Huhtamaki has donated 600,000 euros ($707,900) to fund the development and trial of a new type of river waste collector, designed to tackle the problem of floating plastic debris in rivers around the world.
Invented by the Finnish cleantech start-up RiverRecycle, a prototype waste collector was built and tested with the help of the funding in Finland, before being transported to and assembled in Mumbai. Now operational on the Mithi River, it will collect waste and floating debris polluting the river for the next 12 months. The project is one of three initiatives that Huhtamaki funded as part of its 100-year anniversary to address global sustainability challenges and build and learn from circular economy initiatives globally.
“If we want to drive systemic change, we not only need to support the development and commercialization of innovation that can help stop waste from getting into the oceans, but we also need the monetization of waste and incentivization of local communities to improve their waste management practices,” said Thomasine Kamerling, executive vice president sustainability and communications at Huhtamaki.
The support provided by Huhtamaki enabled two of the three parts "of our journey of transforming plastic waste into a resource, with the positive engagement of affected communities' to be completed," said Anssi Mikola, CEO and founder of RiverRecycle.
The project also provides insights about the behaviour of floating waste and its seasonal variations, which VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland can use to optimize future clean-up operations and recycling processes,
“The Huhtamaki funding enables the adaption of optical sensors and drones in the detection of floating plastic objects and differentiation of plastics from organic material,” said VTT Senior Scientist Jukka Sassi.
VTT is also conducting pyrolysis test runs and assessing chemical recycling of the recovered plastic waste fractions. “At a broader level we aim to enhance circular economy solutions for the global challenge of plastic waste pollution,” added Sassi.
Huhtamaki aims to have 100 percent of its products designed to be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2030. In India, where Huhtamaki has 16 units and manufactures mainly high-quality flexible packaging, the company has already several recyclable flexible packaging structures in the market under its Huhtamaki blueloop concept. In addition to the Mithi River project, the company is helping to establish the necessary recycling infrastructure in the country by setting up a pilot recycling plant for flexible packaging in India. This new plant should be operational by the end of 2021.