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What’s in your garbage?

January 28, 2013

Do you recycle?

I do, enthusiastically. In my family of three, living in a detached home, I am happy to say that on average we throw out less than a grocery bag full of garbage per week. Why? How? We recycle, because we can.

Some people in society are extremely lazy and make no effort whatsoever to recycle anything. It drives me crazy because the infrastructure is there to support wide-spread recycling efforts by the citizenry – at least in the capital region. I can’t speak for other areas of Finland.

We compost. Our “yhtiö,” our organization of houses shares a compost bin that is emptied once a week by our waste management service provider. We have a dedicated bin in our kitchen cupboard just for compost and believe me, we use it heavily. One thing a lot of people don’t know is that nenäliina (kleenex, tissues) is considered a perfect candidate for composting – so there is one way to reduce your household waste – compost the tissues!

We recycle paper and bring it to a public bin about 200m from our house. It’s a good excuse to go for a walk sometimes. We have a lot of paper moving through our house with the daily paper and the free papers and advertisements that come in the mail.

We can bring recyclables to shopping malls that have designated recycling points. For example in Espoo, the Sello and Iso Omena shopping malls collect batteries, glass, small metals, cartons and tetra paks, fluorescent light bulbs and energy waste.

In Finland it is not permitted to discard batteries with normal household waste. Many of the small shops contain boxes that are designated for collecting used batteries – and believe me, they are always full. Battery recycling is widespread and easy and supported.

Battery recycling container at a local store

Battery recycling container at a local store

Pharmacies take back expired drugs and broken thermometers. Expired drugs are considered hazardous waste, so you cannot just throw them in the garbage or dump them down the drain. Bring unused medicines back to any pharmacy, they gladly take them back.

When I first moved here, abandoned cars (licence plates removed) were a common sight on the sides of the highways. No more. Ever since the recycling fee was scrapped on old cars we see far less of them on the shoulders of the highways.

Hazardous waste like paint, oil and other chemicals can be brought to gas stations that have the hazardous waste containers. These days you are requested to fill out a form on what you have brought to the hazardous waste point. (At least I had to fill one out the last time I brought hazardous waste to the collection bin at the local gas station.) Or you can bring hazardous waste to the Sortti stations in the capital area.

The capital area has Sortti collection points for waste that cannot (should not) go into the regular garbage bins. That would include things like yard waste, construction waste, old furniture, electronic waste and hazardous waste. I don’t know why there has been such an aversion to paying for recycling services. You can bring a trailer and a car load waste to any of the Sortti centres for just a few euros. We renovated our bathroom and laundry room last summer and we brought a car load and trailer load of waste to the Sortti centre at Ämmäsuo. It cost us only a few euros. Sortti centres also include recycling points so you can bring virtually anything there that is recyclable.

The one thing that dramatically cuts down on our household garbage is the fact that we collect so-called energy waste. Basically energy waste is anything that can be burned and that includes recyclable plastics with the number 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and some mixed (number 7) plastics. Old socks find their way into energy waste, as do shampoo and soap bottles, bread bags, yogurt containers, packaging for fresh produce or anything else covered in plastic (buy any Ikea furniture lately?). Look for the number – you’re sure to find it somewhere! Collecting and recycling energy waste is easy as long as you have a place to bring it. See more here on energy waste.

The Mr. is on board with this recycling thing, but he has such a horrid memory that I had to make up this little guide for him. He complained the last set of directions I tacked up were not big enough (hence the question in Finnish -> Is it big enough now?)


The web pages of the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority have good information on waste management and recycling. Just be aware that waste management services will differ depending on where you are in Finland. Check your municipality’s web pages for more information.

Questions? Ask me – I might be able to help!

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