A third life for plastic: new cleaning products made from K-stores’ waste cut-flower buckets

K Group is one of the biggest sellers of flowers in Finland, and as many as 600,000 buckets that are used for cut-flowers accumulate in stores every year. In a collaboration recently launched between K Group, Lassila & Tikanoja and Sinituote, the discarded buckets will now be processed into a raw material that is used to make new cleaning products. The new range of SINI cleaning products is now available at K-Citymarket and K-Rauta stores.

Promoting the circular economy is one of the focus areas of K Group’s sustainability work. K Group is reducing product packaging and the use of plastic in a target-oriented way, and customers are provided with recycling opportunities in stores.

“We minimise packaging materials and waste generated in our own operations, and work with our partners to find solutions for how to reuse waste. For example, we use coffee grounds to make flower soil, and fruit damaged at our central warehouse is made into new Hyvis food waste products,” says Timo Jäske, Sustainability Director for Kesko’s grocery trade division.

In a circular economy collaboration that has just been launched with L&T and Sinituote, the buckets used for storing cut-flowers that accumulate at K-stores will be used as a raw material in the manufacture of cleaning products.

“We wanted to find a way to recycle the raw material from the cut-flower buckets to make new products. The buckets we use are already made from recycled plastic, so they are now getting a third life as new products. In this way we are advancing the idea of a circular economy by extending the life cycle of products and recycling raw materials. Depending on the product, 70–100 per cent of the plastic parts in the new cleaning range are made from recycled plastic pellets from the flower buckets,” says Jäske.

Flower buckets return to K-stores as a range of cleaning products

K-stores are among the biggest sellers of flowers in Finland, and more than 2 million bouquets of Pirkka Fairtrade roses are sold each year, for example. As many as 600,000 flower buckets are needed each year to store the flowers during transportation and in the store so they have enough water.

Until now, the buckets that reach the end of their useful life have been collected from stores as energy waste or business plastic waste for recycling and used as raw materials in industry. The material from the buckets was used for the first time to make new flower pots for K-stores in a pilot that took place in 2019.

K Group now wanted to look for ways in which the raw material from the flower buckets could be used for an entire product range. The brainstorming resulted in a collaboration with L&T and Sinituote.

“The plastic is crushed at L&T’s plastic recycling plant in Merikarvia, any impurities are removed and the material is then further processed into recycled plastic pellets. One flower bucket produces around 120 grams of pellets, so there is hardly any wastage. Mechanically recycled pellets can be used as they are as a raw material for new products. This is the circular economy at its best,” says Mikko Mäenpää, Account Manager at L&T.

The sacks of recycled plastic pellets continue their journey to the Sinituote factory in Kokemäki, where they are made into new SINI cleaning products.

“Currently, around 60 per cent of the plastic raw material used in Sinituote cleaning products is recycled plastic. Because we have considerable competence in the use of recycled plastics, we were already able to see, after the first test runs, the kind of products the recycled plastic from the flower buckets was suited for to perfectly meet the product’s quality criteria. Reusing plastic as many times as possible is efficient reuse of materials, and we need to make even greater efforts to do this,” says Jarkko Heino, Department Manager of the plastics department at Sinituote.

K Group is very pleased that the raw material from the flower buckets is now being recycled and returned to the shelves of K-stores as new products. The new, black SINI cleaning product range is now available in all K-Citymarket stores and some K-Rauta stores. The range includes the Nysväri and Jynssäri cleaning brushes for tricky spots, a toilet brush, a dish brush and a tape brush.

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