18 December 2018

The Ham Trick is a step towards a world without landfills

Written by Lars Peter Lindfors
Published in under Innovation, Circular economy

The Ham Trick is now in its third year, and is a fun way of making Christmas part of circular economy. The campaign challenges the 300,000 households in Finland to collect the waste fat from their Christmas hams for recycling. The waste fat collected during the campaign will be refined to produce Neste MY Renewable Diesel™ for filling up fuel tanks after Christmas.

In cooperation with 14 other companies and organizations, the Ham Trick campaign demonstrates how circular economy is done in practice, and how waste can be used as raw material for renewable fuels.

Neste uses its own NEXBTL technology for refining waste and residues. This technology has enabled the company to establish itself within a short period of time as the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel. Thanks to this innovation, Neste has developed a business in renewable products that last year alone generated over EUR 3 billion in net sales and helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8.3 million tonnes. 

The ultimate goal of circular economy is that raw materials will not end up in landfills, but will instead be recycled and reused in different forms over and over again. It is far from being just a crazy idea. In Finland, paper has been recycled since the 1920s, glass since the 1980s and metals since the 1990s. What if, by 2030, we were able to recycle and repurpose everything and would no longer need landfills?

With the NEXBTL technology developed at Neste, we can make top-quality renewable diesel out of almost any vegetable oils and waste animal fats. Despite its name, the Ham Trick campaign is not limited to the recycling waste fat from hams. People can also participate by bringing other waste fats and oils for recycling, for example, from cooking of fish and vegetables.

The Ham Trick is a necessary project for showing consumers how circular economy operates, and we are extremely proud of it. However, the same idea needs to be implemented on a far larger scale, and this is an urgent goal to which we at Neste are also committed. In addition to ham fat, other plant-based and animal-based waste, plastics, hazardous waste, and so on should be brought within the scope of raw materials recycling in Finland.

Last year, Neste spent EUR 44 million on research and development to find new ways to refine lower-quality raw materials into high-quality end products. 

The Ham Trick has already shown that the best results are achievable through cooperation. Christmas is soon upon us, and in honor of it we challenge organizations in all fields to work on developing new applications of the principles of circular economics. These could involve the recycling and processing of waste fats produced by companies, in the spirit of the Ham Trick itself, or something much more far-reaching, hopefully bringing us closer to a world free of landfills.

Lars Peter Lindfors
Lars Peter Lindfors
Senior Vice President, Technology, Neste