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Old landfill is now a beautiful energy-producing park and ski resort

* written by Markku Illikainen, Ecomentor Ltd (CEO of Kiertokaari Ltd and Oulun Jätehuolto Ltd 1995–2020) 6.12.2021


Rusko’s landfill history in brief

The landfill area was originally a swamp meadow where in the summertime the peasants did the hay for their cows. The first loads of waste were brought into the area by horses in the late 1950s. After 1981 the Rusko landfill was the only official landfill in the city of Oulu. The landfill covered an area of 12 hectares.

The landfill caused odour nuisance to the surrounding area. Landfill biogas recovery began in 1997 with 30 sucking wells and one pumping station (capacity 1000 m3/hour). At the time it was the biggest biogas pumping station in Finland. The biogas recovery reduced odour nuisances.

Photo 1. Rusko’s landfill in use in 1997


In 1999, the old landfill became full, and the new emission-free landfill opened nearby. There was at that time 2 million tons of waste in the old landfill. The landscaping of the landfill was carried out in 2002 – 2005. The hill is 60 meters above sea level and has an altitude difference of 45 meters. When the hill was ready, the people named the site “Ruskotunturi” (“Rusko fell”).


Photo 2. The northern slope of the Rusko’s landfill before landscaping


A private company built a ski resort at Ruskotunturi in 2013. Ski resort was put into operation in December of the same year.


Surface structure of a landscaped landfill

The landscaping of the Rusko landfill was carried out in accordance with EU and Finnish national regulations. The surface structure built on top of the waste backfill is 2 meters thick. This layer has a 500 mm thick water-insulating layer made of a mixture of fibre sludge from a paper mill and ash from a peat power plant (mixing ratio 4:1). The top layer has a 200 mm growth layer made of a mixture of composted biowaste and sand. In other respects, the structure is mineral earth and crushed stone. In connection with the landscaping, an irrigation system was built under the structure so that the waste filling would receive water and anaerobic decomposition would continue. The landscaped landfill has been completed by planting 40,000 trees and shrubs on top of it. It is one of the most important carbon sinks near the centre of Oulu.

Photo 3. Map of the decommissioned landfill


Photo 4. The first stage of the landscaping has begun


Photo 5. Excavator on a landscaping slope



Photo 6. Fiber slurry and ash mixer in the foreground


Photo 7. Landscaping process


Photo 8. Stage 1 is ready (2004)


Photo 9. Ruskotunturi landfill in the early summer 2005


Photo 10. Ruskotunturi landfill in the late summer 2005


Photo 11. Ruskotunturi landfill in summer


Photo 12. Ruskotunturi is a popular mountain biking destination.


Photo 13. Ruskotunturi before the construction of the ski resort


Photo 14. Old landfill with landscaping and new landfill in the background


Utilization of landfill biogas

Biogas has been pumped from the landfill since 1997. The capacity of the pumping station is 1000 m3/hour. The gas is sucked under vacuum from 30 collection wells. Since 2000, all recovered biogas has been utilized. Biogas has been purchased by Paroc’s mineral wool factory, Oulu University Hospital and 2 laundries. For example, the Oulu University Hospital uses biogas to produce disinfectant steam. Some of the biogas goes to the Rosko waste centre’s microturbine plant, which produces all the electricity needed by the waste centre. The energy content of biogas collected and utilized annually corresponds to 3 million litres of oil (which amounts 60 million litres of oil in total during the past 23 years). The amount of methane recovered in biogas corresponds to 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. Kiertokaari Ltd, which operates in the Rosko waste centre, invested in a biogas purification plant in 2017. This eliminates the need to cancel landfill gas recovery when the methane content of the gas falls below 40 %. It also allows biogas to be recovered 20 years longer.

Note! A good example of circular economy is the biogas ecosystem in Kiertokaari. Biogas has been collected from landfills and used in industrial processes for over 20 years. Kiertokaari produces all the heat and electricity for their operations with biogas. Since September 2017 it has been possible to buy biogas from the Rusko waste centre as traffic fuel because there is now also a biogas plant of Gasum which produces traffic gas at the premises.

Photo 15. Biogas suction lines are drawn


Photo 16. Biogas collection lines at the water separation well.


Photo 17. Biogas pumping station


Photo 18. In the front there is biogas well head, behind there is Paroc factory


Photo 19. Rusko biogas fuel station


Ski resort Ruskotunturi

The city of Oulu built a road to Ruskotunturi in 2013. In the same year, a private company, Ruskotunturi Ltd, built a ski centre on the hill. There are 4 lifts on 5 slopes, ski rental and a restaurant. The hill is a very popular downhill and skiing location especially among young people and children because it is the only high place in Oulu. Every year, many schools and hundreds of schoolchildren do a winter sports day at Ruskotunturi. In the summer, Ruskotunturi is a popular place for jogging and mountain biking.

Photo 20. Skiers at Ruskotunturi


Photo 21. Ruskotunturi is popular among children


Photo 22. In Ruskotunturi you can jump on skies (Pics 15 – 18)


Photo 23. Ruskotunturi Ski Center


Climate award 2014

In 2014, the City of Oulu and Kiertokaari received a climate award from the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities (Kuntaliitto) for their work for the climate. Biogas pumped from the landfill replaces fossil fuels in plants and harmful methane is not released into the atmosphere. The trees planted on Ruskotunturi are an important carbon sink. Ruskotunturi ski resort will reduce car driving to the ski resorts of Lapland and northeast Finland because now in the city has its own ski resort.

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