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The pollution of water and soil by waste is one of the biggest problems for our environment. Indonesia is the second-biggest contributor of plastic waste in the world, producing over 5 million tons of plastic waste per year with around 3 million tons disposed to the waters around the country. One of the main reasons is that many small islands have no waste collection and no municipal disposal system for household and other waste. Due to a lack of knowledge about the dangers involved, people dump their waste in landfills, burn it or dispose of it in the sea.

With the Recycle for Good program, SIG and the SIG Way Beyond Good Foundation want to change people’s behavior and promote a mindful use of natural resources. The program is designed to encourage the public to drop off recyclable waste such as beverage cartons, glass, plastic or cooking oil at a collection point and thus return it to the cycle. In return, they receive food vouchers or coupons for other goods and services that they can exchange at Recycle for Good partners. The materials are sorted on site and recycled by a recycling partner.

SIG Way Beyond Good Foundation envisions a future where good nutrition and clean water are available to everyone and natural habitats are preserved for the future generation.

With the experience of SO+MA, a Brazilian social startup that has been working with SIG since 2018 to promote the circular economy through a reward system, the foundation developed its global Recycle for Good program. Indonesia launched the program as the first country in Southeast Asia on March 3, 2023, at Cibubur Junction in East Jakarta, where a Recycle for Good drop point is located. Later, the program will be replicated.

New technology river waste collector now operational on the Mithi River in Mumbai, India

Finding new ways to address our environmental challenges is reliant on our ability to foster innovation to find ways of driving systemic change. To support such innovation and progress towards circularity, Huhtamaki, a key global provider of sustainable packaging solutions for consumers around the world, donated € 600,000 to fund the development and piloting of a river waste collector, invented by the Finnish cleantech start-up RiverRecycle. The collector is an integral part of RiverRecycle’s solution to solve marine waste, one of the biggest global challenges of today. With Huhtamaki’s support, a prototype waste collector was built and tested in Finland. This was then transported to and assembled in Mumbai, where it is now operational and where it will be collecting waste from the Mithi River for the next 12 months.

“We believe in protecting food, people and the planet. We also believe that cooperation across the value chain with key stakeholders is needed to address global sustainability challenges, for example such as in this case marine plastics. If we want to drive systemic change, we not only need to support the development and commercialisation of innovation that can help stop waste from getting into the oceans, but we also need the monetisation of waste and incentivisation of local communities to improve their waste management practices,” says Thomasine Kamerling, Executive Vice President Sustainability and Communications at Huhtamaki.

“When operating in a circular economy, cooperation among different players is fundamental to sustainability. Huhtamaki funding enabled us to complete two of the three parts of our journey of transforming plastic waste into a resource, with the positive engagement of affected communities. Huhtamaki’s commitment is an example of how collaboration helps solve global problems such as plastic waste pollution,” says Anssi Mikola, CEO and Founder of RiverRecycle.

The Mithi River project is run by a global partnership between UNTIL (now known as UN Global Pulse), VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, RiverRecycle and Earth5R, an India-based citizen-led environmental movement. In addition to building, setting up and operating the river cleaner for a year, Huhtamaki’s donation has been used to organise local hands-on workshops on effective waste management and recycling with a view to drive systemic change. The project also provides input to VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland on the floating waste and its seasonal variations that can be used to optimize clean-up operations and recycling processes for the future.

“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. VTT’s contribution also includes 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. In addition to the technology involvement, we also appreciate the collaboration between local partners and communities as an essential part of the successful project implementation,” says Jukka Sassi, Senior Scientist, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd.

Huhtamaki’s ambition is to have 100 % 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 that protect for example food, pharmaceuticals and personal and home care products, the Company has already several recyclable flexible packaging structures in the market under its Huhtamaki blueloop concept. In addition to the Mithi River project, Huhtamaki is contributing to the building of necessary recycling infrastructure by setting up a pilot recycling plant for flexible packaging in India which should be operational by the end of 2021.