Important figure: 3.3 million tonnes of municipal waste

A total of 3.3 million tonnes of municipal waste was generated in Finland in 2021, of which approximately 25% was packaging waste. The recycling rate of packaging waste is good in Finland, but the overall recycling rate of municipal waste may still fall short of the EU target for 2025.

By Veera Niemelä

3.3 million tonnes – that’s the amount of municipal waste generated in Finland in 2021, according to Statistics Finland. The figure includes waste generated by households as well as waste comparable to household waste generated from administration, services and production. Approximately a quarter of municipal waste is packaging waste.

Achieving the recycling targets is challenging

The amount of municipal waste remained constant between 2020 and 2021, however the recycling rate decreased from 42% to 37% during that period. This means that a smaller proportion of municipal waste was used as raw material for new products. The decrease in the recycling rate is partly explained by the new, stricter calculation method introduced in the EU.

The recycling target for municipal waste set by the European Commission is 55% in 2025. Finland was given an early warning by the Commission in summer 2023 as it looks like the 2025 target will not be achieved.

Since 2012, energy recovery has been the most significant form of municipal waste treatment. Most mixed waste, for example, is used in energy production. In 2021, only about 0.4% of municipal waste ended up in landfill.

Packaging waste circulates more efficiently

The situation looks better for the recycling of packaging waste.

“As much as 61% of packaging waste was recycled in 2020. So, we are only four percentage points away from the 65% recycling target for packaging waste in 2025,” says Rinki’s CEO Juha-Heikki Tanskanen.

Achieving the recycling target for packaging waste will also make it easier to achieve the recycling target for municipal waste.

The Commission thinks that Finland will achieve the 2025 recycling target for packaging waste. Achieving the recycling target for packaging waste will also make it easier to achieve the recycling target for municipal waste.

However, the recycling rate of plastic packaging materials should be increased significantly in order to meet its material-specific recycling target. In 2025, 50% of plastic packaging waste should be recycled, while the recycling rate in 2020 was only 26%. The Commission warned Finland about its slow increase in the amount of recycled plastic packaging waste.

Finland has responded to the low recycling rates of municipal waste and plastic packaging waste by improving the efficiency of sorting and collection. It has been obligatory to collect packaging waste everywhere in Finland from all properties with at least five households since July 2023, and about 300 plastic packaging collection points were added to the Rinki eco take-back point network at the same time to serve smaller properties.

“There are now just over 1,000 collection points for plastic packaging in Finland. About half of the population uses Rinki eco take-back points, so the increase was significant,” says Tanskanen.

Municipal waste statistics for each year are published the following year. The 2022 waste statistics will be published in late 2023. The most recent packaging waste statistics published by the Pirkanmaa ELY Centre are for 2020.