The new packaging decree is transferring the responsibility for the collection of consumer packaging waste from municipalities to producers in the packaging sector: namely, trade and industry. Producers will be required to take back fibre, metal and glass packaging at a minimum of 1850 take-back points and plastic packaging at 500 points.
Some 420 take-back points will have to be located in sparsely populated areas and districts with less than 500 inhabitants. The take-back network should be in operation in January 2016.
Eco-points at present total some 4800 on a countrywide scale. At over half of these only glass and metal is collected. Fibre and carton packaging is received at some 2,000 eco-points while plastic is hardly accepted at all.
Hitherto the collection network has over the years been built on a municipal basis or through regional waste management facilities. Their standard of service varies considerably. There have also been regional differences in the sorting instructions.
A uniform network in the pipeline
The new packaging decree has enabled the planning of a uniform, countrywide take-back network for packaging waste in Finland. Producers want to set up a network of producer eco-points that provides good service for consumers and run efficiently with countrywide sorting instructions. In practice, this means that in general only the facilities that are located near shopping centres and public thoroughfares will remain from those in commission at present.
Jari Koivunen, PYR’s Regional Manager, states that the planning of the producer eco-point network is making good progress.
“Take-back is being organised by PYR after the producer organisations, Mepak-Kierrätys Oy (metal), Suomen Keräyslasiyhdistys ry (glass), Suomen Kuitukierrätys Oy (fibre) and Suomen Uusiomuovi Oy (plastic), transferred the task to PYR last year. PYR is planning the take-back scheme and inviting tenders for its operations to be submitted to a joint steering committee. In addition, PYR is applying for permissions, making contracts and equipping the eco-points for operational use.
PYR is planning and inviting public tendering
The present state of consumer packaging take-back and the location requirements for the take-back points were studied last year when Koivunen and his colleague, Regional Manager Harri Patana, visited all existing and potential eco-points in Finland, which were also photographed and assessed. They considered how safe a facility is for the consumer, what kind waste containers there are, whether it is fenced off, lit up, asphalted and so on. The photographs that will form the basis for further planning amounted to over 50,000 from the regional tours.
Proposals will then be made to the steering committee comprising representatives from PYR and the producer organisations based on the information gathered concerning the number and type of eco-points that should be commissioned in a particular region and how take-back could be most cost-effectively organised. “In practice we are making thirty five regional plans covering thirty seven individual municipalities to establish the areas for public tendering. The steering committee will then make the final decisions on how, where and with what equipment take-back of packaging waste will be conducted,” Koivunen explains.
Convenient to return all packaging waste to one site
At least fibre, glass and metal packaging may be returned to all producer ecopoints with 500 points also accepting plastic packaging. In addition, in collaboration with other operators we are trying to enable take-back of such material as paper and textiles at the same eco-points. It is then possible to conveniently deliver many different materials for recycling while doing the shopping.
“We are still checking through the remaining take-back sites with waste management facilities, municipalities, private firms and other operators during the spring to consider what sorts of waste containers are needed there. At the same time we will, if necessary, replace the equipment and change the location of the take-back points in order to make the producer eco-points safe for those delivering and those collecting the materials and to make operations cost-effective. When packaging waste is sorted correctly, it may be collected in bulk, which suits recycling so that recycling targets will be attained,” Koivunen points out.
He further mentions that special attention is being paid to the equipment, cleanliness and efficiency of the producer eco-points. Compactors are being used increasingly more often in the collection of bulky packaging, such as fibre and plastic packaging.
“There are now some twenty compactors in operation in Finland. Their number will multiply in the future,” he states.
Waste containers equipped with compactors are most often located at points connected to retail outlets where supervision and electricity are on hand. Koivunen estimates that this pricey investment will rapidly pay for itself through improved efficiency.
Efficient recycling is to the advantage of the consumer
Producers are required to set up a take-back network free of charge in accordance with the packaging decree. As EPR will lead to a considerable increase in costs for trade and industry with all costs covered by sales, the new responsibilities associated with EPR will most likely raise the price of products.
“In any case, it is also to the consumer’s advantage that recycling is well taken care of and efficiently run,” Koivunen stresses.
Take-back and recycling of packaging waste will be carried out in cooperation with various organisations well into the future.
“Revision of the Waste Act will be a challenge to municipalities, firms and producers requiring even closer cooperation in developing a collection scheme. Municipalities have embarked on the project rather well. There are competent people in their service with good local channels at their disposal and a genuine desire to set up an efficient, uniform collection scheme,” Koivunen states.
Steering committee decides on policy
Established in 1997, PYR’s work is based on knowledge and experience in fulfilling the practical aspects of producer responsibility. When a firm makes a contract with PYR, it transfers its producer responsibility for packaging to the producer organisations in the packaging sector. Only a small portion of packaging was not recovered in Finland thanks to the producer responsibility scheme funded by firms. Legislation is now predicated on a take-obligation for packaging.
The steering committee jointly run by producer organisations and PYR make the most important decisions on policy and other matters concerning the take-back of consumer packaging. On this basis PYR makes contracts and takes care of the practical implementation of the scheme as well as reporting to the producer organisations and the authorities.
PYR and the producer organisations, working in close cooperation, will take care of take-back. PYR is attending to planning, arranging public tendering and making contracts connected with take-back. All operational activities will be outsourced. In addition, PYR will organise transfer loading station operations and recycling activities for glass.
Sorting instructions ready
Uniform sorting instructions for packaging waste have now been drawn up. The instructions are on PYR’s website at www.pyr.fi. Up till now instructions have varied in different parts of the country. Plastic packaging waste will also accepted for take-back due to the new scheme.
“The sorting instructions for glass, cardboard, metal and plastic packaging waste are ready and will be updated according to need. It is not a question of any radical or major changes. It is nevertheless essential that the same criteria apply to sorting regardless of region,” Jari Koivunen, points out.
The new scheme also means that there will be waste containers for plastic packaging alongside those for other packaging materials going to recycling at 500 of the producer eco-points. Up till now plastic packaging has gone to landfill together with mixed waste or to recovery as energy.
Fibre, metal and glass packaging will thus be accepted for take-back at 1850 producer eco-points and plastic packaging at 500 points from 1 January 2016. The aim of the new scheme is to create a network for the take-back of three or four packaging materials at all eco-points and possibly of other materials, such as paper and clothing.
“Uniform sorting instructions are aimed at helping people sort correctly so that the material received will be fit for recycling,” Koivunen emphasises.
Text Ilpo Salonen and Maarit Seeling, map Google Maps