Clewer is a group of companies that specialises in wastewater purification and recycling, as well as RAS systems. Its patented RBBR technology uses bioreactors of various sizes to treat wastewater. In the system, water flows through a container where precise bacteria remove impurities such as phosphorus, nitrogen and organic matter.
The company views the development of the circular economy as crucial. Treated and recycled water can be used for the efficient and environmentally sound farming of high-quality, clean local fish, for example. The fish farming industry has, in fact, been one of the main areas of focus for the company.
Clewer’s systems are based on years of research and development. The company has never wanted to rush onto the market by launching incomplete products, simply in order to turn a quick profit.
“We have operated as a long-term product development organisation. We have never been in a hurry; we’d rather perfect our products before moving on to marketing them,” explains CEO and President Jouni T. Laine.
Clewer manufactures wastewater treatment systems for both private and corporate use. In the Southwest Finland region, the company’s biggest customer is probably Hesburger and its Kaarina-based dressing and mayonnaise factory, where wastewater flows through Clewer reactors for purification.
In the Turku metropolitan region, wastewater treatment is centralised to the Kakola area. It contains a typical modern urban solution of the kind that has been in use for decades. One example of Clewer’s innovative ideas is that as cities grow, it is not always sensible to link the peripheries to a central treatment plant; instead, their wastewater could be treated locally in smaller units.
“Our aim is to treat wastewater at the source. We also want to make people understand the utmost importance, in the future, of recycling water.”
Concrete problems that illustrate this can be seen for example in Finland’s beloved Baltic Sea, which is known even to the everyman for its poor state of cleanliness. Laine lists three crucial issues for improving the prospects of the Baltic Sea and the whole country’s environment, waterways and groundwater.
“It all relies on three basic pillars. First, adequate legislation. Our laws do not sufficiently curb the activities that are currently taking place.”
“Second, education; and third, awareness. We as individuals are the ones causing these problems with our choices. If we lack a communal and social conscience, then legislation will never change, because we don’t put any pressure on politicians. Similarly, education won’t change, and neither will awareness.”
Our aim is to treat wastewater at the source.
Environmental values are in fashion, especially among younger generations. Choices made by individuals that help to preserve the environment are gradually having a collective impact on the corporate side, too. Although plenty remains to be done, Laine discerns a positive trend.
“I am happy to note that here in Southwest Finland people seem to be more motivated in this respect than, say, five years ago. It has clearly had some sort of impact on both individuals and businesses. Things seem to be heading in a significantly better direction than before. People are more aware.”
Of course, the ultimate goal of companies is to make a profit and create jobs. Environmental technology should not be presented as a threat to this; quite the opposite. One good example can be found in the Clewer wastewater treatment systems used in car washes in the Turku region, which not only protect the environment but are also a financially viable option.
“A car wash can easily save up to tens of thousands of euros in water and wastewater fees by using these systems. The bottom line is greater profits. It can be a crucial factor in making a business profitable.”
Clewer’s mission is to help in cleaning wastewater, not only in its own region but also internationally, in countries where the public may not even be aware of threats to the purity of water. In China, for example, the groundwater level is falling by one metre per year. It is just one of many places around the world where the groundwater is being used at a deficit. We are changing the environment in relation to one of the basic pillars of life.
The problem is not so much with the availability of groundwater; the question is how can the water be reached and cleaned at a reasonable cost.
“There are many parts of the world besides drought-stricken Africa with a serious water crisis. The worst thing is that, as in the early days of climate change awareness, no one used to be interested. And now we feel the same way about the water crisis: it’s not our problem.”
As the crisis worsens in areas such as East Africa and the Middle East, the worst-case scenario is a complete lack of access to water and a consequent flood of refugees that completely dwarfs the recent onset faced by Europe.
“In terms of the world economy and global security, there is no more important an element than water. That makes it an issue that concerns us, too. Even if in Finland we have thousands of lakes and good water resource management, we share the globe with everyone else, and the consequences will affect us all.”
Environmental technology is an ace up Finland’s sleeve that has not yet been properly brought into play. It has enormous export potential and fits what are seen as Finnish values. Laine crystallises his own and his company’s philosophy in a single phrase:
“If you can make money by doing good, then that’s the best job in the world.”
Jouni T. Laine