Pioneering sustainable solutions in waste management

Pioneering sustainable solutions in waste management

Successfully taking over a family business is perhaps no easy task, but Iiro Kankaansyrjä has transformed and streamlined his father’s 40-year-old Finnish waste management company, Kapasity Oy, and launched a tech-driven startup, EasyWaste.

Iiro Kankaansyrjä was in secondary school when, over dinner at a restaurant, he was asked by a relative what he planned to do with the family business. “I just retorted, ‘Yeah, it would be nice to run it someday’.” Kankaansyrjä’s father was the owner of Kapasity Oy, a 40-year-old Finnish company that specialises in waste management equipment – crushers, compactors, balers – and as the topic of succession became more relevant, so did Kankaansyrjä’s desire to take charge. 

Kankaansyrjä has had an entrepreneurial flair since he was a door-to-door salesman as a teenager. And while he had a deep interest in the family business, it was only as he got older that he began to see it as a viable career option. He took a position in the sales department, learning the ropes before moving into the position of chief operating officer in 2015. Finally, in 2023, he took full ownership. Now, under Kankaansyrjä’s leadership, the company has tripled in size and expanded its remit from the manufacture, lease and maintenance of machinery into a tech-driven startup with the launch of EasyWaste in 2023, an innovative platform to streamline waste management and recycling for businesses. 

EasyWaste was conceived to make recycling across a range of operators as simple as possible for the customer; to create a one-stop-shop model. “So, you only look at us, you only deal with us,” he says. “You only talk to us. Everything is with us and behind us is the whole market.” Kapasity Oy, which was previously a factory that makes machinery, now encompassed a startup with an entirely new team of coders and software professionals.

Entrepreneurship, says Kankaansyrjä, is a “feature of character”, but a great deal can be learned by absorbing from those around you. Kankaansyrjä’s father was curious and people-orientated, attributes that can be invaluable. It was not necessarily expected that Kankaansyrjä would go into the family business, but he was motivated to do so by a desire to prove that the traditional linear model in industries was not the only viable option. Kapasity Oy was already demonstrating circular economics, recycling, reusing and recirculating its machines; of the machines manufactured by the company in the early 1990s, 85 per cent of the machines are still in use. “It’s not only due to sustainability,” says Kankaansyrjä, “it’s just better business.”

Iiro Kankaansyrjä, Founder, EasyWaste, and Owner, Kapasity Oy

EasyWaste – now a company in its own right – emerged from a similar interest in the future of waste and recycling, after Kankaansyrjä realised the potential of reimagining the sales team at Kapasity Oy as a consultancy. In the past – and this frustrated him greatly – the sales team could only talk about the machinery it rented to customers “in adjectives”. Kankaansyrjä wanted them to work more closely with clients, not simply renting them machines, but developing a closer, quantified understanding of their waste management needs. “After four years we found that the most effective way [for customers] to cut down costs was to diversify their service portfolio.”

One reason for this is because the waste and recycling sector is becoming increasingly atomised. Traditionally, single waste management companies would collect and process waste from a business, distributing it to various niche recycling plants. Now, the market features an increasing number of innovative startups that specialise in recycling different forms of waste – and each wants to cut out the middleman and work directly with source. This evolution has been driven by mass investment in waste and recycling due to legislative changes and environmental targets. The waste management market in Europe is currently valued at more than €500 billion and is estimated to hit €1 trillion by 2030. 

The news for customers is that it's both about cutting down on their waste material, and on how to effectively recycle. The key is ensuring that you have the best deal for paper, plastics, biowaste and the rest. “And that’s our role in the market,” says Kankaansyrjä. “We can reallocate the materials based on who’s got the best technology based on our data, who’s got the best location, and who’s giving the best price.”

Businesses that use EasyWaste range from shopping malls to restaurants. The platform allows customers to track waste, costs and carbon emissions. It also folds in tech innovations rooted in Kapasity Oy’s expertise in waste collection machinery, such as a simple, smart sensor device that tracks the power consumption of waste compactors to register when it is full, sending an automatic alert that it is time for a collection – saving time and money for customers through increased efficiency. 

A long serving employee of Kapasity Oy welding on a machine that has been factory overhauled

Innovating within a family business can be a delicate task. “It is very important not to be too precious about the ownership of ideas,” says Kankaansyrjä. Pushing an idea through can be slow as a result, but this also filters out the ideas not worth pursuing. “It takes years to turn a family business around… But it’s like a democracy in that sense. It’s protecting itself by its steadiness and slowness.”

The same cannot be said for the waste management industry, says Kankaansyrjä, which should be more nimble. Most of the changes have been driven by new legislation, but progress from within has been slow. “If you think about it, it’s an industry beneath all other industries out there,” he explains. “It is the bucket that collects all the material from every other industry. All the waste streams are coming to waste management. Waste management as an industry has maybe the highest responsibility that there is.”

Iiro Kankaansyrjä

Founder of EasyWaste, and Owner of Kapasity Oy

Iiro Kankaansyrjä’s father founds waste management equipment company Kapasity Oy in Finland


Joins the family business in the sales department


Becomes chief operating officer of Kapasity Oy


Launches digital waste-handling platform EasyWaste, and completes vocational training in business management


Takes full ownership of the family business

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