Who says that Finns do not recycle? Even over the summer holidays, the Mankkaa Rinki eco take-back point was really busy: glass clinking, metal clunking, paper swishing and clothes thumping into the containers while carton packaging disappeared into the press machine.
“We recycle absolutely everything: every type of waste has its own container at our house. We take turns to bring waste to this eco take-back point and other relevant collection points,” says student Makenzi Nzau.
The environmentally aware young man lives in a shared flat, and recycling comes naturally to him. Nzau thinks that the expansion of the eco take-back point network is a welcome development. He would like to see more take-back points for plastic packaging.
“Plastic seems to be the material we mostly use. It seems such waste to throw it into the mixed waste container as it could be used in other ways than burning.”
Go plastic go!
Rinki’s Communications Officer Reija Koistinen has a word of consolation for consumers: there are currently more than 500 take-back points for plastic packaging, and they are located across Finland. Rinki keeps an eye on the situation and considers the need to develop the network.
“Clean recyclable material should preferably be recycled, although it will not end up in the tip even if put in with mixed waste as it can still be used in energy production. Dirty plastic packaging, however, should be put into the mixed waste container. Washing these packaging with hot water and soap is not very environmentally-friendly.”
Clean recyclable material should preferably be recycled, although it will not end up in the tip even if put in with mixed waste as it can still be used in energy production.
According to Koistinen, recycling plastic has been popular. Some people started to keep hold of their plastic packaging as soon as they heard that their recycling was about to start. Consumers’ wishes have been heard at Kesko.
“Consumers hope that they could recycle plastic items in the same way as other materials,” says Kesko’s Sustainability Manager Timo Jäske.
A thumbs up from the shop manager
K-supermarket Mankkaa’s Shop Manager Pekka Iho does not have much time to check the courtyard during the day but when he does, he can see that the eco take-back point is fairly busy.
“Some containers were really full at times last winter. It was a bit quieter in summer, but I’m sure there’ll be more visitors again in autumn.”
Jäske says that there are around 500 eco take-back points at K-supermarkets. He thinks the new system is very beneficial for both shops and consumers.
“We have lengthy experience in recycling, as deposit cans and bottles, batteries and electrical waste have already been collected at shops for years. Eco take-back points are a natural extension to the range of services that we offer, and consumers expect that packaging is recycled. This is one way we can help our customers in their everyday life: it is easy to do your shopping and recycling at the same time.”
Eco take-back points are a natural extension to the range of services that we offer.
The shop manager has received nothing but positive feedback. Customers think it is important that eco take-back points are easy to access and take a variety of materials.
“The shop is leased so we must hope that the owners like the idea of recycling,” says Iho.
Timo Jäske says that letters have been sent to property owners to promote the take-back point initiative. Most of them have approved of a take-back point placed on their property but there have been a few who have been reluctant. Kesko hopes, however, that the project, which has started so well, will be a success.
The optimisation project has been launched
Jäske praises the uniform, nation-wide network of Rinki eco take-back points and says the concept works very well. The streamlined practices and consistent visuals make the network visible and trustworthy.
“Cost-efficiency plays a big part, of course, and it will be worth the effort to further develop the network, logistics and containers. The press machines for carton and plastic are very efficient and reduce the need to empty containers. The route plans for refuse lorries must also be optimised.”
Shops always try to minimise the rise in costs. They pay around 40 percent of the costs of the eco take-back point network at the moment.
“Now that the network has been started and it is getting established, it is time to think about cost efficiency. Costs should not rise in an uncontrollable manner. We know of large shopping centres that would be perfect locations for take-back points. Some of the municipal take-back points could be relocated near shops. The collection network is bound to be optimised.”
Ground-breaking work continues
Recycling of packaging materials is one element in the K-Group’s award-winning corporate responsibility programme.
“We have always done well in international responsibility assessments as we take environmental issues seriously. Now we are also building the best consumer packaging take-back point network in the world,” Jäske is happy to say.
“The take-back points for customers first appeared at shops in the early 1990s. The first one was Citymarket in Rovaniemi, and in only a few years, the number had grown to 200. We have also been pioneers in recycling drink containers and plastics.”
The amount of packaging waste has dropped dramatically over the past few years.
“Cardboard, metal, biowaste and burnable waste materials are recycled, meat and fruit boxes are reused, we offer biodegradable bags as well as recycled and paper bags in our fruit and vegetable section; fish and meat are wrapped in recyclable paper and Manna-Apu collects leftover food. We really have invested in recycling in our shop,” says Pekka Iho.
Iho’s shop was voted the best K-supermarket last year. It is proof that the shop offers its customers a great variety of services, including recycling facilities.
Containers full to the brim?
The Mankkaa K-supermarket is going through changes as the property’s owner revamps the entire courtyard.
“The eco take-back point will have more space. We hope that recyclers appreciate a clean environment and won’t leave rubbish on the ground. Emptying the containers can be difficult especially in winter if the area around containers is blocked with snow and bags. People should come back later or try another take-back point,” says Iho.
The shop manager is sure that people will notice the telephone number displayed at the eco point and report full containers.
Would the young student report full containers?
“As I don’t have a car, I wouldn’t bring my waste to another take-back point but I think I’d leave it at the full take-back point. But nowadays everybody has a mobile with internet connection. So yes, I would report it. If I waited till I got home, I might forget it as I have so many things to think about,” says Nzau.
How to use press machines?
• Flatten carton packaging. Push the packaging into the opening. Press the green start button. The packaging will move along the press and more material can fit into the container. The machine will stop automatically.
• Do not stack different types of plastic packaging inside each other; this is to ensure that different materials are sorted correctly at the recycling facility. Remove tops and lids and put them into the container separately. Push plastic packaging into the container. Press the start button. The packaging will move along the press and the container will be filled to its full capacity. The machine will stop automatically.
• Put packaging waste into the correct container, do not leave it on the ground. You can report full containers by calling our freephone number 0800 133 888 or filling in the feedback form (in Finnish) on Rinkiin.fi/ekopistepalaute.
Nation-wide eco take-back point network
• Finnish Packaging Recycling RINKI Ltd is responsible for maintaining the network of take-back points for household packaging waste in Finland.
• The locations of all take-back point are listed on Rinkiin.fi/rinki-eco-take-back-points.
• The number of take-back points by material groups: carton, glass and metal packaging is collected at over 1,850 take-back points and plastic at more than 500 take-back points. A number of take-back points have press machines for carton and plastic, and there are containers for other types of packaging waste.
Text Tarja Västilä photo Vesa Tyni