Columns 17.6.2019

Producer responsibility affects companies’ competitiveness

Juha-Heikki Tanskanen
Juha-Heikki Tanskanen

The revised waste directive as well as the packaging and packaging waste directive must be brought into Finnish legislation by 5 July 2020. Significant changes will be introduced to the directives, many of which are due to the tighter recycling targets. Achieving the recycling target for municipal waste is particularly challenging for Finland. In addition to the directives, we have received instructions from the Commission on the division of labour in waste management, on control measures and even on technical implementation.

Sorting and recycling levels of municipal waste must be significantly increased (from 360,000 tonnes to 640,000 tonnes) to lift the current recycling rate of 41% to 55% by 2025 and to 65% by 2035. Waste must be sorted more at the places it is produced, and there must be investments in industrial-scale sorting facilities. There are still very few sorting plants in Finland, considering the high cost of logistics in a country with so many single-family homes.

According to the directives, packaging producers are responsible for ensuring that the recycling targets for packaging waste are achieved. There have been suggestions that the producers would need to have a more extensive role, but tighter rules would be detrimental to the economy. They would weaken the competitiveness of Finnish companies and result in a decrease in tax revenue and jobs in Finland.

Why is the responsibility for packaging producers over the level stipulated in the directives harmful to Finns? The reason is the increased enthusiasm of consumers to buy products online from companies based outside the EU. These companies are not burdened by the recycling requirements in Finland because it has not been possible to extend the producer responsibility to apply to them. Finnish companies that sell packaged goods collect the money needed for recycling as part of the price of their products, because recycling services must be free to consumers. The price of the products increases, and the competitiveness of the online shops improves. When the responsibility for recycling municipal waste is assigned to operators who can charge consumers for waste management services instead of to packaging producers, our competitiveness compared to that of overseas companies will not be weakened. In waste management, a Finnish operator is less likely to compete with an online shop based in another country.

Have a great summer!

Juha-Heikki