A plant-based diet is healthier for people and more sustainable for the environment. There has been a lot of talk about reducing meat consumption in recent years, but we have yet to see a dramatic change. However, according to young people, they are about to change the situation.
Last year, we conducted a study for the ScenoProt project, examining the views of young people on nutrition, diet and how they expect eating habits to change over the next ten years. 300 people between the ages of 16 and 22 across Finland responded to the survey.
According to the results, a large majority of the young respondents believe they will eat more vegetables and plant-based protein in the future. Half of the respondents expected to reduce their consumption of meat.
The survey showed that young people have sensible and reality-based ideas on what constitutes healthy, and on average, are reasonably well-informed on issues related to nutrition. The respondents were first asked to estimate their own level of knowledge. They were then asked to answer questions that measured that knowledge. Most respondents had a fairly good level of knowledge, but on average, the people interested in vegetarian food were slightly better informed than the rest. There is a clear correlation, but we could not establish causation.
A clear majority of the respondents were omnivores. Approximately 7% considered themselves vegetarians to some degree (~1-2% vegans), and some 20% often ate vegetarian dishes or had vegetarian days at least once a week. The percentages echo those of other studies conducted on this topic in recent years. Young women are clearly more interested in plant-based foods than young men. Since as according to the National FinDiet 2017 Survey by the National Institute for Health and Welfare, the food habits of adults and men in particular are currently far removed from recommendations, we can easily identify some of the key challenges for our food system.
We need to come up with ideas on how to make young men eat healthier. As forcing rarely leads to good results, we need to rather make the product selections, communication and positioning more versatile and appealing to a wider audience.
Young people welcome new plant-based (and other) food innovations. Over 80% of the respondents in our survey stated they were at least somewhat interested in trying out new food products as long as it was made sufficiently easy. One-fifth were even happy to put in a little effort to be able to try out new products.
There is thus fertile ground for new plant-based food products, and this opens up many new possibilities for the Finnish food chain. Hopefully, we’ll also be able to export more Finnish food innovations abroad.
I live circular economy both at home and at work. Recycling bottles, cans, packaging materials, newspapers and magazines is an everyday thing in our two-person household: my husband handles beverage packaging, while I take care of the rest of our recycling. In my workplace at the Sinebrychoff brewing company, I am proud to say we recycle all materials and have reduced the consumption of plastics.
Finland has an easy and convenient recycling system for beverage packaging. Thanks to considerable efforts by grocery stores and beverage manufacturers, we have established a nationwide system that is one of the central pillars of sustainable Finland, and many other countries look to our model for inspiration. PET bottles are the most recycled form of plastic packaging in Finland: 90% of the bottles get reused as material. Let’s aim to make that figure 100% – we can do it!
Our company Sinebrychoff – which celebrates its 200th anniversary this year – recycles all material. By-products of beer manufacture such as mash and yeast are used as feed for cattle and pigs, while carbon dioxide produced during beer fermentation is recovered, purified and reused for Coca-Cola. Moreover, process heat is used to heat up our Kerava facility, which is the size of 16 football fields.
In soft drink packaging, we primarily use aluminium cans and plastic bottles, both light packaging materials compared with glass. As packaging materials tie up natural resources, the less material is used, the smaller the packaging’s carbon footprint. Sometimes small innovations can have a big impact if the scale is big enough: a couple of years ago we decided to shorten the necks of Coca-Cola bottles by 4 millimetres, while slightly widening the caps. This decreased our plastics consumption by nearly 500,000 kilos in 2018, equal to more than 20 million half-litre plastic bottles.
Coca-Cola’s half-litre bottles are 50% recycled plastic, 15% bio-based plastic. Shorter bottlenecks significantly reduce plastic usage.
Material choices can also be used to reduce the carbon footprint of plastic bottles. That is why Coca-Cola bottles are made from recycled plastic and bio-based plastic. Recycled PET bottles have a smaller footprint than similar-sized glass and aluminium packaging.
Vice President, Corporate Affairs
You drop off plastic waste to a recycling point at the grocery store, then buy cleaning supplies made from recycled plastic in the store. The future? No, present day reality. Sinituote gives a new life to Finnish plastic waste by turning it into new cleaning supplies that last for years.
Environmental load and the increase in plastic pollution are global issues that we can all help mitigate by making the right choices. Plastic packaging must be recycled, and circular economy enables the reuse of plastic materials. Plastic currently has a bad reputation, but used correctly, it is an excellent material. Circular economy comes to full circle when a product made from recycled plastic is taken into use.
The Finnish cleaning supplies manufacturer Sinituote has been developing ways to increase the use recycled plastic for years now. The company is a forerunner in the use of recycled plastic – our target is that by year 2021, 30% of our plastic raw material is recycled plastic. Currently three commonly known products are already made from recycled plastic: the SINI dish brush replacement heads, toilet brushes and lint rollers.
Cleaning supplies made from recycled plastic are just as durable as those made from regular plastic. For consumers, the use of recycled plastic also means product prices do not go up. We all have a genuine possibility to make a difference and take environmental action by recycling our plastic packaging and choosing products made from recycled plastic.
Used correctly, plastic is an indispensable material. Effective recycling of plastics and good design of plastic products will continue to be key factors in reducing the environmental impacts of plastic, something Sinituote wants to embrace fully.
Product Manager, Sinituote Oy
K Group is known for being a strong and responsible operator. We at Gasum have been delighted to work on a sustainability story together with K Group. Gasum is known for being an expert of the Finnish energy sector, and is gaining reputation as a promoter of circular economy and contributor to a cleaner environment. In the past few years, we have helped industries and traffic take major leaps towards a low-carbon future in Finland as well as in Sweden and Norway. One element combines all our operations – methane molecule.
We receive about million tons of biomass annually and turn it into biogas and recycled nutrients and fertilizers for our customers. Biogas can also be utilised in food production. Did you know that K Group's Pirkka ice creams made at the Turenki ice cream plant are manufactured using Finnish renewable biogas produced by Gasum? The biogas used for manufacturing ice cream at the Turenki plant has been produced from inedible organic waste collected from K-food stores, which Lassila & Tikanoja delivers to our biogas plant.
On top of that, Stora Enso manufactures Pirkka ice cream packages in its boxboard mill using also biogas as the fuel. This great circular economy story is completed by K Group's gas-powered trucks, which transport the goods purely on gas. Besides energy, the organic waste of K Group is also turned into organic recycled nutrients.
In the biogas production process, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and carbon are returned to the natural cycle to grow new crops. Utilising the recycled nutrients generated in the process helps to reduce the use of fossil and imported fertilizers. The nutrients generated in the biogas production process provide a perfect consistency for an eco-friendly fertilizer on fields and for mitigating combustion gas emissions, just to name a few of its environmental applications. The reject water generated in our biogas plant in Turku is processed into an ammonia solution using evaporation technology. The solution is used by, for example, Algol Chemicals, which distributes it to industrial end-users as a recycled product.
The idea behind circular economy is to reutilise material and energy that was previously wasted. This offers a natural solution to the world's capacity problems as energy use and the population are growing. Biogas is a great example of the solutions of circular economy – it is a domestic fuel that is produced nearby and its utilisation helps to minimise the amount of unused waste and emissions.
The writer is Jussi Rinttilä who is the Sales Director of biogas at Gasum
Ps. Promoting circular economy is always a joint effort. In the previous K Team Days in Tampere, we shared a stand with our partners Lassila & Tikanoja and Stora Enso. Methane is of many uses and joins together.
Many of us want to make good choices in our everyday lives. The kinds of choices that support the well-being of ourselves and those close to us as well as that of nature and production animals. But how can we know what is good? And can it be trusted?
Organic products make for an easy choice. Organic producers commit to following more strict criteria to secure the well-being of nature and production animals and the production of food that is as natural as possible.
The criteria mean, for example, that organic fields are not fertilised with industrial chemical fertilisers and that no chemical pesticides are used in cultivation. The non-toxic soil and plants offer good conditions for rich biodiversity both above and below ground. Research has shown that organic fields are home to almost a third more of plant and animal species than conventionally cultivated fields. In addition, organic cultivation helps curb climate change as the methods used generate organic matters containing carbon into the soil. The nutrient discharges of organic fields into water systems are also smaller than conventionally.
Organic animals are allowed their natural behaviours. Pigs can grub, chickens can scratch the ground and calves can live in groups with their peers. During the summer, all organic animals are let outside and organic cattle roam the pasture, where their manure offers nutrition and protection to insects and beetles, who in turn are food for small birds.
Organic animals eat organically produced feed. This means that when you enjoy organic meat or milk, you are protecting nature from chemicalisation and water systems from nutrient discharges.
Organic does not stop at the farm gate – it extends to food production. The production of organic products permits only a fraction of the levels of additives and excipients permitted in other food. For example, organic foods prohibit artificial sweeteners and colourants.
The adherence to the requirements for organic products are monitored through yearly inspections. In Finland, the inspections are carried out by the authorities. The actors who pass the inspection mark their products with the EU organic label that makes organic products easy to recognise. As the selection of organic products expands, making responsible choices becomes even easier.
Executive Director, Pro Luomu ry
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