Mocked with the words “Europe’s largest dump”.
Now the area could instead become one of Europe’s centers for new environmental technologies.
Nordmark AB’s offices are nestled among horse farms, next to trotting trainer Petri Salmela’s stables, in Bränslan just outside the city center of Boden.
Sture Nordmark quietly explains that it is not really an optimal location for his business, but that he has remained there for various reasons. Perhaps the office also reveals something about his character, as the entrepreneur has played many roles in the development of Boden over the past 50 years, often working in the background.
– For some reason I got involved in different projects, but maybe I was ahead of my time sometimes,” he says.
A clear example is a building that stands out on Petri Salmela’s farm. The building, with a domed roof, was once a greenhouse intended to grow large quantities of lettuce and was owned by Sture Nordmark. This idea would come back to him years later, but at that time, the business never took off.
Instead, the facility became part of the horse farm and serves a different purpose today.
The concept of reusing things has been a mainstay of the 77-year-old’s professional life.
Something that was formed already in the 1970s in connection with the construction of new residential areas.
Instead of transporting and depositing asphalt and gravel, he collected and reused the material to prepare the ground.
– Many people thought I was an idiot and questioned what I was doing. I’ve also had a few good scoldings. But most have apologized and concluded that it turned out well and much cheaper.
He was also questioned in the mid-1990s when he tried to convince decision-makers of the possibilities beyond the Brännkläppen landfill. He was bothered by the growing mountains of rubbish and wanted to find out if it could be done in a more sustainable way. As the work progressed, ideas began to form.
– There was nothing there, or BDX had started to take rock fill from Svalget, but otherwise, it was land without value. It was possible to think big here.
Europe’s largest landfill
Sture Nordmark began to illustrate his ideas. He often does this to concretize his thoughts. By the time the sketch was completed, the seemingly useless piece of land had been transformed into an industrial area – dedicated to recycling.
– My vision was that this could be the best recycling area in Europe.
But convincing politicians, officials, and the business community in the mid-90s that investments in recycling were well-spent money was like trying to plow a field with a teaspoon. The opposition was both large and loud.
– I felt incredibly lonely and remember the full page in Norrländskan (NSD) with the headline ‘Europe’s biggest dump’.
But Sture Nordmark continued to show the illustration, and gradually more and more people began to stop at the picture and listen to what he had to say. Garbage started to be sorted and recycled instead of being piled up. The municipality bought land to enable investments in recycling and environmental technology, and recycling became part of Boden’s profile.
Feeling of revenge
Today, much of the picture from 1998 has become reality and the area has a name – Boden Cleantech Center. In addition to the municipal recycling facility, the company Fortum Recycling & Waste has built a facility to receive and deposit hazardous waste from across the region. They are also seeking a new permit to further expand their operations and work with the recycling of environmentally damaged material.
Next to Fortum is Sture Nordmark’s company, which receives and recycles construction and industrial materials.
At the same time, other companies are lining up to take advantage of land allocations on the areas that are not yet developed.
Nowadays, “Europe’s largest dump” is referred to as one of Boden’s most attractive development areas. There is a designated strategy aimed at creating conditions for the development of innovation and environmental technology. The proximity to Boden Industrial Park, where H2 Green Steel is building the world’s first large-scale green steel plant, also provides unique opportunities for potential collaborations.
– How do I feel about what is happening today? A great revenge. This is something that is good for Boden and for the future, and there are many who work with the issues that I have fought for. Of course, it feels good.
Continuing to draw
The drawers in Sture Nordmark’s office contain stacks of paper covered with illustrations. These are ideas that have bubbled up over the years and been stored.
– I realized quite quickly that it was easier to get people on board if I made a drawing. Therefore, I always try to do that when I get an idea.
Some of the sketches are ongoing projects, others have never been tested, and some have been implemented with mixed results. One of the ideas that needed a little more time was the greenhouse mentioned earlier in the text.
The conditions, mainly the cost of heating the greenhouse on the horse farm, resulted in poor profitability, but today there are entirely different opportunities. Therefore, the entrepreneur was one of the initiators of building a unique greenhouse at Boden Plug & Play. The greenhouse is heated with residual heat from a server hall and has been used since 2022 to test the possibility of growing various fruits, plants, and vegetables. It’s a project where the municipality, the business community, and academia collaborate to develop more sustainable food production.
– I thought it sounded very exciting when I heard about the opportunity, and now we have shown that it is possible. In a way, it’s a shame I’m not younger because it feels like the greenhouse train has passed me by. However, I am convinced that greenhouse cultivation will be a future industry in Boden.
Even though Sture Nordmark describes it as having slowed down, full-time retirement and a sun lounger are not particularly on the agenda.
– That’s not for me. As long as the ideas continue to come, I will try to create something out of them.”
Sture Nordmark in front of the smart greenhouse now in operation at Boden Plug & Play.