English 23.4.2013

Drafting of the packaging decree

Current News, Pyr Info 1/2013

The present Waste Act has been in force for a year now. The decree governing packaging waste pursuant to the act is to come into force in May 2014 and is being drafted at the Ministry of the Environment with increasing haste and scant resources.

A great deal depends on the contents of the decree. The producer organisations in the packaging sector are in a particularly troubled situation. They should already be up to speed with setting up a take-back scheme for packaging waste and above all make agreements connected to its operation. In addition, the producer organisations will be required to re-register with the producer register maintained by the Pirkanmaa ELY Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment in spring 2014. In this connection, they will have to submit a proposal to the authorities concerning the take-back scheme for used packaging that will comply with the stipulations of the Waste Act and the associated decree on packaging. However, the ELY Centre cannot make any decision on the approval of producer organisations before the decree comes into force. In this ongoing situation, producers in the packaging sector as defined by the Waste Act, namely packers and importers of packed products, face the problem of deciding on possibly expensive solutions without knowing what is required of them.

Why have the decisions not yet been made and why is the take-back scheme not yet ready even though the main sections of the Waste Act are already known? According to the act, producers are financially responsible for the waste management of packaging placed on the market with their products whereby packaging may be effortlessly returned free of charge to take-back schemes organised by the producers. The existing municipal collection points cannot simply be transferred to the remit of producers, as according to the act costs and environmental impacts have to be taken into account when determining the level of service. Hence the basic view held by producers and producer organisations is that take-back points should be located in shopping and service centres. People could then return packaging to take-back points without bother whenever they go shopping.

According to the act, municipalities should take care of municipal waste themselves. In addition to these bodies, private firms in the environmental sector have an interest in waste and its transportation. There is a desire to use packaging waste as fuel, because co-mingled plastic and cardboard have high calorific value and burn cleanly. “Recycled fuel” to a great extent consists of packaging while incineration of packaging waste constitutes recovery as energy. However, the use of packaging for this purpose is not at all recognised in monitoring whether packers have attained the recycling targets set for the packaging waste under their responsibility.

Packers and importers of packed products are confused when contemplating how to simultaneously fulfil the obligation to attend to both the waste management of packaging and the attainment of recycling targets. This means that packers will be obliged to start operating as firms in the waste sector. In any case, neither costs nor environmental impacts should be allowed to grow unreasonably.

Annukka Leppänen-Turkula