The new Packaging Waste Decree requires the introduction of 1,850 take-back points on 1 January 2016. According to RINKI Ltd’s CEO Juha-Heikki Tanskanen, the schedule is too tight, and some of the take-back points will not be ready until later in 2016.
“The Packaging Waste Decree came into force in July 2014, when the timeframe for building a nationwide system was less than 18 months. I think that many organisations thought that it would be easy for the producers to use the existing municipal take-back point network as a foundation for theirs. However we wanted to build the Rinki eco take-back point network in order to ensure that the majority of the points would be located in places that people go to anyway, i.e. shopping and service centres, and 500 of the points will in fact be opened near shops. This is the best solution in the long run.”
Tanskanen emphasises that a lot of hard work is going into completing the network on time, and everyone has remained optimistic.
“We strongly believe that by working together with municipalities and private companies we can create an efficient take-back system that will serve consumers everywhere in Finland.”
Almost all producer organisations’ recycling fees will increase. Suomen Uusiomuovi Oy’s calculations for the new pricing for plastic packaging have been based on the premise that the logistics chain can use more efficient solutions. Initially, all operations are bound by the solvency obligations stipulated in the Packaging Waste Decree.
“The Packaging Waste Decree stipulates that now plastic packaging must also be collected. We have prepared for this obligation over the previous years. The new obligations will inevitably mean increased fees for the producers,” says Suomen Uusiomuovi Oy’s Managing Director Vesa Soini.
One of the short-term challenges is to set up a network of 500 consumer packaging take-back points by the beginning of next year.
“There is still a lot of work to be done. Another issue is the quality of the plastic packaging collected from consumers. We have tested collecting plastic packaging in Tampere and Kuopio. Most of the consumer packaging in these locations has been suitable for recycling.”
Soini thinks that another challenge might be how well RINKI Ltd manages to implement its responsibility for advising consumers.
“It’s important that the quality is at least as good as it was during the tests.”
Ekokem is building a plastic refinery as part of its Circular Economy Village, where packaging supplied by Uusiomuovi will be used in the recycling process. This is a new operation in Finland but Soini believes that Ekokem can handle the challenge and the operation can be further developed.
Stable situation for wooden packaging
Puupakkausten Kierrätys PPK Oy’s Board did not see any pressure to rise the recycling fees for wooden packaging. The company’s Managing Director Jukka Ala-Viikari describes the challenges that the sector is facing, the same as before.
“More timber grows in Finland than is felled. There are plenty of virgin wood products in the market at the moment, which makes recycling difficult. We should look into reusing wood in a feasible way. It is positive that environmental authorities have acknowledged Finland’s special circumstances in terms of wooden packaging waste. We hope that the EU would consider this as well.”
Ala-Viikari explains that PPK continues the development of the compilation of statistics started last year.
“The data collection form that RINKI Ltd introduced last spring has proved to be a very accurate means for collecting data regarding wooden packaging, and it has managed to produce some interesting information. The instructions still require some clarification, but it is being improved.”
The take-back point network may put pressure on prices
Juha-Pekka Salmi, Managing Director at Suomen Kuitukierrätys Oy, the company responsible for recycling carton, paper and other fibre-based packaging, says that a couple of years ago when the company was discussing possible scenarios based on the new Waste Act and the Packaging Waste Decree, there were already signs that the recycling fees for consumer packaging and corrugated cardboard needed to be increased.
“The price increases come from the creation of the nationwide take-back point network for consumer packaging. The producers are not only responsible for packaging recycling but now also for the collection of packaging waste and waste management costs, although we have been able to bring down the fees for industrial fibres.”
Salmi hopes that consumers will continue to recycle and that the new eco take-back point network will not be underused.
“The effects from the purchase of presses, as well as the collection and handling of materials on employment should be positive. The market for recycled fibre is reasonably good.”
Salmi expects that both Kuitukierrätys and Rinki will be busy in 2016.
“It will involve new Rinki eco take-back points, new presses and other machinery for recycling, planning of routes, communications. We will also be working more closely with our partners in issues concerning material management.”
The fee structure for metal packaging will change
Mepak-Kierrätys Oy, which now collects metal packaging waste in the Helsinki area, will expand its operations to cover the entire country as stipulated in the Packaging Waste Decree.
“This will significantly increase consumer packaging-related costs. We will introduce metal-specific recycling fees for consumer and B2B packaging,” says Mepak’s Managing Director Tapani Sievänen.
The 2016 metal packaging recycling fees have been determined according to the ‘polluter pays’ principle and are correlated with costs. The revenue from selling metal waste from consumer and B2B packaging as well as costs incurred from the collection systems for various types of metal waste are the basis for the fee structure. This will mean that the recycling fees for consumer packaging will increase but those for B2B packaging will fall.
“The price of recycled metal has been in decline for a long time. This is another challenge to Mepak’s finances and recycling fees on top of the challenges posed by our costs and solvency obligations.”
Cleaner glass as the goal
Maija Peltola, Managing Director of Suomen Keräyslasiyhdistys, says that the reason for the increase in the recycling fees for glass packaging is the expansion of producer responsibility.
“In May 2015, during the first phase of the expansion of producer responsibility, 38 terminals started taking back glass packaging waste collected by municipalities and waste management companies. From 2016, consumers can take back their glass packaging to 1,850 Rinki eco take-back points.”
Peltola explains that since glass packaging waste has been collected at the terminals, it has become evident that the quality of the material varies considerably. In areas where glass packaging waste has been used in construction projects, it has been possible to put material that is not suitable for recycling into the same containers as glass packaging.
“Producer organisations will have to work hard to make sure that the quality of glass packaging waste is suitable for recycling. Glass packaging from the healthcare sector must be separated from other glass, and it is essential that the amount of porcelain and earthenware is reduced. The importance of correct sorting cannot be overstated when the aim is to recycle all the material collected.”
Consumer packaging collection to be introduced
As of 1 January 2016, producers will be responsible for the entire process of collection and recycling of consumer packaging. The Rinki eco take-back point network will launch its operations at the same time. Consumers will be able to deliver household packaging waste to these points free of charge.
The Rinki eco take-back point network will have a minimum of 1,850 take-back points for carton, glass and metal packaging, and 500 points will accept plastic packaging.
Producers are now entirely responsible for operations at the reception terminals and intermediate storage of packaging waste as referred to in the Packaging Waste Decree. The producers’ terminals were opened in May 2015, and there are at least 30 terminals for the various packaging materials. The numbers vary: for example, there are 66 terminals for plastic.
The Waste Act also stipulates that producer organisations, in order to secure their operations, must have sufficient financial resources to be able to bear the obligations for at least six months.
Consumers need information about the new system as well as the importance of the purity of the material and correct sorting.
Juha-Heikki Tanskanen says that Rinki offers basic sorting advice via its helpline, and the website Rinkiin.fi provides comprehensive packaging information and there will also be detailed sorting instructions at the take-back points. Advice will also be spread through media and various partners.
The annual fee to be reduced
The good news for businesses is the fact that Rinki’s annual fee will be reduced by 14.5 percent.
“We invited companies to tender for some of the operations and we have streamlined our procedures, and consequently, we have been able to allocate resources to the collection of consumer packaging,” says Juha-Heikki Tanskanen.
Text Ilpo Salonen