gratitude to the Interreg Europe Programme for the funding of the projects “BIOREGIO – circular economy models and best available technologies for biological streams” and ”ECOWASTE4FOOD – Supporting Eco-innovation to reduce food waste and promote a better resource efficient economy ”.

Also, we would like to thank the local stakeholders, partners and all the participants who helped with data collection.

References

Council Directive 2008/98/EC of 19 November 1992 on waste and repealing certain Directives. [Cited 21 Mar 2018]. Available at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32008L0098&from=EN

Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 2017. Circular Economy.  [Cited 23 Jan 2018]. Available at: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/interactive-diagram

European Commission. 2015. CE Package. [Cited 6 Feb 2018]. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/priorities/jobs-growth-and-investment/towards-circular-economy_en

European Council. 2017. Council and Parliament reach provisional agreement on new EU waste rules. [Cited 21 Mar 2018]. Available at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/12/18/council-and-parliament-reach-provisional-agreement-on-new-eu-waste-rules/

European Council. 2018. EU ambassadors approve new rules on waste management and recycling. [Cited 21 Mar 2018]. Available at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2018/02/23/eu-ambassadors-approve-new-rules-on-waste-management-and-recycling/

Interreg Europe. 2017a. BIOREGIO – Regional circular economy models and best available technologies for biological streams. [Cited 21 Jan 2018]. Available at: https://www.interregeurope.eu/bioregio

Interreg Europe. 2017b. ECOWASTE4FOOD – Supporting eco-innovation to reduce food waste and promote a better resource efficient economy. [Cited 21 Jan 2018]. Available at: https://www.interregeurope.eu/ecowaste4food/

Khanal, S. K. & Surampalli, R. Y. 2010. Bioenergy and Biofuel from Biowastes and Biomass. s.l.:American Society of Civil Engineers.

Mihai, F.-C. & Ingrao, C. 2018. Assessment of biowaste losses through unsound waste management practices in rural areas and the role of home composting. Journal of Cleaner Production. Vol 172, 1631-1638.

Authors

David Huisman Dellago is an Environmental Science student from Avans UAS (The Netherlands). He is an intern for the BIOREGIO project at LAMK.

Katerina Medkova works as a coordinator at LAMK. She is the BIOREGIO project Communication Manager.

Illustration: https://www.pexels.com/photo/three-lemon-peels-1405667/ (CC0)

Published 13.9.2018

Reference to this article

Huisman Dellago, D. & Medkova, K. 2018. Biowaste Collection in Selected EU Countries. LAMK RDI Journal. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2018/09/13/biowaste-collection-in-selected-eu-countries/

LAMK students participate in improving sanitation in Ho, Ghana

The lack of sanitation services is a significant problem in Ghana and it goes hand in hand with poverty. As a part of Co-creating Sustainable Cities project, 55 Urine Diverting Dry Toilets (UDDTs) were built in 14 different communities in Ho at spring 2018. Four students from Lahti University of Applied Sciences did their three-month-internship in Ho monitoring and coordinating the construction.

Authors: Tiia Permanto and Maarit Virtanen

Water and sanitation situation in Ghana

According to UNICEF Ghana (2018), only 15% of Ghanaians have access to improved sanitation and 4000 children die each year of diarrhoea. People are practicing open defecation widely. In 2015, open defecation percent in Ghana was 31% in rural areas and 8% in urban areas. In Volta region, where Ho Municipality is located, open defecation percent is about 25% (WHO and UNICEF 2018). Access to safe water and improved sanitation both in rural and urban areas are priorities in improving health.

In Ho, the municipality is implementing rural and urban sanitation programs (Ho Local Municipality 2016). In rural areas, the officials are educating communities to help them achieve ODF-status (Open Defecation Free). The construction of toilets is hindered mainly by poverty and the lack of awareness on the importance of sanitation, but also the soil makes constructing traditional pit toilets difficult in many communities. In some communities, the ground is too hard for digging, while in others, it is very soft and in some, the groundwater level is very high.

In a country, where water is scarce and its supply uncertain, Water Closets (WCs) are a questionable and unsustainable solution. The high prices of water and septic tank emptying services make the use of these toilets expensive. In addition, there are few facilities for handling wastewater. In Volta region, there are no wastewater treatment plants, which means that septic tanks are emptied to the ground or concrete drains leading to streams and rivers.

FIGURE 1. Wastewater and sludge ends up on fields and rivers. (Photo: Tiia Permanto)

UDDT solves many problems

Dry toilets have several benefits over pit toilets or WCs. In a UDDT, urine is diverted to a separate container and the faeces go into the composting vault. There are two composting vaults for each toilet, so that the composting takes place in one vault, while the other one is used. This makes the UDDT hygienic and safe to use. Waterproof vaults make sure that soil and groundwater are not polluted unlike with pit toilets. UDDTs do not smell, when used correctly with sawdust or other locally available composting materials. Water is required only during the construction phase. What is also essential in rural areas is that both the urine and compost can be used as fertilisers. Chemical fertilisers are expensive and difficult to purchase, which contributes to low yields in Ghana.

Construction work in practice

The design of household UDDTs built in spring 2018 was modified from previously constructed school UDDT’s and a few existing examples of household UDDTs in Ho. The original assignment of LAMK students was to monitor and report the construction process at communities. However, the Ghanaian timetables and working practices do not always match the Finnish aims, and the students ended up taking a more active role in the construction than originally planned. They did, for example, the procurement for materials from local markets and shops. When the actual construction began, things started moving quicker and more smoothly. Altogether 12 artisans built the toilets working in pairs in the communities. Some of them had previous experience of building UDDTs and all of them were trained by the project in 2017. In addition to the trained builders, local artisans were encouraged to participate in the construction, so that they can continue the work themselves. Pilot community households were also trained on how to use the UDDTs and fertilisers produced.

Toilets were constructed in two phases. In the first phase, there were 7 communities and 31 toilets and in the second phase, 6 communities and 23 toilets. One of the construction challenges turned out to be the lack of budget. The original plan was to build 80 toilets but the increases in construction material prices and some other unexpected costs made this impossible. The project funding for UDDTs covers constructing the base with all the piping and the urine container. The upper structure is under beneficiaries’ own responsibility. They can use locally available materials like bamboo and leaves for roof, walls and door.

FIGURE 2. A household UDDT under construction (Photo: Tiia Permanto)

The students visited the communities almost daily during the construction, delivering materials and drinking water for the artisans and checking that they had all materials needed. The students also informed the next communities that work will start soon and made sure that the necessary materials like stones, sand and water were available. Despite the variety of schedules, cooperation with Ho Municipality was rewarding and gave important skills and experiences to students. Cooperation with artisans and communities went smoothly and it was clear to see, how important these toilets are for households. The municipal officials continue the work in Ho by monitoring the use of UDDTs and encouraging more households to take up sustainable sanitation.

References

Ho Local Municipality. 2016. Ho Municipal Assembly Municipal Environmental Sanitation Action Plan: 2016 Update.

UNICEF Ghana. 2018. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. [Cited 31 August 2018].  Available at: https://www.unicef.org/ghana/wes.html

WHO and UNICEF. 2018. WASH data. [Cited 23 August 2018]. Available at: https://washdata.org/data

About the authors

Tiia Permanto is one of LAMK students who did their internship in Ghana. Maarit Virtanen is a RDI Specialist and Project Manager for Co-creating Sustainable Cities project. The project is funded by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Published 3.9.2018

Illustration: https://pixabay.com/en/door-old-wooden-door-heart-toilet-516731/ (CC0)

Reference to this publication

Permanto, T. & Virtanen, M. 2018. LAMK students participate in improving sanitation in Ho, Ghana. LAMK Pro. [Electronic magazine]. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2018/09/03/lamk-students-participate-in-improving-sanitation-in-ho-ghana