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Structural changes to recycling services in Finland

March 27, 2016

A fresh study on waste management in Europe showed that Finns throw out an average of 482kg of waste per year, which is slightly more than the European average of 475kg. In Finland 18 percent of waster is recycled (EU 28%), 17 ends up in a landfill (EU 28 %), 50 percent is incinerated (EU 27%) and 15 percent is composted (EU 16%). So with that here is some food for thought on the current state of recycling in Finland.

Some big changes have come into effect with regards to recycling in Finland this year. I haven’t taken much time up until this point to discover what the changes really mean for my household, except that we do not have to collect so-called “energy waste” anymore.

It is also against the law to discard organic biowaste into landfills as of the beginning of 2016 under the new Waste Act. Yet the media reports that people appear to remain skeptical about sorting their waste because they often believe it was all just end up at the landfill anyways.

Plastic recycling, however, will take on a different tone and be collected at the same recycling points as other recyclables like paper, carton (cardboard and tetra paks), glass and metal.

Despite the change, plastic recycling has yet to be deployed widely in the capital region and apparently will only be done on a trial basis. So far I have only found location for plastic recycling that is relatively convenient. So it means lugging our recycling around, but it is not too much of a headache fortunately.

We drop a lot of our stuff off at receptacles like these.

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So what happens to the rest of the household waste we produce if it is not recycled?

When I tried to get answers from Helsinki Regional via Facebook in asking questions about the changes to recycling (in English), they basically copied and pasted their answers from the web pages. So a couple questions remain:

  • What happens when people just throw everything in the garbage (including problem waster like PVC (number 3) plastic, which is not supposed to be burned, or pressure treated wood, batteries…?
  • How about garbage from public places like parks and bus stops – what happens to that?

The bottom line is, the onus is still on us as consumers, communities and individuals to sort our waste properly.

But how much of our waste is still ending up in the landfill? I’m skeptical that everything is being burned or recycled properly…

Think about it, we can do better!

P.S. Here is a sobering statistic: Did you know that Finns throw out / discard an estimated 70 million kilograms of clothing every year??

P.S.S Did you know that every year the bigger retail chains (Kesko and S-group) run a recycling campaign for old frying pans and pots? Every February, you can bring in old pots and pans to the stores that participate in the campaign and get a discount on the purchase of a new one. I think this is a fabulous idea and the fact that it is run year after year is probably a testament to its popularity.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Sonia permalink
    April 4, 2016 10:40 pm

    Plastic collection started in Germany 1992. Landfills are nearly down to zero. Sweden imports waste.

    What it will mean in future for us is a price hike. For sure.

    • April 5, 2016 9:06 am

      I think paying more is a price we have to pay for the waste that we create.

  2. April 19, 2016 5:59 pm

    Hei! I like your blog 🙂 I never thought how much clothing is throwing away. How come with UFF and waste containers specially for clothing? The big problem is that there is so much cheap clothes that doesn’t last. Shopping is fun, fashion is changing -> so easy to buy new. Myself I decided to stop buying clothes for a while. Some clothes I haven’t worn in years, like dresses. Amount of clothes doesn’t replace good taste anyway (which is what I should work at).
    As for the frying pans – does every Kesko do it? I haven’t seen in mine or they don’t promote it enough.
    Cheers 🙂

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