Increasing collection volumes require constant monitoring

Rinki uses various methods to monitor the amount of packaging waste brought to Rinki eco take-back points. Monitoring helps to change the frequency of emptying the eco take-back points as required.

By Mari Valkonen

Kuva Rinki

Rinki and its partners work hard in the background to keep the eco take-back points clean and to ensure that collection containers are emptied regularly.

The most important thing is to make sure that the containers at the eco take-back points are emptied at the right time. Emptying containers that are not full does not make sense, as refuse lorries consume the same amount of fuel for transporting both full and almost full loads. Then again, an overflowing collection container causes the waste to spill out.

The amount of packaging waste collected has increased year on year. Last year, the collection volumes for cardboard, glass and plastic packaging increased by more than 15 percent compared to 2018. The increase in waste is illustrated by the fact that in 2019, Rinki eco take-back points were emptied by almost 10 percent more than in 2018. The emptying frequency was also changed almost 2,000 times in 2019.

“We monitor the amount of waste delivered to eco take-back points through weighing and customer feedback so that we can make changes to the emptying frequency and collect waste as efficiently as possible,” says Pertti Tammivuori, Operative Director at Rinki.

The busier the eco take-back point, the more often it’s emptied

Of course, how often an eco take-back point is emptied depends on how much packaging waste is brought to it. The eco take-back points located beside large hypermarkets are the busiest.

Of the more than 1,850 eco take-back points in Finland, the busiest is located at Prisma in Joensuu. This point accumulates nearly 300,000 kilograms of packaging waste every year, or as much as 800 kilogrammes every day.

The busiest Rinki eco take-back points have press machines for carton and plastic packaging.

“A standard carton collection container holds under 100 kg of carton and a press machine for carton can hold up to over 4,000 kg. The eco take-back points with press machines are less affected by peak times, such as long weekends and summer weekends,” Tammivuori points out.

Users are well used to press machines.

“For example, the press machines for carton and plastic were used about 35 percent more often last year than in 2018,” Tammivuori continues.

The emptying of the waste containers is the responsibility of Rinki’s partners. For example, Lassila & Tikanoja is one of the partners in the Helsinki metropolitan area. 

Weighing waste

The amount of packaging waste collected has significantly increased over the past few years. This means that the need for emptying the eco take-back points and the container capacity must be regularly assessed.

The containers are weighed when they are emptied, and the volumes of waste collected are monitored. Weighing and consumer feedback can be used to increase or decrease the emptying frequency or to bring in a larger collection container.

The need for emptying the containers is also affected by the seasons and holidays.

The need for emptying the containers is also affected by the seasons and holidays. They are emptied more frequently at Christmas, whereas during the summer holidays, a container in a city centre may be filled more slowly than usual, while the summer is the busiest time for recycling of packaging waste in areas with lots of summer cottages.

Sensors assist in assessment

In the Helsinki metropolitan area, some of the carton collection containers at the Rinki eco take-back points have sensors that send estimates to the collection company of when the waste container is full. Refuse lorries can change their routes and schedules as required.

All press machines also have a monitor for checking the filling rate. While conventional collection containers are emptied according to a certain pre-planned route and schedule, the press machines are emptied when they are full.

“The press machines send an early message when they are filling up so that the emptying can be planned in advance,” says Tammivuori.

Consumer and driver feedback also help to plan the emptying schedule.

“Drivers report overflowing or messy eco take-back points using a device in their lorry, which then sends a message to the feedback system. This way, the eco take-back point can be cleaned up as soon as possible,” says Akseli Syyrakki, Unit Manager of the Environmental Services at Lassila & Tikanoja.

“Packaging waste collection volumes have increased so much that it is necessary to continuously monitor collection volumes and act quickly if changes are needed,” Tammivuori continues.

Furniture does not belong to the eco take-back points

Although old furniture and appliances do not belong to the Rinki eco take-back points, consumers still bring them over every so often. To keep the eco take-back points tidy and to make recycling a pleasant experience, the eco take-back points and their surroundings are cleaned regularly. Cleaning contracts are handled by Rinki’s partners across Finland.

The cleaning frequency also depends on how busy an eco take-back point is. The most popular points are cleaned several times every week.

Cleaning involves removing debris and waste that has spread around the containers. Cleaners also check that the sorting instructions labels are in good order so that people know which packaging waste goes into which container. In winter, cleaners also clear the snow near the eco take-back points.

“Cleaners also check if any other waste has been brought to the take-back point. Sometimes there is mixed waste, construction waste, pieces of old furniture and household appliances. Cleaners pick these items up if they have the room, or they order a separate collection,” says Tammivuori.

Eco take-back points are thoroughly cleaned every spring when the debris accumulated in the environment during the winter is revealed as the snow melts.

Regular cleaning aims to keep eco take-back points as tidy and clean as possible.