Legislation 12.6.2020

The new Waste Act will increase packaging producers’ responsibilities

Packaging producers’ responsibilities and costs will increase with the new waste legislation. The bill would expand packaging collection to smaller housing associations. The recycling targets in Finland will not exceed the requirements of the directive.
By Mari Valkonen Images Heli Nokkala

A new waste law is currently being prepared Finland, and its aim is to improve circular economy and get waste recycled instead of it ending up in energy production. The law is based on the EU’s Waste Directive, which obliges an increasing proportion of waste to be recycled. Here are the main points of the draft from the perspective of packaging producers.

1. Packaging producers’ responsibilities and costs will increase significantly

According to the draft, the responsibility for the collection of packaging waste from residential properties will be transferred to producers. Packaging waste will also be collected from all residential properties with five or more households. In practice, this means almost every terraced house and block of flats will have a collection container for plastic, cardboard, glass and metal. The property-specific collection would be complemented by a network of Rinki eco take-back points.

In practice, this means almost every terraced house and block of flats will have a collection container for plastic, cardboard, glass and metal.

–  For our customer companies this will mean a significant rise in costs, says Juha-Heikki Tanskanen, CEO of Finnish Packaging Recycling RINKI Ltd.

At the moment, packaging producers pay Rinki 20 million euros every year to manage the producer responsibility operations. Tanskanen believes that the cost will at least double with the new legislation.

According to the draft, municipalities and packaging producers would take care of property-specific collection together, so that municipalities would be responsible for organising the collection of packaging waste. Packaging producers would compensate municipalities for the costs. Producers would be responsible for at least 80% of the cost, which covers packaging waste collection, treatment, advice and reporting. Municipalities would invoice property owners for the remaining 20%.

–We managed to include in the bill our proposal that if packaging producers cannot agree with municipalities on the price and terms of packaging collection, packaging producers could arrange the collection themselves. In that sense, this is not a forced union, says Tanskanen.

2. Recycling targets will increase, but no more than expected

Property-specific collection is based on an EU directive that has set waste recycling targets at a high level. For example, 50 % of all plastic packaging should be recycled by 2025 and 55 % by 2030. At the moment, around 34% of non-deposit plastic packaging is recycled.

For example, 50 % of all plastic packaging should be recycled by 2025 and 55 % by 2030.

Tanskanen is, however, pleased that Finland is not planning to tighten the national recycling targets in the waste legislation that is being prepared. Marja Ola, Chief Policy Adviser at the Finnish Commerce Federation, also finds this very important.

– The wholesale and retail sectors alone pay as much as 40 percent of the total costs of implementing producer responsibility for packaging in Finland, so this is also a significant issue from the perspective of the industry’s competitiveness, says Ola.

Ministerial Adviser Tarja-Riitta Blauberg from the Ministry of the Environment says that tightening of the national recycling targets has not even been discussed.

– Achieving the goals set by the EU is hard enough.

3. Achieving recycling rates will be more difficult and the way packaging statistics are compiled will change

It is not possible to recycle all the waste that has been collected, and some of the packaging brought to waste treatment plants has to be discarded for such reasons as poor quality. Until now, these discarded packages, so-called rejects, have been included in the recycling rate. According to the proposal, the new Waste Act will change the calculation method, i.e. rejects will not be included in the recycling rate.

Until now, these discarded packages, so-called rejects, have been included in the recycling rate.

– This makes it more difficult to achieve recycling targets, says Tanskanen.

Another point is that whereas packaging producers now report, for example, a milk carton, which is made of cardboard and lined with a plastic film, as cardboard packaging, packaging will not be reported according to its main material in the future but the weight of both the plastic film and the carton will have to be reported. This means that companies’ reporting will have to be more detailed.

4. Foreign online shops will be covered by producer responsibility

With the new Waste Act, producer responsibility will also be extended to foreign companies that deliver their products to Finland from their online shops. Finnish packaging producers now pay for the collection of the packaging of products purchased abroad from online shops.

– It will be a significant improvement that the producer responsibility obligation for packaging will also apply to international distance-selling, says Ola from the Finnish Commerce Federation.

However, the Federation and Rinki would like extended producer responsibility also to apply to foreign online shopping platforms such as Amazon, Alibaba and Wish. According to Tanskanen, they should oblige companies using the platforms to take care of producer responsibility. However, there is no mention of extended producer responsibility in the draft.

– It is difficult for Finnish legislation to impose extended responsibility on foreign online shops. Producer responsibility for online shopping platforms should, in the first instance, be governed by the law of the countries in which the platforms operate. It would be good to have EU-level legislation to cover this issue, says Blauberg from the Ministry of the Environment.

 

Here’s how the new Waste Act is moving forward:

Various parties will submit their comments on the draft by the beginning of June 2020.

The Ministry of the Environment will prepare a bill for the new Waste Act on the basis of the comments in summer 2020.

The government will submit a proposal for the new Waste Act to Parliament in autumn 2020.

The Waste Act will enter into force on 1 January 2021 (estimate).