Editorial 20.10.2021

How will eco-modulation change packaging?

Juha-Heikki Tanskanen
Juha-Heikki Tanskanen

The Waste Act, which entered into force in July, requires that recycling fees for packaging be staggered, or eco-modulated, to encourage companies to choose more sustainable packaging.  

Recycling fees are fees payable by companies with producer responsibility to a producer organisation for taking care of the collection and recycling obligations of the packaging that they use. The idea is that the fees are lower for packaging that is reusable and easier to recycle. The eco-modulated fees must be introduced in all EU countries by 5 January 2023. 

The implementation of eco-modulation is also being considered in Finland. Rinki will keep its members up to date on any new decisions on the issue. Sweden is already implementing eco-modulation of fees: the recycling fee for plastic consumer packaging that is easy to recycle is EUR 541 per tonne, while the fee for plastic consumer packaging that is difficult to recycle is EUR 839 per tonne.  

Such a pricing instrument will inevitably affect the choice of packaging. Eco-modulated fees are a signal to the entire value chain that recyclability is a prerequisite for competitiveness. This is essential because it is not possible to recycle packaging in the waste management phase unless this has already been considered when the packaging was designed.  

The recycling targets for plastic packaging waste are especially difficult to achieve with the new calculation methods, but eco-modulation will help to reach the targets. Every packaging manufacturer should now seriously consider whether their packaging could be made from recycled material instead of virgin material.  

Eco-modulation is here to stay, and that’s a good thing. The European Commission must ensure that the Member States make rather uniform decisions on eco-modulation. If not, this instrument will lose its power in the common market, where even packaging knows no borders. 

Juha-Heikki Tanskanen
CEO,
Finnish Packaging Recycling RINKI Ltd