Aihearkisto: Kiertotalouden ratkaisut

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.


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:

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:–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:

National Government of South Africa. 2016. Rustenburg Local Municipality. [Cited 13.9.2018] Available at:

Rustenburg Local Municipality. 2018. Services/Waste Management. [Cited 11.9.2018] Available at:

Skinner, C. 2016. Informal Sector Employment: Policy Reflections. REDI 3×3 Conference, 28 November 2016. [Cited 14.9.2018]. Available at:

Virtanen, M. 2017. Co-creating Rustenburg Circular Economy Road Map in South Africa. LAMK Pro. [Cited 14.9.2018]. Available at:

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:

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


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.


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


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.


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.


Council Directive 2008/98/EC of 19 November 1992 on waste and repealing certain Directives. [Cited 21 Mar 2018]. Available at:

Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 2017. Circular Economy.  [Cited 23 Jan 2018]. Available at:

European Commission. 2015. CE Package. [Cited 6 Feb 2018]. Available at:

European Council. 2017. Council and Parliament reach provisional agreement on new EU waste rules. [Cited 21 Mar 2018]. Available at:

European Council. 2018. EU ambassadors approve new rules on waste management and recycling. [Cited 21 Mar 2018]. Available at:

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

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

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.


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: (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:

Effects of moisture on automatic textile fiber identification by NIR spectroscopy

Lahti UAS has recently acquired a textile identifying and sorting unit REISKAtex® in order to develop identification analytics for different textile fibers. This article evaluates the effect of various humidity conditions in near infrared (NIR) spectrum of three different textile fiber materials, namely cotton, wool, and polyester.

Authors: Jussi Salin and Lea Heikinheimo


Textile recycling has a significant environmental impact. In Finland, 71.2 million kg of textiles is removed from use each year (Dahlbo et al. 2015, 41). Various existing and new recycling processes for textile fibers depend on the purity and the right type of fiber material for each recycling process, because wrong materials create interference (Schmidt et al. 2016, 9; Fontell & Heikkilä 2017, 36). Automatic sorting could allow a larger portion of the textile waste flow to be processed into new fibers, if the fiber material contents of the recyclable textiles can be identified in order to send each textile for appropriate processing. In automatic sorting, a NIR analyzer could be used to identify the fiber materials of the recyclable textiles.

Water is known to be a significant variable in NIR spectroscopy, and therefore it could affect the automatic identification result of a NIR analyzer (Smith 2011, 16). Water absorption is used to determine the amount of water absorbed in textile materials under specified conditions. Factors affecting water absorption of a fabric are type of textile fiber, fabric structure, temperature, and length of exposure.

The analyzer used in this study is attached to a sorting unit located at Lahti UAS. This study is part of the Telaketju project. Telaketju is a co-operation network in Finland, which promotes circular economy by creating improvements both in recycling processes and in the flow of materials between companies. Telaketju is coordinated by VTT and Lounais-Suomen Jätehuolto Oy. The storage conditions of discarded textiles have raised concerns, including the effects of absorbed moisture. Developing automatic textile sorting is one key area of improvement of recycling. (Fontell & Heikkilä 2017, 31; Telaketju 2018.)

Testing methods and equipment

All fabrics used in the test have been stored in a normal room at the faculty, which has been at about 19 % relative humidity (RH) and 19 °C temperature throughout the experiment. The fabrics that are used for moisture testing are dried in a UT 12 drying cabinet by Kendro Laboratory Products at 104 °C. They are being dried till their weight stabilizes. An A&D GF-3000 digital scale is used for weighing the samples. Dry weights of the test fabric pieces can be obtained at this point. Next, the test fabrics are placed in various conditions, where they absorb air moisture till their weight no longer increases. The various moisture conditions are generated either by an ARC-500 weather cabinet by ArcTest company, or in a special room that has a Conairr CP3 air moisturizer and a temperature-controlled Glamox 200 radiator. (Salin 2018, 64-65.)

Between each tested moisture condition, the test fabrics are dried again to eliminate the hysteresis effect that occurs in textile fibers. If the fabric was not dried, it would gain slightly more moisture in a moist condition for being already in a more “open” state. In standard test methods, conditioning should always begin in the dry state (Collier & Epps 1999, 64).

NIR spectrums are obtained with NIRS Analyzer Pro by Metrohm AG, which is accompanied by Vision software. The software is used for gathering spectrums of textile samples, plotting them as graphs, and for creating an identification library. The identification library is trained with numerous samples of all textile fiber material groups chosen for the test. After verifying the library, it is then possible to attempt automatic identification of the test samples in their different moisture states, to report if identification fails at certain known amounts of moisture. The spectral range of the analyzer is between 1100 nm and 1650 nm (Metrohm AG 2017).

Fabric samples

Textile samples are taken from the textile library of Lahti UAS, which has collected fabrics of various fiber materials by various textile and fiber manufacturers. A total of 65 cotton fabrics, 9 wool fabrics and 178 polyester fabrics were chosen for training the identification library in Vision software (Salin 2018, 31).

One separate fabric piece of each fiber material is chosen for moisture testing. The structure of all three fabrics is plain weave (Salin 2018, 66).

Effects on fabric weight

The digital scale reports weights with 0.01 g accuracy when test fabrics are measured multiple times in a row. After weighing the test fabrics in each condition and calculating how much their weight has changed from dry weight, a graph is drawn (see Figure 1). The weight of wool is greatly increased by air humidity, it therefore being the most hydrophilic fiber material in the test, whereas cotton shows only relatively small increases. Polyester appears to be unaffected by humidity.

Figure 1. Measured water content increase of each test sample in different conditions next to commercial moisture regain coefficients located at 65.0 % RH and 20.0 °C (Salin 2018, 69).

By knowing dry weights of the test fabrics, it is possible to calculate water content regain coefficients of each measured condition. The measured coefficients can be compared to commercial moisture regain coefficients listed in the SFS 4876 standard. Coefficients of the standard are specified for 65.0 % ± 4.0 % RH and 20.0 °C ± 2.0 °C standard atmosphere condition of the SFS-EN ISO 139/A1 standard (SFS-EN ISO 139/A1). In Figure 1, the commercial moisture regain coefficients are drawn at 65.0 % RH as dots, next to the measured coefficients connected by lines. The commercial moisture regain coefficients are reasonably in line, except for polyester. The polyester test piece does not gain weight to an extent that can be measured by the digital scale even at 85 % RH, but commercial moisture regain expects it to gain 1.50 % more weight at 65.0 % RH (SFS 4876). That would be an 0.2 g increase to the 13.2 g dry weight of the test piece.

Effects on spectrum

Spectrums are gathered of each condition and test fabric, shown in Figure 2. Judging from the weight, wool and cotton absorb water content from air humidity, while polyester appears unaffected. The same effect can be seen in how the spectrum of polyester appears relatively unchanged, while wool and cotton have definite changes by absorbed water. The first overtone of water (H2O) causes a peak at 1460 nm, and the first overtone of hydroxide (OH), which is bundled in small amounts along water moisture, causes a peak at 1600 nm (Davies 2017). The more moisture the fabrics have absorbed, the greater the change in the spectrum. Cotton has relatively small changes because it is less hydrophilic than wool. Because of this, as an additional demonstration, the cotton test fabric is held in running water and then a spectrum is acquired again, which can also be seen in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Non-pretreated NIR absorbance spectrums of cotton, wool, and polyester test fabrics, at 1100-1650 nm, as water content changes in different humidity conditions (Salin 2018, 70-71).

To produce one spectrum, NIR sampling is done 32 times by the analyzer, in order to reduce noise. Spectrums in Figure 2 are averaged.

Effects on automatic identification

When running automatic identification for the test fabrics in Vision software, all spectrums are correctly identified without an error, except the experimental cotton sample that is directly soaked in running water. No other spectrums are ambiguous, non-identified nor mistaken as wrong material (Salin 2018, 72.)

The identification algorithm in use is Correlation in Wavelength Space, with threshold value of 0.73. The threshold value is forked by trial-and-error and determined by result of zero failures as the most optimal for this identification library. Calculation of 2nd derivate and Standard Normal Variate (SNV) are used as spectral pre-treatments, as they perform adequately in verification. (Salin 2018, 41-43.)


Textile recycling can have a large environmental effect. It has been estimated, that for example in Scandinavia textiles create the largest environmental impact after food, housing, and mobility (Schmidt et al. 2016, 7). By automatic sorting, recycling can be improved as more textiles can be sent for appropriate processing by their known chemical composition. This enables the use of both mechanical and chemical fiber recycling processes that are unique to each fiber material of sorted textiles. Water content in textiles could however pose a problem for automatic identification with NIR analysis, which is used to make the sorting decisions (Smith 2011, 16). The experimental results of this study answer to some questions about the practical moisture sensitivity in automatic textile identification by NIR analysis. Furthermore, to make the results practical, the same NIR analyzer unit was used in this study that is being used in the REISKAtex® sorting unit of LUAS, which is a model that can be used on industrial scale.

When the identification library was trained with samples stored at 19 °C and 19 % RH conditions, it was still possible to correctly identify textiles that were dry, as well as textiles that had been kept at 85 % RH of 20 °C (Salin 2018, 72). This wide range of acceptable changes in water content was the major finding of this study. Wool fabric was the most hydrophilic fabric, measured by water absorption, and it also had the greatest changes in spectrum, therefore being the most moisture sensitive textile material for NIR identification. Cotton fabric was also hydrophilic, but it was a less sensitive material because of smaller changes in both spectrum and weight. Polyester fabric did not gain water absorption in measurable amounts and had no noticeable changes in spectrum, being hydrophobic and the least moisture sensitive material for NIR identification.

Considering the experiments discussed in this article, it would appear that humidity does not pose an obstacle for automatic identification of single fiber cotton, wool, and polyester textiles. Every test fabric piece was identified correctly in all intended conditions of the experiment. It should be noticed, though, that the experiments did not go beyond 85 % relative humidity of 20 °C.


Collier, B. & Epps, H. 1999. Textile Testing and Analysis. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Dahlbo, H., Aalto, K., Salmenperä, H., Eskelinen, H., Pennanen, J., Sippola, K. & Huopalainen, M. 2015. Tekstiilien uudelleenkäytön ja tekstiilijätteen kierrätyksen tehostaminen Suomessa. [Online document]. Helsinki: Ympäristöministeriö. [Cited 16 May 2018]. Available at:

Davies, A. 2017. An introduction to near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy. [Cited 16 May 2018]. Available at:

Fontell, P. & Heikkilä, P. 2017. Model for circular business ecosystem for textiles. [Online document]. Espoo: VTT.  VTT Technology 313. [Cited 16 May 2018]. Available at:

Metrohm AG. 2017. NIRS Analyzer PRO – DirectLight/NonContact. [Cited 16 May 2018]. Available at:

Salin, J. 2018. Automatic Identification of Textiles with NIR-spectroscopy. Master’s thesis. Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Technology. Lahti.

Schmidt, A., Watson, D., Askham, C. & Brunn Poulsen, P. 2016. Gaining benefits from discarded textiles. LCA of different treatment pathways. [Online document]. Denmark: Nordic Council of Ministers. TemaNord 2016:537. [Cited 16 May 2018]. Available at:

SFS 4876. 1987. Tekstiilit. Kuitusisällön ilmoittaminen. Helsinki: Finnish Standards Association SFS.

SFS-EN ISO 139/A. 2005. Textiles. Standard atmospheres for conditioning and testing. Helsinki: Finnish Standards Association SFS.

Smith, B. 2011. Fundamentals of Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Telaketju. 2018. Telaketju ­– Mikä se on? [Cited 16 May 2018]. Available at:


Jussi Salin is a Master’s Degree student at Lahti UAS in the  Programme in Smart Industries and New Business Concepts.

Lea Heikinheimo, D.Sc. (Tech), is a principal lecturer at Lahti UAS, Faculty of Technology, in the Degree Programme in Process and Materials Technology and in the Master’s Degree Programme in Smart Industries and New Business Concepts.

Published 24.5.2018

Illustration: Oona Rouhiainen

Reference to this publication

Salin, S. & Heikinheimo, L. 2018. Effects of moisture on automatic textile fiber identification by NIR spectroscopy. LAMK RDI Journal. [Electronic journal]. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at:

Circular economy in selected EU National strategies

This article introduces the concept of circular economy (CE) in terms of EU policy. Recently, the Commission introduced a series of measures in which countries are expected to implement CE into their national strategies. A selection of European countries were chosen based on their geographical and socio-economic differences, and their current CE strategies were analyzed.

Authors: David Huisman Dellago & Susanna Vanhamäki


Ever since the industrial revolution, society has been pushing the use of natural resources exponentially. This is leading to major environmental issues linked to waste generation and greenhouse gases emissions from unsustainable business practices. Traditional economic models follow a linear pattern in which the production process works solely on new raw materials, generating substantial amounts of waste (Geissdoerfer, et al., 2017).

CE is an economic model which operates in a regenerative way, where used resources are reintroduced into the production process as by-products (minimizing waste). Within CE, two main pathways can be distinguished: the technical and biological pathways. The technical cycle involves product recycling and reuse, whilst the biological cycle observes the conversion of natural resources (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017).

In European law, CE plays an important role in the economic strategy of the EU. In 2015, the Commission launched a set of directives addressing regenerative and sustainable practices within the member countries (European Commission, 2015). The CE package is an ambitious plan aiming at establishing a CE framework.


This article presents the results of a qualitative analysis of national CE strategies in selected EU countries. The countries were selected based on geographical and socio-economical differences, as well as the accessibility to their policy data. Part of the data was gathered in the BIOREGIO project (2017) in autumn 2017, whilst the other selected countries’ information is based on desk research.

The strategies analyzed belong to the nations of: Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands. The way CE is implemented (CE focus) is studied, as well as the nature of their policies.


The following results display the role of CE in national policy strategies within a variety of EU member nations. The strategies reflect the countries’ pathways toward the European 2015 CE Package goals for the upcoming years, delivering an interesting set of data.

The effect of the EU transnational policies through the CE directive launched in 2015, is reflected throughout the analyzed countries. Only one of the studied countries lack CE in its national strategy. In Greece’s current strategy, a CE focus is absent as well as no mention to circularity as the program is based solely on waste reduction (Greek National Plan for Waste Management, 2015-2020). However, a change is expected in the upcoming year.

CE policies are presented from different perspectives within the EU countries, two general approaches can be distinguished. On the one hand, there are multidisciplinary strategies which address several pathways within CE, in many cases including bio-based CE. These strategies are known as roadmaps and can be observed in Finland and the Netherlands. The Finnish national policy addressed CE holistically and a regenerative business model, in order to achieve sustainable practices by 2025 (The Finnish Roadmap to a Circular Economy, 2016-2025). The Netherlands is undergoing an ambition plan in order to become a totally circular country by 2050. The plan focuses on closing the loop and becoming self-sufficient, by enhancing sustainable technologies (Government of the Netherlands, 2016).

Portugal is implementing a green growth program (Government of Portugal, 2013) where CE is linked to the green industry, aiming at enhancing the country’s sustainability. Similarly, but focused on the bioeconomy, Germany and Sweden opt for the CE implementation in the agricultural and biotechnological production processes. This way, they expect to achieve self-sufficiency, increased competitiveness and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (Federal Ministry of Education and Research, 2013; Government of Sweden, 2012; The Waste Management Program of the Slovak Republic , 2016-2020).

On the other hand, a waste management approach is shown where CE is explicitly mentioned. This is seen in the Spanish, Slovakian, French and Romanian strategies. The countries are utilizing waste reduction as a direct tool to improve the circularity of their respective economies. According to their policies, through recycling and e.g. biowaste conversion, a regenerative economy can be obtained (Waste Management State Plan PEMAR, 2016-2020; Law relative to Energy Transition for Green Growth, 2015-2030; Romanian National Waste Management Strategy, 2014-2020).

CE in National Strategies from selected EU countries (Table 1), shows the name of the analyzed policy and the CE focus. The CE focus corresponds to the way regenerative economy is intended to be applied. Roadmaps are integrative, multidisciplinary approaches as they affect many different industries. Furthermore, bioeconomy and waste management focus on that specific industry. Finally, one country have no national strategy related to CE at the moment.

Table 1. CE in National Strategies from selected EU countries


The CE package from the European Union is influencing the economic models from its member countries. The ambitious directive was established in 2015 and is pushing countries to adopt sustainable practices aiming at minimizing waste and enhance the European industry (European Commission, 2015).

A series of EU countries based on their socio-economical and geographical differences were analyzed. The form in which CE is reflected was analyzed based on the national policies. The main findings conclude that:

  • Finland and the Netherlands are implementing an integrative roadmap in order to achieve a full CE model before a certain year. Through this way, CE is implemented in many different industries and the economy of the country as a whole.
  • Germany, Sweden and Portugal aim their programs at a specific industry. CE is directed at the green and bioeconomic sectors, meaning agriculture and biotechnology are prioritized.
  • Spain, Slovakia, France and Romania integrate CE aspects to their national strategies through waste management. Waste reduction and conversion is an essential part of CE, however, it is not the only potential way to apply the circular model.
  • Greece, does not currently have a national strategy related to CE implemented. The current programs focus on waste management but CE is not mentioned as a policy goal. Nonetheless, due to new EU regulations, a future strategy is envisioned and being prepared in order to enhance CE.

BIOREGIO. 2017. Interreg EU. [Online document]. Interreg Europe. [Cited 29 Jan 2018].
Available at:

Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 2017. Circular Economy. [Online document]. [Cited 3 May 2018]. Available at:

European Commission. 2015. CE Package. [Online document] European Commission. [Cited 6 May 2018]. Available at:

Federal Ministry of Education and Research. 2013. National Research Strategy BioEconomy 2030 – Our Route towards a biobased economy, Berlin: German Government. [Online document]. [Cited 14 May 2018]. Available at:

Geissdoerfer, M., Savaget, P., Bocken, N. M. & Hultink, E. J. 2017. The Circular Economy – A new sustainability paradigm? Journal of Cleaner Production [Electronic journal]. Vol. 143 (1), 757-768. [Cited 25 Mar 2018]. Available at:

Government of the Netherlands. 2016. Circular Netherlands 2050 – Roadmap to Circular Economy. Dutch Ministry of Environment. [Online document]. [Cited 14 May 2018]. Available at:

Government of Portugal. 2013. Green Growth Commitment. Ministry of Environment of Portugal. [Online document]. [Cited 14 May 2018]. Available at:

Government of Sweden. 2012. Swedish Research and Innovation Strategy for a Bio-based Economy. [Online document]. [Cited 14 May 2018]. Available at:

Greek National Plan for Waste Management. 2015-2020. [Online document]. Government of Greece. [Cited 6 May 2018]. Available at:

Law relative to Energy Transition for Green Growth. 2015-2030. [Online document]. Government of France. [Cited 6 May 2018]. Available at:

Romanian National Waste Management Strategy. 2014-2020. [Online document]. Government of Romania. [Cited 6 Feb 2018]. Available at:

The Finnish Roadmap to a Circular Economy. 2016-2025. [Online document]. Government of Finland. [Cited 6 May 2018]. Available at:

The Waste Management Program of the Slovak Republic. 2016-2020. [Online document]. Government of Slovakia. [Cited 6 May 2018]. Available at:

Waste Management State Plan PEMAR. 2016-2020. [Online document] Government of Spain. [Cited 6 May 2018]. Available at:

About the authors

David Huisman Dellago is an exchange student from Avans University of Applied Sciences in Breda (The Netherlands). He is developing his bachelor thesis working as an intern in Lahti University of Applied Sciences.

Susanna Vanhamäki works as a RDI Specialist at Lahti University of Applied Sciences.

Illustration: (CC0)

Published 24.5.2018

Reference to this publication

Huisman Dellago, D. & Vanhamäki, S. 2018. Circular economy in selected EU National strategies. LAMK Pro. [Electronic magazine]. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at:

Elinkaariarviointia teoriasta käytäntöön opiskelun ja yhteistyön avulla

Lahden ammattikorkeakoulun liittyminen LUT-konserniin on tuonut opiskelijoille uusia oppimismahdollisuuksia. Yhteistyö Lappeenrannan yliopiston ja LAMK:in Kiertoliike-projektin kanssa on antanut ensimmäisille LAMKin opiskelijoille mahdollisuuden oppia elinkaarimallinnusta GaBi-ohjelmistoa käyttäen. Yleensä menetelmää voinut opiskella vasta yliopistossa maisterivaiheessa.

Kirjoittajat: Anni Orola ja Sakari Autio

Elinkaariarvioinnin perusteet

Elinkaariarviointi (Life Cycle Assessment, LCA) tarkoittaa menetelmää, jolla analysoidaan ja arvioidaan tuotteen tai palvelun koko elinkaaren aikaisia ympäristövaikutuksia (Klöpffer & Grahl 2014, 1). Elinkaarella tarkoitetaan tuotteen vaiheita alkutuotannosta loppusijoitukseen (Antikainen 2010, 11). Täydellinen elinkaari kattaa raaka-aineiden hankkimisen energianlähteistä alkaen, kuljetukset, väli- ja lopputuotteiden valmistuksen, käyttövaiheen sekä tuotteen loppusijoituksen ja/tai kierrättämisen (Klöpffer & Grahl 2014, 2). Usein elinkaarimallinnus rajataan koskemaan vain osaa elinkaaren vaiheista ja niiden ympäristövaikutuksista (European Commission 2010, 96). Elinkaariarviointeja tehdään tuotekehityksen ja parannuksen tueksi sekä tukemaan strategista suunnittelua, julkista päätöksentekoa ja markkinointia (European Commission 2010,1).

Elinkaariarvioinnin tueksi on kehitetty kansainväliset ISO14040 ja ISO 14044:2006 –standardit (European Commission 2010, 1). Niiden mukaan arviointi sisältää neljä vaihetta: tavoitteiden ja soveltamisalan määrittely, inventaarioanalyysi, vaikutusarviointi ja tulosten tulkinta. Tavoitteiden ja soveltamisalanmäärittelyssä määritellään arvioinnin tarkoitus ja arvioitava tuote tai systeemi. Inventaarioanalyysin aikana tapahtuu varsinainen tiedonkeräys ja järjestelmän mallintaminen (European Commission 38, 51, 153, 109.). Vaikutusarviointi kokoaa yhteen inventaariotiedon, joka luokitellaan ja karakterisoidaan (Antikainen 2010, 25). Tulosten tulkintavaiheessa tuloksista tehdään johtopäätöksiä ja niiden luotettavuutta tarkastellaan. Kaikki vaiheet ovat iteratiivisia eli kaksisuuntaisia prosesseja eli aiempiin vaiheisiin voi aina palata takaisin niiden lähtökohtien tarkastamiseksi. (Antikainen 2010, 16-17.)

Euroopan komission (2016) mukaan elinkaariarviointi tarjoaa parhaan viitekehyksen tällä hetkellä saatavilla olevien tuotteiden arviointiin. Vaikka elinkaariarviointia pidetään luotettavana menetelmänä, siinä esiintyy epätarkkuuksia arvioinnissa tehtävien rajausten ja oletusten vuoksi (Koponen 2016). Yleensä esimerkiksi prosesseihin liittyvät tiedot eivät ole tarkkoja vaan keskiarvoon perustuvia. Lisäksi paikkaan sidottuja tietoja on vaikea löytää, jolloin on käytettävä jonkin muun alueen spesifejä tietoja. (Simonen 2014, 9.) Pitkäikäisten tuotteiden todellisia ympäristövaikutuksia on vaikea arvioida, koska on mahdotonta ennustaa, millainen jätehuoltojärjestelmä on esimerkiksi viidenkymmenen vuoden päästä (Klöpffer & Grahl 2014, 35). Elinkaariarviointi keskittyy usein vain muutamiin vaikutuksiin kuten kasvihuonekaasupäästöihin tai happamoitumiseen (Koponen 2016). Myöskään esimerkiksi tuotteen sosiaalisia vaikutuksia ei lasketa mukaan (European Commission 2010, 95).


Elinkaariarvioinnin voi tehdä erilaisilla mallinnusohjelmilla. Tunnetuimpia ohjelmia ovat SimaPro, GaBi ja ilmainen Open LCA. Mallinnusohjelmat helpottavat arvioinnin tekemistä, koska niillä on valmiiksi laajoja tietokantoja eri materiaalivirtojen ja prosessien ympäristövaikutuksista. Lisäksi ohjelmien avulla on helppo tuottaa aiheeseen liittyvää analyysia ja visuaalisia kuvaajia. Ohjelmat soveltuvat esimerkiksi mallintamiseen, laskentaa ja tulosten arviointiin. Ne sisältävät myös erilaisia vaikutusarviointimenetelmiä. (Antikainen 2010, 22-23.)

Elinkaariarviointi LAMKissa

Ensimmäiset Lahden ammattikorkeakoulun opiskelijoiden tekemät elinkaarimallinnukseen pohjautuvat opinnäytetyöt valmistuvat tänä keväänä. Työt on tehty GaBi 8.5 -elinkaarimallinnusohjelmalla, jonka hankinta rahoitettiin LAMKin Kiertoliike-projektin toiminnasta. Mukana yhteistyössä oli myös Lappeenrannan yliopiston Ville Uusitalo, joka auttoi mallinnusohjelman kanssa pitämällä säännöllisiä ohjauksia LAMKin opinnäytetöiden tekijöille ja ohjaavalle opettajalle.

Opinnäytetyössä Juomapakkauksen elinkaaritarkastelu verrattiin NWB-Finland -yrityksen uudenlaista juomapakkausta vastaaviin PET-muovisiin pakkauksiin. Kaikista pakkauksista tehtiin elinkaariarviointi, ja tulokset laskettiin käyttämällä CML 2001 Jan. 2016 menetelmää. Vaikutusluokista otettiin huomioon hiilijalanjälki. Lisäksi verrattiin pakkausten logistista tehokkuutta, jäteastiatilavuutta sekä massaa jätteenä. Tulokset olivat hyviä NWB-Finlandin juomapakkauksen osalta. Yritys sai opinnäytetyöstä markkinoinnissa hyödynnettävää tietoa, kuten toiveena olikin.

Idean tehdä opinnäytetyöni elinkaarimallintamalla sain ollessani harjoittelussa LAMKin Kiertoliike-projektissa. Harjoittelun aikana tutustuin GaBi-ohjelmaan, jonka käyttämistä opinnäytetyön tekemiseen ehdotti Kiertoliikkeen projektipäällikkö Maarit Virtanen. Opinnäytetyön tekeminen elinkaarimallintamalla oli kiinnostavaa ja haastavaa. Haasteita toi esimerkiksi se, että kaikkia mallinnukseen vaadittavia prosesseja ei löytynyt ohjelman tietokannoista, jolloin prosesseja täytyi luoda itse etsimällä vaadittavat arvot kirjallisuudesta. Näin jälkikäteen tuntuu, että pääsin kokemaan vain pintaraapaisun elinkaarimallinnuksesta. Jatkan syksyllä opintojani Lappeenrannan yliopiston englanninkielisessä Circular Economy -maisteriohjelmassa, minkä myötä pääsen toivottavasti vielä oppimaan lisää aiheesta.


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Klöpffer, W. & Grahl, B. 2014. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) : a guide to best practice. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH.

Koponen, K. 2016. Sopiiko elinkaariarviointi poliittisen päätöksen tueksi. VTT. [Viitattu 24.1.2018]. Saatavissa:

Orola, A. 2018. Juomapakkauksen elinkaaritarkastelu: Case: NWB-Finland. [Verkkodokumentti]. AMK-opinnäytetyö. Lahden ammattikorkeakoulu, tekniikan ala. Lahti. [Viitattu 16.5.2018]. Saatavissa:


Anni Orola, valmistui 30.4 energia- ja ympäristötekniikan insinööriksi LAMKista

Sakari Autio, ympäristötekniikan lehtori, LAMK

Artikkelikuva: Oona Rouhiainen

Julkaistu 21.5.2018


Autio, S. & Orola, A. 2018. Elinkaariarviointia teoriasta käytäntöön opiskelun ja yhteistyön avulla. LAMK Pro. [Verkkolehti]. [Viitattu pvm]. Saatavissa: