By John Macaulay |
Nestled amongst the lakes and forest of Finland’s mid-Nordic region, a complex of businesses tied to forestry works closely to lessen their ecological footprint.
The site is called Rantasalmi, located near the town of the same name. A wood waste-burning electricity plant supplies electricity and excess heat to a cluster of businesses nearby. A log house manufacturer, carpenters, transport company and window and door frame factory operate side-by-side, providing their waste wood and sawdust to the plant.
Businesses at Rantasalmi aim to increase their collaboration over time, improving material and energy efficiency, reducing waste and limiting emissions. All agreed to and signed a common environmental policy.
Rantasalmi is an example of an eco-industrial park (EIP). At most basic, an EIP involves an exchange between firms of their excess energy and materials. Waste from one firm becomes an input to another. Participants seek to improve their bottom line while lessening environmental impact.
Other EIP in Finland predate Rantasalmi, many of them centred around mechanical wood processing, but these all grew organically without any conscious vision or plan. Rantasalmi is the country’s first planned EIP.
The regional council took the lead, working with local businesses to build a plan and then hire an engineering firm to develop the site. Like many EIP in Finland and elsewhere, the basic prerequisites were already in place: businesses in close proximity, a resource recovery facility and a network of waste exchange.
The regional council envisioned the park as a way to increase the competitiveness and image of the companies within the regions while reducing their environmental impact.
As well, it viewed the park as a way to benefit the wider community. And by building linkages between its members and non-member businesses, the park laid the foundation for further expansion.
The council took advantage of funding provided by the EU through ProMidNord, a project to encourage sustainable development across the mid-Nordic regions of Norway, Sweden and Finland. The contributions helped fund the first phase of Rantasalmi between 2005 and 2007.
The park offers an example of public-private partnership: the municipality owns 49%, the log house manufacture 49%, and a smaller company holds the remaining 2%.
Under the direction of a local real estate company appointed by the regional council, a management body oversaw the operations of the park during its first phase.