Niinistö is submitting a proposal for the decree on packaging to the Council of State whereby there will have to be at least one take-back point for packaging waste in each district with over 500 inhabitants. In addition, there will have to be at least 1,500 intermediate take-back points, which means at least 2,000 take-back points to be located. Also there should be 30 collection centres for collected packaging waste.
The network should cover the entire country evenly distributed by region and population density. The take-back points are to be situated in locations connected to grocery retail outlets and local service centres or by the side of public thoroughfares.
Recycling targets will also become more stringent. The background to this is the statement made in December by the Parliamentary Committee for the Environment, supported by Parliament, according to the Secretary of State, Katariina Poskiparta, who explains, “This is the unqualified view of Parliament and the Minister of the Environment has taken this into consideration. His proposal is, however, a compromise. The previous number of 2,200 take-back points now stands at 2,000. In joint discussions, the firms operating in the packaging sector declared that the number of take-back points is a more important issue than tightening recycling targets.”
Targets must not remain just targets
According to the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for the Environment, Martti Korhonen, the committee wanted especially to see to it that the recycling targets are made more stringent to a sufficiently ambitious degree. In this way the basic aim of the Waste Act, the furtherance of recycling and the implementation of the waste hierarchy will be promoted. In its report the committee did not specify a particular quantity of take-back points. He explains, “What is most essential
is accessibility and the quantity is set accordingly. The committee stipulated that the network of take-back points should be so extensive that the stringent recycling targets will be met.
The targets set by the EU have been exceeded in Finland, but new binding obligations will be set before the EU has revised its packaging directive. Surely it is worth waiting for the adoption of the directive first?
“We should have our own ambition and the strength to be in the forefront concerning recycling targets. The operating model and logistics are on the whole intended to be such that targets are difficult to attain if they remain just targets. Then we will also need quantifiable metrics,” he retorts.
An extensive waste collection network will lead to considerable costs for packers and importers. The government has previously promised, however, to put on hold any additional burdens imposed on commerce and industry during the present term of parliament.
“To some extent costs will certainly be incurred on the whole, but the basic principle has been approved a long time ago. If existing structures are utilised and cooperation is carried out with municipalities, costs will nevertheless remain very tolerable,” he reckons.
The Managing Director of the Finnish Solid Waste Association, Markku Salo, states that public waste management companies are prepared to continue with the collection of packaging. He continues, “Over the years we have offered 4,200 collection points as a framework and basis for a network, whereby municipalities would continue collection as before and producers would pay reasonable compensation for the service.”
He contemplates what will become of the remaining collection points if the network is halved. He warns that above all residents in sparsely populated areas would be in a position of inequality in relation to others. “We are nevertheless striving for close cooperation with producer organisations whatever scheme comes into being. It is the legislator’s task to create a framework within which we will operate.”
PYR’s CEO, Juha-Heikki Tanskanen, states that the model initially proposed by Salo, in which the municipality is the operator and the producer merely the payer, does not constitute producer responsibility but rather a payment responsibility.
He explains, “The basic idea underpinning all producer responsibility is that those with producer responsibility manage the implementation of recycling and take into consideration the future challenges as well. Existing collection points and cooperation with municipalities are, of course, of utmost importance in the fulfilment of producer responsibility.”
Working together is more efficient
Tanskanen emphasises that, as producer responsibility increases, the synergies gained from unifying the collection of materials must be utilised. Take-back points for various fractions have to be located in the same place so that sorting is more convenient for consumers and the points are efficiently maintained.
He says that at present negotiations are taking place with the producer organisations concerning which tasks should be centralised at PYR. The most important issues comprise consumer collection, consumer information activities and consumer service. This will require effective cooperation with municipalities, public solid waste management companies and private companies in the field.
“Centralisation will enhance cost-effectiveness. Each fraction will require 2,000 take-back points, with 500 for plastics. Sites will have to be selected, permits acquired and it is worthwhile unifying the purchase of waste containers, likewise logistics contracts, cleaning at collection points, their maintenance, snow clearance, overall supervision, reporting and so on. It will all be more efficient if it is done together.
“The responsibility for information and consumer service was previously under the remit of municipalities, but now producer responsibility is increasing. The significance of information is more pronounced especially in those areas where the municipalities decide not to continue with the maintenance of the old collection points.”
“The aim is to have a nationally standardised network with standardised sorting instructions and efficient take-back points. We will also raise the efficiency of sorting with the aid of a positive brand,” Tanskanen believes.