Student Life

Engineering students from the degree programme in Materials Processing Technology working as waste sorting specialists

December 17, 2018

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Kuvahaun tulos haulle fortum logo

Arcada and Fortum Waste Solutions Oy (previously Ekokem) have been in a mutually beneficial collaboration for some years already. In June 2016 Fortum launched a Circular Economy Village for effective material recovery from various waste streams. Therein lies a plastic refinery to recover plastic materials from waste streams, even consumer waste. I was one of the students working as a project assistant in the preceding tests for the plastic sorting equipment currently used in said Circular Economy Village. For me it was the turning point in my career (as a student of Arcada in Plastic Technology), I learned a lot about the nature of plastics, about the consumer packaging applications of plastics – and surprisingly about design for recycling. And that was when I truly understood that addressing the plastic waste issues was something I wanted to do, professionally. That was years ago already, in 2013.

Now, going back to Fortums Riihimäki plant for a one week project with a handful of student, I was full of nostalgia. It also made me really happy and proud to get to give a similar opportunity for the students that are currently studying in Arcada. I hope that for them the experience gave similar learning outcomes. They might not become the next “me” – or become driven to solve the issues in plastic recycling or waste handling- but at the very least I hope the different plastic qualities and types became more familiar. The figure below shows happy faces, so maybe it truly was as nice for them as it was back then for me. Back then I wrote a work practice report I titled “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” – and I genuinely still feel the same.

Figure: The student team participating in the sorting work at Fortum in November 2018

The reason why engineering students would be good for this kind of work might not be very apparent to most. Afterall, manually sorting waste is something that the least fortunate in the world do daily in order to survive – barely, so why would I be excited about this? Why would our students be happy to do this? And why would Fortum value our expertise so that they’d prefer our students over random “easy” staff?  A mystery to some, so I  will elaborate. The Degree programme of Arcada in Materials Processing Technology gives its students the appropriate background to understand the importance of sorting plastics according to their exact fractions as well as a deeper understanding of the different plastic types. The required induction and introduction to the work is less, and because of our specific training, we actually care about the trash we sort and the outcome. Caring about what you (and everyone involved) do is the best way to ensure a good outcome for any project. Circular economy thinking is something Arcada has been investing brain power in for years already, and it truly is the case: one man’s trash is our epic learning outcome.

And the collaboration continues. In 2019 Fortum and Arcada share a project where work practice and at least one thesis work is included. More information about the fruitful collaboration will therefore be probably published later through theseus ( if the corporate secrecy allows), through this- and hopefully many more projects to come.

In case you are interested in taking part in similar opportunities in the future, keep your eyes open for job posts in lab.arcada.fi.

Passionately waiting for the ventures we all share in the future,

Maiju Virtanen
Research Engineer
maiju.virtanen@arcada.fi

More information about the circular economy village of Fortum:
https://www.fortum.com/media/2017/11/circular-economy-village-riihimaki-finland

More information about the current open positions for work practice for Arcada:
lab.arcada.fi