English 10.9.2013

PYR involved in changes

PYR’s new managing director, Juha-Heikki Tanskanen, finds the new Waste Act and the decree under preparation to be demanding for producers.

When the final text of the decree is ready, producers will have to make a start on planning a cost-effective collection network for packaging which offers a good service. Katri Tuulensuu, just starting in her post as communications manager, stresses that PYR will continue to keep its member firms rigorously up to date on the impacts of the reform.

It was originally intended that collection from consumers should fall to producers in May 2014, but the date is now set for the beginning of 2016. Tanskanen believes that the transition period has saved a lot of bother.

“We now have time to set up a collection network. The packaging sector was in close contact with the ministry over prolonging the schedule, and the aim was achieved,” he states. Since extended producer responsibility has been decided on in the Waste Act, a collection network will be set up, but the decree will have a large impact on final costs. He emphasises that this should be handled as cost-effectively as possible. “It is good that the details will be decided on during the autumn and practicalities may then commence. Producers will have to set up a common network for the whole country, to which consumers can easily take materials for recycling,” he explains.

The aim is to find sensible solutions

Shopping centres are, for instance, the natural location for collection points, as they are visited by large numbers of people. A more challenging issue is how one can collect materials in remote areas so that it will make economic sense and provide benefits to the environment.

“The act guarantees consumers the right to trouble-free sorting, and this is a fine aim indeed. The fundamental question is what is meant by “trouble-free”. If collection points are to be placed in remote locations, the small quantities collected will be rather expensive with consumers ultimately paying the costs. Moreover, emissions from transport will rise so high that benefits to the environment will decrease,” Tanskanen complains. He nevertheless believes that the scheme could become highly efficient once the details have been finalised.

“Trade and industry will have to consider their environmental targets with greater precision than before. The trend is that environmental obligations will continue to grow and as a result costs will rise,” he points out. One aim of legislators is that use of packaging materials will decrease where possible. Tanskanen feels that this aim is correct in general, but with respect to packaging it could at worst lead to a growth in the amount of waste. Packaging protects a product and thus reduces the amount of waste. In addition, packaging in most cases represents only a small portion of the overall environmental footprint left by products at present, something in the region of only a few per cent. The greater part of the environmental burden arises in the manufacture of products.

Plastics included

Under the terms of the draft decree producers will have to organise at least 2,000 collection points for glass, metals and fibre packaging. In addition, there will be 500 collection points for plastics. Sorting plastics has for a long time been of interest to consumers, but with regard to mixed household plastics it is difficult to find recyclers or procedures for the recovery of waste materials as raw material for some useful end.

“The proposed number of collection points is large, and the collection of consumer plastics in particular should be started with a smaller network of collection points than that proposed so that the quality of collected plastics can be assured and suitable recycling applications can thus be found,” he states.

Tanskanen points out that more and more waste incineration plants are being built in Finland. In these plants the plastic waste unsuitable for recycling can be put to better use as its calorific value corresponds to that of oil. He further believes that consumers will continue sorting in the same way as before even if the incineration of waste increases.

“A reform is a compromise between various aims. It is good that a start can made on the planning and implementation of these matters throughout the entire country as a whole. PYR’s key role in the compilation of statistics and coordination of producer responsibility will remain. Time will show whether there will be new tasks in addition to these,” he says.

Consumers also the target for communication activities

PYR’s new communications manager, Katri Tuulensuu, promises that due to the reforms PYR will pay greater attention to consumers also in its communication activities. When responsibility for the collection of discarded packaging from consumers is transferred to firms, PYR will also have to be involved in giving instructions about recycling issues to consumers.

“PYR should be prepared for even more open discussion in public if necessary. Recycling of packaging is a complicated set-up. This may interest many consumers in sorting waste to a higher degree. The “Mahtavapakkaus” web pages are a good start and consumer communications will have to be increased,” she figures. Tuulensuu considers one of her principle aims is that member firms are kept well informed about changes in the field.

“For instance, many details are open concerning the organisation of consumer recycling. On what scale will it be conducted, how will responsibilities be divided, how much will it cost, what does this all mean in practice? Our basic message is that PYR will continue to assume responsibility on behalf of its member firms and to protect their interests.  This arrangement will not alter,” she states.

Juha-Heikki Tanskanen joined PYR from his post as Managing Director of the solid waste management firm, Itä-Uudenmaan Jätehuolto Oy. He served in the company since its establishment in 2002. He is a Doctor of Technology by education.

Katri Tuulensuu, M.Sc. (Econ.), has some experience in the field of packaging from previous employment including her job as Communications Manager at the Federation of the Brewing and Soft Drinks Industry. At that time she also represented the brewing industry on the board of directors of Suomen Kuluttajakuitu ry, the producer organisation for consumer fibre packaging.