VTT Technical Research Leads Consortium to Promote Recycling

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VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is managing a new sustainability project dubbed ECOtronics, a consortium of optics and electronics companies in Finland committed to creating recyclable and compostable electronics and optics that use renewable resources.

Printed and assembled electronic materials on paper substrate

Printed and assembled electronic materials on paper substrate. Courtesy of: VTT.

“Several companies and research institutes are developing materials, manufacturing methods, and products for optics and electronics each on their own, and many of them have also tackled the environmental issues,” said Liisa Hakola, coordinator of the project at VTT.

Hakola said the aim for this project is to see the nine companies and four research institutes work together to examine the environmental responsibility issues related to electronics and optics. The initiative was inspired by increased environmental awareness in Finland, and from Finland’s government, which owns VTT.

“The initial motivation for the project was that several companies had expressed their interest in sustainability issues for VTT,” Hakola said. “This was because they were getting more and more inquiries about sustainability of their products and materials from their customers. In Finland, environmental issues are getting more emphasis, even from the government, so the timing was right for such an initiative.”

The project is also focused on production methods with the goal to have companies print their optics and electronics materials directly on thin, roll-to-roll base materials. VTT said that printing will fill in the component materials so that no waste is produced in the manufacturing process.

The optics materials in focus are those that create optical effects, such as those made by companies like Iscent, Hakola said. Iscent joined the consortium as a manufacturer of sustainable luxury effects and textures for packages and printed products. Hakola said VTT will evaluate Iscent’s efforts thus far in comparison to the project’s expectations.

VTT’s project will also examine whole product life cycles, from raw material manufacturing to waste processing. The project will draw up life cycle analyses for the solutions developed and compare them to solutions already in use.

But Hakola said the project has faced challenges in supplying enough material and the availability of sustainable substrates in large scale: “There are many developmental products, but utilization of those in industrial processes is limited.” Still, Hakola remains optimistic, hoping VTT can partner with additional material manufacturers through workshopping activities.

Of the consortium, Paptic is developing a new type of cellulose based substrate, while Finnish paper company Stora Enso is focused on renewable and recyclable packaging. Other companies in the consortium include New Cable Corp., Green Company Effect, Vaisala, GE Healthcare Finland, Confidex, and Total R&D of France. Research partners working with VTT include the University of Tampere, Lappeenranta University of Technology, and Lahti University of Applied Sciences.

Published: December 2019
BusinessEuropeFinlandVTT Technical Research CentersustainabilityrecyclingOpticsMaterialsenvironmentlight speed

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