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From wastewater to sustainable development

VTT created a research professorship in environmental protection technology in the mid-1970s. The research was focused on the prevention of the contamination of waterways. VTT studied, for example, the environmental effects of wood treatment plants and developed methods that could speed up the analysis of wastewater. VTT also examined the waste produced by communities, hazardous waste in particular, and their processing; studied the composition of industrial flue gases and how they could be limited; and researched the biological purification of industrial waters. In the 1980s, VTT’s investigations included the environmental effects of domestic fuel production and use.  

Next to the digitalisation of information, sustainable development is the other megatrend strongly steering VTT’s operations. Environmental technology is no longer seen as a separate field of research; the perspective of sustainable development is taken into consideration in all research, development and innovation operations.

Curbing the climate change

Curbing the climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions is of a critical importance to sustainable development. According to studies by VTT, Finland is capable of reaching the set emission goals, but this would require, for example, renewing the entire energy system by 2050 and the development and implementation of new technology in energy production and other fields. In addition to direct reductions of emissions and waste, the overall energy and resource efficiency of production, products and their use are important, as they have an indirect effect on emissions. VTT’s central research subjects include low-carbon energy technologies, lean production and eco-efficient environment.

Water technology and use of wastewater for energy

The most important current trends in water technology are the use of wastewater for energy and the energy efficiency of wastewater treatment. VTT is researching the use of wastewater also as part of a biorefinery producing renewable materials and energy.

In order to gather Finnish water know-how together, in 2010 VTT and Kemira Plc founded a shared water research centre in Finland. VTT and Kemira opened a shared research centre also in São Paolo.


Refining industrial waste materials

The Ecomining concept developed by VTT for refining industrial waste materials offers a new, environmentally friendly handling concept for waste streams with metal content. Bioleaching is used to recover exploitable metals from the metal waste and direct them to be recycled. This treatment suits, for example, sludge from the metal industry, dusts and slags, various ashes and slags from combustion processes, and tailings and waste rock from mines.

Eco-efficient buildings

VTT has created an Internet application called Ecopass for measuring the eco-efficiency of your holiday home. The indicators are: energy consumption, share of renewable energy, carbon footprint of the constructions, waste sorting and recycling, water supply and sewerage, and location and accessibility.  Ecopass has been used to assess the eco-efficiency of, for example, the fair houses at the Mäntyharju Holiday Housing Fair. The Village Pass has been produced for assessing the eco-efficiency of entire holiday villages. It takes into consideration the location and transportation of the holiday village, the area’s infrastructure, natural state, the services in the area and energy.  VTT is developing energy efficiency solutions for new and existing areas in cooperation with cities and parties in the field of construction.

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