English 11.12.2015

Producer responsibility to be stricter and more precise

Tuomo Aunola, Senior Advisor at the Pirkanmaa ELY Centre, describes the final push in the creation of the take-back point network and how the definition of producer responsibility has been revised.

From the beginning of 2016, Rinki eco take-back points will start to collect household packaging waste. The network will have a minimum of 1,850 take-back points for carton, glass and metal packaging waste, with 500 also able to accept plastic packaging. Collection of consumer packaging is the responsibility of companies under producer responsibility obligations.

The network set up in a hurry

The Pirkanmaa ELY Centre supervises the implementation of producer responsibility obligations in Finland. According to Senior Advisor Tuomo Aunola, the take-back point network is expected to be completed at the beginning of 2016. What happens if the Rinki eco take-back point network is not completed on time?

“As the supervisory authority, we are kept updated on the progress. If we think that the completion of the network will be delayed, we will ask Rinki to provide us with a report, and we will then consider the situation. I don’t think that there will be any need to take any administrative measures at first,” says Aunola.

The Packaging Waste Decree that came into force in summer 2014 only allowed less than 18 months for the building of the take-back point network.

“Admittedly, the schedule is very tight. Of course, everyone involved already had an idea of the requirements for the network before the schedule was announced,” he continues.

The definition of producer was revised

Until the end of April, the company that owned the packed product at the time of import had the producer responsibility. Until that time, the company with producer responsibility could have been a company registered overseas.

The definition was revised by Pirkanmaa ELY Centre, and the updated definition came into force on 1 May 2015. At present, Finnish firms with a turnover of EUR 1 million or more, a Finnish business ID, at least one location on the mainland of Finland and which packs products in Finland or is an importer of packed products for the Finnish market is considered to be a firm with producer responsibility.

A foreign firm only has producer responsibility if it fulfils all these conditions. If not, the Finnish firm that buys products from the foreign company is responsible for the packaging.

The new Waste Act as the basis for the definition

Why was the definition of a producer revised so that the producer responsibility were transferred from foreign firms to Finnish firms buying the products?

“The producer responsibility were mainly handled by Finnish companies. The new definition is based on the new Waste Act, which stipulates that only producers, not any other type of companies, can be considered to be producer organisations. The supervisory authorities have no authority over foreign companies that do not operate in Finland,” Aunola explains.

According to Aunola, the situation remains the same in that the producer responsibility still apply to packaging of all products imported to Finland.

“It has simply been clarified that the responsibility for products imported to Finland lies with the Finnish company. We could say that if a foreign company was responsible for paying the recycling fees in Finland, it added these costs to the price of the product.”

Online shopping brings challenges

“There are problems with almost all products covered by producer responsibility that are brought directly from abroad. For example, many people order electrical devices and batteries from abroad, and when they become waste, it is Finnish companies that take care of them. This is something that is hard to tackle by Finnish legislation alone,” says Aunola.

He says that the first step has now been taken regarding electrical devices as the EU has ruled on the producer responsibility of cross-border distance sellers.

“It remains to be seen if this will later apply to packaging as well.”

Is the Pirkanmaa ELY Centre going to check on the ‘freeloaders’?

“The focus of the supervision has lately been on implementing the new legislation. The idea is, however, to launch an extensive campaign at the start of the new year to target the firms that do not fulfil their producer responsibility. We plan to write them a letter to urge them to take care of their obligations.”


The new definition of a producer

As of 1 May 2015, a producer is deemed to be a firm that meets the following conditions:

– The firm has a Finnish business ID and at least one location on the mainland of Finland,

– The firm has a turnover of EUR 1 million or more in Finland,

– The firm packs products in Finland or is an importer of packed products for the Finnish market.

– A foreign company or its affiliate that is registered at the Finnish Trade Register is under producer responsibility if all the conditions mentioned above are fulfilled. A Finnish firm is also under producer responsibility in terms of packaging of products that it purchases from a foreign company if that foreign company does not fulfil all the conditions mentioned above.

Text Leena Koskenlaakso