Marcus Åberg, market area manager in Umeå, is responsible for Ragn-Sell's collaboration with SCA Obbola and Ecogain.
Marcus Åberg, market area manager in Umeå, is responsible for Ragn-Sell's collaboration with SCA Obbola and Ecogain.

From industrial landfill to nature area

A pioneering collaboration between Ragn-Sells, SCA Obbola and Ecogain will make an industrial landfill site in Obbola one with nature through ecological restoration. From industrial landfill to nature area with animals and plants that suit the rest of the habitat along the Ume River's delta.

11 Mar 2019

The collaboration between Ragn-Sells and SCA Obbola was initiated in 2003 when the paper mill was going to place a final cover on its Obbola industrial landfill site outside Umeå.

"We have used their own waste to cover this landfill and the work has been proceeding since 2004," says Marcus Åberg, market area manager at Ragn-Sells in Umeå.

The structure is laid out in eleven layers which consist of different types of waste, mixed and spread out to achieve their part of a total function in the final cover. The design was produced in order to meet the requirements for density in a landfill for non-hazardous waste, however, tests show that it meets the density for a landfill for hazardous waste, which is ten times harder. The density in the final cover is verified by two test areas that are monitored by Luleå University of Technology, which is also a collaborative partner.

"When we were starting to come to the end, we felt that we would like to do something positive with the landfill site and initiated a collaboration with Ecogain, which works with ecological restoration," Marcus Åberg says.

The ecologists at Ecogain, which is industry leader in the Nordic region in ecological restoration of former industrial environments, started to produce a plan for the ecological restoration of the Obbola site together with Ragn-Sells and SCA Obbola one and a half years ago.

"It quite simply concerns restoring and helping nature to return after a major intervention, which is what a landfill actually is. We have produced plans for nature's recovery, in relation to both plant and animal life."

Collaboration with ornithologists

The ecological restoration will commence during 2019. The aim is that the final cover of the landfill will be completed by the turn of the year 2020-2021 and that the restoration work will be completed by summer 2021.

"Much of the actual work will be performed by Ragn-Sells. During the winter, we will prepare the area on which we will then plant. For example, we will plant 8,000 grey alder during the late summer."

"We will order seed mixtures that will suit the local fauna and which will attract the insects that should be in the area. It is about not just creating the right conditions for desired species, but also removing undesirable invasive species such as Himalayan Balsam."

The work of restoring nature also includes sowing meadowland and installing piles of stones and brush in which certain animal and plant species thrive.

"In collaboration with ornithological associations, we will construct a slope to try to get sand martins to breed in the area."

Ecogain's plan for ecological and social added values also includes the Obbola landfill site becoming a part of a large recreation area.

"It has a superb location at the Ume River's highest point, with a fantastic view. Ragn-Sells is currently preparing the area for potential bird-watching towers, barbecuing places and a sledging slope that we hope will make the area a popular leisure area. We are conducting a dialogue with the municipality and the county administrative board to get them to take over the maintenance of such community facilities, but unfortunately there has not been much interest as of yet.”

Ripple effect

The work of restoring Obbola industrial landfill has produced a ripple effect and more customers have shown an interest in similar landfill covers.

"Securely enclosing landfill with a shell that subsequently becomes one with nature can be applied in more places and we have collaborations under way that are still in their early stages."

The collaboration between Ragn-Sells, SCA Obbola and Ecogain has also generated the possibility of designing soils for different purposes.

"This project might enable Ragn-Sells, helped by Ecogain's knowledge of animals and nature, as well as our own knowledge about the properties of waste, to design soils of different characters to suit different local biotopes. It might be anything from ordinary lawn soil to soil specially adapted for ecological restoration," Marcus Åberg says.