The masses of plastic waste in the oceans cannot be removed by increasing recycling – even recycling plastic – in Finland. Instead, effective waste collection and proper landfills should be introduced in the populous emerging countries. Public debate rarely highlights the importance of basic waste management. If waste is collected regularly and placed in well-managed landfills, many problems, such as littering, could be manageable.
It is clear that a modern landfill is just the first step. The use of materials must be made more efficient in all countries, and recycling waste is one way to achieve this. But recycling alone is not enough. Consumer behaviour and production methods must also be changed so that they are less harmful to the environment and consume fewer natural resources. Some of these changes cost money and seem like hard work but news about environmental issues inspire us to act.
Finland has gone from well-managed landfills to the next levels of waste management hierarchy. Waste materials are recycled into new products or at least turned into electricity and heat by burning. Packaging producers play a key role in increasing recycling rates. Joint efforts by Rinki and producer organisations managed to increase the recycling rate for packaging waste to 65% in 2016. This is a new record, and four percentage points higher than that in 2015.
The increase in the recycling of packaging waste shows that trade and industry are operating proactively to save the environment. It is important for all of us that the changes needed to protect the environment can be implemented effectively. Even though the Finnish economy is doing well, there are parties whose needs and aspirations remain unfulfilled. We can’t afford to be wasteful, not even when arranging recycling operations, as this would also be against the principles of circular economy.