Legislation 16.2.2021

Overview of the changes to the Waste Act caused by the waste directives and the SUP Directive

The Government’s proposal for future amendments to the Waste Act will be considered by Parliament in March, and the amendments are due to enter into force next summer. The amendments will implement the new requirements arising from the reform of the EU waste directives as well as the requirements of the SUP Directive that are due to enter into force in July. Most of the amendments to the Waste Act resulting from the SUP Directive are still being prepared, so they will be compiled in a separate amendment to the Waste Act, which will not be submitted to Parliament until next autumn. The preparatory work for the SUP efforts has been hindered by the Commission’s delayed implementing provisions and guidelines.

By Pi Mäkilä

Image Otavamedia OMA

The SUP Directive: marking requirements disclosed 

The EUs SUP (single-use plastics) Directive, adopted in 2019, should be passed into national legislation by 3 July 2021. Finland will not meet this deadline. The requirements of the SUP Directive are passed into Finnish legislation through several amendments to the Waste Act. According to the Directive, the first of these requirements, i.e. the marking requirements and product bans, will enter into force as early as 3 July 2021, and they are included in the waste law package to be discussed in parliament in the spring. The other requirements of the SUP Directive will come into force with a separate amendment to the Waste Act, which is due to be circulated for comment in the spring and undergo the parliamentary process next autumn. 

The marking requirement in the SUP Directive means that certain products must be labelled in order to reduce littering and negative environmental impact caused by single-use plastic products.  

The marking requirement will apply to plastic beverage cups, tobacco products with filters, wet wipes, sanitary towels and tampons placed on the market on and after 3 July 2021.  

The detailed marking requirements were published in December in Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/2151. The regulation sets out, for example, the requirements for product groups regarding the design, size and position of the marking on the product.  

The other requirements of the SUP Directive will come into force with a separate amendment to the Waste Act, which is due to be circulated for comment in the spring and undergo the parliamentary process next autumn. 

The marking for beverage cups shall be printed on the cups, while the marking for other products shall be printed on the packaging. The printed marking may be replaced by a sticker on products placed on the market before 4 July 2022. The text on the marking must be in the official languages of the Member State. On products sold in Finland, the text must be in both Finnish and Swedish. The Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) will be defined as the supervisory authority for the SUP requirements in the Waste Act. 

Companies have little time to prepare for the marking requirements: at the end of January, the printed material required for the introduction of the marking was only available in English. Moreover, the Implementing Regulation published in December contains details for which the Commission will need to provide guidelines.  

Clarification is needed for issues such as when a product is considered to have been placed on the market when the product is imported or when the product is manufactured in Finland. The Commissions Implementing Regulation was published almost six months behind the schedule set out in the Directive, so it is challenging that the marking requirement shall nevertheless enter into force according to the original schedule. 

According to the SUP Directive, the Commission is due to publish a number of implementing regulations and policies aimed at clarifying the content of the Directive – the regulations and guidelines are badly overdue. For example, guidelines for determining products covered by the SUP Directive were due to be published on 3 July 2020, but they are still not ready.  

Delays in publishing the definitive guidelines make it difficult for the Member States to prepare for the national implementation of the Directive and for companies to prepare for its requirements. 

The waste directives: the new requirements included in the amendment to the Waste Act to be processed in Parliament in the spring 

 According to the original schedule, the waste management directives, which were amended in 2018, should have already been passed into national legislation in July 2020. The directives are implemented in Finland through amendments to the Waste Act and certain decrees. The changes are included in the governments proposal, which will be discussed in Parliament in spring. It is now estimated that the new Waste Act and the required regulations will not enter into force until summer 2021 at the earliest. 

The aim of the amendment to the Waste Act is to improve circular economy, reduce emissions and get waste recycled instead of it ending up in energy production. This is the reason why companies with producer responsibility, municipalities and waste holders will have significantly stricter targets for type-specific waste collection.  

The recycling targets for packaging waste will be increased, and the method of calculating the recycling rate will be changed. Packaging producers will be delighted about the fact that overseas online shops will be subject to producer responsibility and obliged to pay their share of the costs of recycling the packaging waste they bring to the Finnish market. 

For households, the new Waste Act will mean even better service. The cost of collecting packaging from residential properties will be the responsibility of packaging producers, and the collection will be a joint operation between packaging producers and municipalities. Type-specific collection of packaging waste will need to be arranged in population centres for all residential properties with five or more households. Consumers will continue to have access to Rinki eco take-back points, which are located across the country and often near a supermarket. Rinki eco take-back points are the responsibility of the producers, and, according to the proposal, the minimum number of points will be reduced as collection from residential properties becomes more widespread. 

For packaging producers, the changes in legislation will mean rising costs; the additional costs will be in the tens of millions of euros. The level of costs can only be assessed in more detail once we know the final content of the Waste Act.