SUMMARY Day 2: Waste water solutions

Written by: Nessling Foundation | 22.3.2017 | In category: Blogi

The second day of the Water at Risk symposium, the UN’s World Water Day, focused on the urgent theme of waste water management and solutions. Again the seminar hall was full of audience and a lot of further discussion arose between the talks. The theme of the day was addressed with a keynote by Sarah Gillman from Water UK and plenaries by Jani Salminen from Finnish Environment Institute and Kari Kuusiniemi from Supreme Administrative Court of Finland. The plenaries were commented by Rauni Karjala from Water Association Finland and Irina Nordman, the chair of Finnish Water Utilities Association.

After the plenaries Kenneth Collander from Stora Enso and Anniina Nurmi from Vihreät Vaatteet (Green Clothes) gave short pitch talks on water-smart business.

Fresh water and wastewater management should work in parallel

“Six billion people produce wastewater in the world, but it isn’t recycled. That’s an enormous amount. When I was born the whole world only carried five billion people”, said Saija Vuola in her talk.

Kai Mykkänen, the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, emphasized the need to scale up Finnish knowledge and skills to resolve global problems in the future.

”Being a forerunner does not mean that you can stay where you are”, he concluded pointing at the fact that Finland is considered to already have a highly progressive waste water management.

In many developing countries waste water solutions are secondary to getting fresh water for the population, Mykkänen said. Even though it sounds reasonable, it poses difficulties as these countries should do the same things as Finland has done but a lot faster. Otherwise we will have huge problems.

Sanitation is a human right

Sarah Gillman reminded that the United Nations did not count access to sanitation and water as a human right until 2010. She also presented that there were still around 2.4 billion people without basic sanitation in 2016, which means that goals regarding sanitation are far from realized.

According to Gillman wastewater systems consist not only of thousands of kilometers of pipes but also the system’s environment and customer service. The value of the latter should not be underestimated as it plays a significant role in engaging the users to make the system function.

At the end of her keynote she proposed it’s time to say goodbye to the traditional linear model and start working within a circular model instead. Challenges must be solved so they will not become problems, she concluded.

Water-smart circular economy

Jani Salminen presented the Finnish Environment Institute's Vesiviisas-project that Maj and Tor Nessling’s Foundation funded in 2015. Vesiviisas translates to water-smart in English. The project analysed connections between water and circular economy and searched for solutions for water-smart circular economy.

Salminen outlined that unlike a linear model circular economy aims to maintain the value in the product chain and reminded that circular economy is a full economic system, not just about recycling.

The need for circular economy cuts across different sectors and Salminen presented an example from food production. An example case highlighted that recovering potato protein from wastewater proved to be highly beneficial.

The Weser Judgement protects surface waters

”I would call European Union a 60-year-old success story”, Kari Kuusiniemi began his plenary talk. He stressed the role of the European Union as a fruitful platform for profound interaction between people around Europe.

He reminded that the EU law is harmonising by its nature and implemented at the member state level, where administrative decisions turn to legal practice. He drew an example on a so-called Weser Judgement which means that member states must refuse authorisation of a project that causes deterioration of surface waters. This means that even the fall of a single quality element leads to the rejection of a project.

Water is crucial for business

Water is crucial not only for forestry but also for all the industrial processes at Stora Enso, Kenneth Collander said right at the beginning of his pitch. If the company is not an expert on wastewater management, having the right partners is valuable, he said.

Anniina Nurmi, on the other hand, introduced a need for a systemic change in the clothing industry. She gave an example from jeans production, where replacing new cotton with recycled one can save up to 8000 litres of water. She also criticized the current system as a whole as it forces companies to sell more and more clothes as cheap as possible and called after a change of mindset. Clothing should be seen as a product-service system, she concluded.

Wastewater solutions

In the parallel sessions audience members got the chance to discuss about technology, legislation and business in terms of wastewater solutions. Small groups had a possibility to suggest ways to promote wastewater solutions in the society.

Networking and peer-learning through a platform and incorporating it into company strategies got the most votes in the wrap-up session. This was presented as an effective way to find new partners and learn from examples. Also regulation was considered a possibility to advance circular economy and equalizing the treatment of industrial plants' pollution loads.

Parallel sessions' slides:
How to motivate businesses to finding solutions?, Katri Mehtonen, Finnish Water Forum
Sector leadership by proactive approach to CSR, Tomas Biström, Kemira
Industrial viewpoints, Aija Jantunen, Voda Nordic Oy
Technological needs in the future. National and global viewpoints. Kristian Sahlstedt, Pöyry Ltd, Mari Heinonen, HSY
Law and research viewpoints, Jussi Kauppila, Finnish Environmental Institute (SYKE)