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Baltic cooperation in nutrient recycling – FinBaltRecycling project 2022-2023

Cooperation and expertise exchange between Finland and Baltic Sea region countries on biowaste management and nutrient recycling.

About the project

Baltic cooperation in nutrient recycling – FinBaltRecycling project was launched in July 2022 and continued until the end of 2023. The cooperation is implemented by the Ministry of the Environment of Finland and funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. The project is realized in collaboration with the Environmental Ministries of Estonia, Lithuania and Poland.

The cooperation aims to increase the recycling and processing of biowaste in accordance with the EU goals in the cooperating countries and to promote nutrient recycling and circular economy in the Baltic Sea region. The aim is also to improve the state of the Baltic Sea and inland waters by implementing HELCOM’s regional nutrient recycling strategy. To reach these goals, FinBaltRecycling has largely supported cooperation between authorities, produced studies and surveys about nutrient recycling and shared information about these topics.
Conclusion of the project

The project has served as an important tool contributing to Baltic Sea protection and meeting recycling goals by sharing experiences and best practices between partner countries.

Although all the project countries are the members of the European Union and basically following the same directives, there still are notable differences but also similar challenges in the waste and biowaste management, nutrient recycling and environmental education. During the seminars, visits, webinars, round table and on the discussions, the importance and topicality of these topics were recognized. Participants were willing to co-operate, learn from each other and share experiences.

All the countries have rather similar challenges related to biowaste: citizens are generating large amounts of municipal solid waste (MSW), there still is notable amount of biowaste left in the mixed waste, and there are not well established and well-functioning sorting systems and/or composting in some places. In addition, citizens are not aware about the price difference between mixed waste and source separated biowaste, so that they may not know that proper sorting could lower their waste fees, as the price for mixed waste is higher. Sorting and handling of biowaste is considered to be dirty and smelly and citizens may still believe that all the waste are transported to the same place (landfill, incineration) despite the source separation, and. In some countries rather big part of organic waste may go to landfills and/or incineration.

In all the countries source separated biowaste is mainly treated in biological treatment plants, either in aerobic or anaerobic treatment plants. There are differences in the extent of the source sorting possibilities (e.g. biowaste bins in the apartments and in the waste collection point, transportation of biowaste to the treatment plants) and prices between the countries. Some of the countries rely on mechanical separation of MSW in addition or instead of source separation in order to get e.g. biobased fractions out of mixed waste. If source separation is not well established in places, mechanical sorting can aid to avoid landfilling of biobased waste although it is not considered to be recycling according to the EU. One additional challenge is also to get markets for the end-products, compost or digestate, from the treatment plants. There may be regulatory issues and/or doubts if the end-product can be used as a fertilizer as it depends on the input material (e.g. wastewater sludge) as well.

Biowaste separation was seen important part for the nutrient recycling. Well done sorting decrease the amount of landfilled organic waste in some countries, which could reduce the possible leakage of the nutrients from the landfills. Also, collected biowaste can be treated in the biological treatment plants and get e.g. fertilizers to be used in farming or landscaping. It also helps to reduce the use of fossil fertilizers and improve the self-sufficiency of the country.

Another important instrument that promotes nutrient recycling is nutrient balances (or nutrient maps). Nutrient balances serve as tools for authorities, and identify the nutrient surplus and deficit areas of a certain area. This way it is possibly to estimate whether there is a risk of nutrient leaching to waterbodies, and whether nutrient-rich material could be transferred from the surplus areas to the deficit areas. The project produced a guide for local nutrient balances focusing on nitrogen, phosphorus and organic matter.

There was presentations and lively discussion about the possibilities and challenges related to the environmental education. Waste companies and other organizations have many kind of educational methods e.g. to improve the sorting efficiency of waste in all the participant countries. Basic educational duties were overall information sharing about the waste sorting, maintaining websites and making guides, visits to schools and public events but there was many kind of innovative methods, e.g. gaming, art exhibitions, waste escape rooms, theater, comic books etc. Some methods, for instance door-to-door visits and free bins and/or biowaste bags were considered effective but time- and resource-taking.

Overall, during the project many new ideas were collected and new networks established. It was discussed that the partner countries many times check the practices of the other countries when establishing the new regulations. Utilization of the existing partner network and open information sharing could enhance the important aims of the FinBaltRecycling project further even after the project has ended. As international cooperation and knowledge exchange is important in addressing some of the pressing environmental challenges related to Baltic Sea, there still is a need to deepen expert dialogue between Ministries, experts and stakeholders and foster relationships and partnerships between Baltic Sea neighboring countries.


Project’s events

  • Kick Off event 3.11.2022
  • Biowaste as a resource – solutions from Estonia and Finland -seminar (Tallinn 29.11.2022)
  • Biogas and Nutrients -webinar (online 7.3.2023)
  • Biogas sector in Lithuania and Finland -seminar (Vilna 21.3.2023)
  • Roundtable discussion on biowaste management in the Baltic Sea region countries (Helsinki 29.5.2023)
  • Accelerator Session at the World Circular Economy Forum 2023 ( Circularity in food systems: Finnish expertise in using biowaste as a resource for energy and recycled fertilizers (Helsinki 2.6.2023)
  • Environmental education event in Baltic Sea Family Day (Tallinn 2.09.2023)
  • Visit of the delegation from Baltic states to Finland (Helsinki 18 – 21.9.2023)
  • Environmental raise-awareness –seminar/webinar (Helsinki 20.9.2023)
  • Workshop for environmental education trainers and teachers (Tartu 05.12.2023)


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