One of Rinki’s main duties is to collect packaging data from companies every year, as required by law, and report it to producer organisations. We compile this data and submit the information to the Pirkanmaa ELY Centre, which is the supervising authority. Accuracy is ensured by checking the data submitted and conducting audits of companies. Heidi Plattonen is responsible for audits at Rinki. Plattonen worked in S Group’s grocery logistics as a packaging specialist before joining Rinki, so she is familiar with most of the packaging on the market in Finland.
Ensuring the accuracy of the packaging data companies provide is important for many reasons. One of the uses of the reports is to monitor the achievement of recycling obligations. Producer organisations base their operations on reported packaging data, which is needed for calculating recycling rates, for example. The recycling fees payable by companies are also based on reported packaging volumes.
“Audits are carried out to check the reliability of data and ensure fair distribution of costs among companies. Companies can be confident that the same rules are applied to everyone and that recycling fees are distributed fairly,” says Plattonen.
What is a Rinki audit like?
Any company that is a member of a producer organisation can be audited, and the entire auditing process is confidential. Audits are always conducted on the most recent packaging data reported by a company. Companies from a variety of sectors are selected for auditing, such as wholesalers and retailers, food industry companies and other industrial companies. The aim is to audit companies that use a range of different packaging materials.
Rinki contacts companies selected for auditing well before the audit date, which is agreed jointly. Companies provide Rinki with a list of its products and a description of how its packaging data is compiled every year.
“It makes preparing for the audit easier if companies have an accurate description of the reporting process in place and perhaps have even drawn up internal instructions,” says Plattonen.
Audit visits include a presentation from Rinki on the packaging producer responsibility system and obligations and any changes to the reporting process. The purpose of the presentation is to support companies in managing their producer responsibility obligations.
“Rinki’s audits serve as a source of information and an opportunity for consultation. Companies benefit from the audits because it gives them an opportunity to clear up any issues,” Plattonen explains. “Reporting packaging data always requires a lot of work within companies, and I think it’s important that companies can discuss the challenges related to reporting with me during my visit,” she says.
Audits also include a review of companies’ reporting processes, including how the weight of packaging components is obtained and the accuracy of internal processes guaranteed. An audit usually also assesses all the typical types of packaging that a company uses by material. Sometimes packaging that is used in large volumes is weighed when empty during an audit.
Companies are given immediate feedback during audits, and an actual audit report is provided later. Plattonen points out that following Rinki’s instructions is the best way to ensure that an audit runs smoothly.
Audits are becoming more important
There will be changes to the reporting process in the near future, so audits will become more important. The definition of a packaging producer will change on 1 January 2024, when the turnover limit of one million euros will be removed and Finnish manufacturers and importers of packaging will be redefined as producers of service and agricultural packaging. Reporting of single-use plastic packaging under the Single-use Plastics Directive will begin, with small packers able to use a simplified reporting system for all basic reporting. All this means that it is increasingly important that companies have a clear understanding of what their responsibilities are in terms of reporting.