Tallinn University of Technology

Paide Gymnasium students had the opportunity to study the principles of the circular economy through elective courses leaded by TalTech researchers and lecturers. In addition to participating in the lectures, the students were able to work in the university laboratories and later present the materials they had created after completing the course.

Paide noored

As a result of the collaboration between the TalTech Institute of Geology and the Institute of Materials and Environmental Technology, three circular economy courses were held during the last academic year 2021-2022, covering the circular economy lifecycle from the beginning to the end. Veiko Karu, Head of the Department of Mining and Mineral Technology at TalTech, explained that since circular economy starts with mining, the first course focused on the efficient extraction, valorisation and processing of raw materials.

Tiia Plamus, senior lecturer at the Institute of Materials and Environmental Technology and program manager of the materials technology curriculum, added that the second and third year courses studied circular economy applications  in the field of materials technology. “Participants studied the textile industry, solar energy materials, wood and polymer products and much more," said Plamus.

“For the first time in the history of our elective courses, young students themselves made new materials from freely chosen scraps. Before coming to the laboratory, they also had to thoroughly plan the material development phase.”.

According to Plamus, the young people used wood chips, bark, polymer, and textile materials as well as reeds in their research. "The students were creative in the laboratories and had a lot of good suggestions. As a lot of practical work was required, there was no downtime, which was even more motivating for them. ”

The city of Paide came up with the idea to offer an elective course in circular economics in a local school, which submitted a proposal to the university. “It was very clear that the two institutes could put together a really strong syllabus with the help of their lecturers and researchers. We are especially pleased that we were able to invite young people to work in TalTech laboratories, an opportunity students have not had before, ”confirmed Veiko Karu.

According to the organizers, 14 students of Paide Gymnasium participated in the courses and were very satisfied with their studies. "The students asked if it was always this interesting at the university," said Karu, who did not rule out that other Estonian upper secondary schools could participate in similar course in the future. "It's a matter of negotiation, if we find the time and the opportunity, then why not?"

He added that Europe was already facing a mineral crisis and that people's awareness of the circular economy needed to be raised, along with the need for exploration for the Earth's crust and the search for new deposits. "Current high schoolers want to be smarter consumers because they care about the environment and the Earth's resources. Our goal is, on the one hand, to guide these better purchasing choices and, on the other hand, to raise interest in the specialties related to circular economy, ” concluded Karu.

The TalTech Institute of Geology combines science and technology, and trains crustal and mining engineers. The research areas of the Institute's researchers are past climate and environmental changes, crustal resources both in Estonia and in the world, and related technologies.

The mission of the Institute of Materials and Environmental Technology is to be the leading promoter of high-level research and development in the field of materials and environmental technology. The Institute's nine laboratories cover environmental and chemical technologies, chemical film technologies, and technologies related to the development of various new materials, as well as research and development in solar energy, optoelectronic, biofunctional, inorganic, polymer, wood and textile materials.

More information:
TalTech Institute of Geology
+372 5121131