Turku, Finland

Regional collaboration for resource wisdom

About Turku, Finland

Located on the Southwest coast of Finland where the Aura river meets the Baltic sea, Turku is the oldest city in Finland. The Turku region comprises eleven municipalities and is home to over 300,000 inhabitants, making it the third largest urban area in Finland after Helsinki and Tampere.

Turku aims at achieving carbon neutrality by 2029, when the city will celebrate its 800th birthday and become climate positive with negative net emissions. The city is also committed to achieving resource wisdom (zero emissions, zero waste and a low ecological footprint) by 2040.

To support these goals, Turku collaborates with regional partners and ICLEI as part of the Circular Turku project.
Turku’s Mayor, Minna Arve, also holds the Global Circular Development Portfolio at ICLEI and as such plays a championing role to support the localization of the circular economy within the network.
Learn more about Turku’s strategic goals for resource wisdom in this video.

Turku's circular development priorities

  • Circular food systems

    Southwest Finland is often called “Finland’s food basket” as it holds a central position in Finnish food production, from agriculture to the food processing industry. Therefore, Turku’s location means that it has a key role to play in supporting the country’s transition to more resource-wise food systems. Agriculture is responsible for 10 percent of Finland’s greenhouse gas emissions. Looking at the entire food value chain—which means taking land use, transport, processing and waste into account—it is clear that food is responsible for considerable emissions and pollution. The task is therefore to increase resource wisdom at every stage of the food value chain, “from farm to fork”, through circular solutions.

  • Circular energy systems

    Turku’s energy system is the city’s largest single source of emissions. Since energy systems play an integral role in the majority of societal activities—and thus are strongly linked to all topics on the roadmap—achieving resource wisdom in this sector is critical. Turku has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2029 and climate positive from 2029 onwards. This requires substantial rethinking of energy systems that goes beyond the switch to renewable energy. The circular energy system of the future is resource-wise, cost-effective, multi-directional, flexible and smart. A circular economy approach to energy systems (which covers production, storage, distribution and use) will include reducing overall energy demand, facilitating waste heat capture and sustainable recovery of energy from waste streams. 

  • Circular buildings and construction

    Finland’s national government is calling for a 40 percent reduction in construction emissions by 2030, and for carbon neutrality by 2050. Yet Turku’s population is growing, as are local needs for housing, schools, kindergartens and care homes for the elderly. At the same time, there are opportunities to meet those needs in the form of un- and under-used space and buildings around the city.  Circular economy actions for construction, buildings and housing in Turku aim to address these challenges. Their objective is to increase the efficiency of use of infrastructure, buildings, spaces and construction materials, as well as to extend the lifespan of existing and future buildings by designing them for modularity and adaptability. Another goal is to have reuse and recycling of building materials be the rule, not the exception. Finally, circular construction in Turku will prioritize low-carbon building materials and clean construction sites that preserve ecosystems and minimize pollution.

  • Circular water systems

    The Turku region is already a leading example on circular water management thanks to a strong research and innovation community as well as cooperation with other Baltic cities. Municipalities in the Turku region have collaborated to implement joint circular solutions in areas ranging from water extraction to resource recovery. Regional actors have developed innovative managed aquifer recharge techniques to protect groundwater. Thanks to these internationally recognized innovations, high-quality drinking water is available in the region, and the nutrient load in the Archipelago Sea has been significantly reduced. However, challenges remain in ensuring the region is ready to face increasing stormwater levels and other climate change related risks. 

  • Circular mobility & logistics

    Developing low-carbon mobility is one of the major climate change mitigation measures in Turku’s Climate Plan. Under this plan, Turku is investing in redesigning its city center to make it more conducive to “soft mobility” (ie. human-powered, non-motorized mobility). Turku’s public transport equipment has already been partially converted to electric alternatives, an electric tram is under development and an electric bus network is being planned. The city has already started diversifying its low-emission mobility options with a city-bike and an electric scooter sharing system. 

    As part of Smart and Wise Turku, one of the city’s spearhead projects that combines the Smart City concept with the region’s 2029 carbon neutrality goal, Turku is working on ensuring city logistics are emission free.

    Yet promoting active and shared mobility in Turku remains challenging. Furthermore, freight traffic, which serves the needs of growing industries, is constantly increasing and the logistics industry remains cost-oriented and fragmented.

Turku's circular development initiatives

Multi-stakeholder collaboration

Local and regional governments can act as enablers and platforms for new circular economy solutions and can accelerate their adoption by effectively connecting businesses, universities and residents. The city of Turku aims to speed up the circular transition in the region though continuously strengthening multi-stakeholder collaboration.

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Increasing the circularity ambitions of regional waste management

At the European level, municipalities are asked to comply with increasingly ambitious recycling rates. However, there is a growing recognition that recycling won’t suffice to address current resource challenges if recycled materials are not used in primary production. On average, recycled materials constitute less than 12 percent of the European Union (EU) demand for materials. Moving to high-value recycling and circular economy practices that address waste challenges at their source has become a priority in the EU.

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A systemic water concept from extraction to resource recovery

Led by Turku’s City Council, municipalities in the Turku region collaborated to design a systemic solution to water management in the area. From groundwater protection to energy positive treatment and nutrients recovery, the water concept developed in the Turku region offers a systemic circular economy solution to efficiently manage water, nutrients and energy at the local level.

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Smart chemistry park

The chemical sector plays a central role in modern economies. It allows turning raw materials into high-value products that will be used in our everyday life. Yet there is a growing recognition that raw materials extraction is fueling climate change, pollution and ecosystems degradation. Chemistry will be critical to rethink the way waste streams can be used to decrease pressure on raw materials as well as the impacts of industries as diverse as the plastic, construction, energy or electronics industries.
Yet circulating molecules is linked to many challenges, from achieving the required performance properties to complying with safety standards and finding demand for secondary uses. Small and medium enterprises play a pivotal role in developing and testing innovative solutions that can then be implemented at a bigger scale. Smart Chemistry Park offers a relevant example of how local public actors can support innovative circular economy solutions for high-value materials through industrial symbiosis.

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Supporting circular food systems through public procurement

City-owned assets and public procurement are powerful levers to influence a market-shift towards a more circular management of resources. Through its strategic procurement department, the city of Turku is currently working on decreasing the lifecycle carbon impacts of its food contracts. Along with a tool to track GHG emissions that is applied to contractors, the city is also setting goals for food waste reduction and vegetarian meals.

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Laying the foundations of a circular construction indsutry

Buildings and construction consume half of the world’s natural resources and about 40 percent of the world’s energy. The sector also accounts for about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Finland’s national government is calling for a reduction in construction emissions by 40 per cent by 2030, and for carbon neutrality by 2050.
The city of Turku is eager to develop circular construction innovations to decrease the lifecycle impacts of buildings and infrastructures and complement its carbon neutrality strategy. An area of importance for the city is the valorization of land
masses, such as clean surplus masses, mildly contaminated lands and dredged materials. This case study explores how Turku is piloting a landmasses valorization project for local reuse in new earthworks.

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