English 17.12.2012

Waste palette under the magnifying glass

The reception point network for used consumer packaging is being developed with the aid of a pilot project. Data on the collection of consumer packaging to be run in accordance with the new Waste Act is being gathered in the Ecopoint study, which started in Tampere, Kuopio and Lapinlahti in January.

A reception point network for household packaging waste is being developed in this project with new operating models under consideration. The data collected will also aid with the drafting of the statutes in the Waste Act. The collection and management of packaging waste will be the responsibility of the producer organisations under the terms of the new act. The Ecopoint pilot study is examining the efficiency of the collection points, operational costs, the quality and quantity of the packaging waste, logistics, material handling alternatives and the opinion of consumers.

The project involves various collection points and equipment. For instance, a cardboard compactor is being tested in Lapinlahti that has so far been used mainly in the collection of firms’ packaging waste. The portable compactor can cost EUR 20,000, but through it large amounts of money can be saved in transport costs.

“In addition to the Ecopoint pilot scheme, a cardboard compactor was acquired for the Prisma supermarket collection point in Kirkkonummi at the beginning of the year. The waste bin for cardboard previously had to be emptied once a day. Due to the compactor, it will only need to be emptied at five to six week intervals,” explains Juha-Pekka Salmi, Managing Director of Suomen Kuitukierrätys Oy, the producer organisation for consumer fibre packaging. According to him, they want to collect systematic knowledge through the Ecopoint study on the factors that will make a collection point function efficiently.’

Illustration: Atte Lakinnoro

Plastic a new material

The pilot study, continuing until autumn, covers 20 ecopoints in all where packaging plastic is a new recycling material. The Environmental Manager of the retail chain, SOK, and Chairman of the Environmental Committee of the Federation of Finnish Commerce, Juhani Ilmola, says that collection of metal, cardboard and glass packaging in the study did not represent any significant change from the consumer’s standpoint.

“The pilot scheme will affect what kind of ecopoint collection equipment there will be in the vicinity of shops. We are investigating what kind of collection bins suit particular collection points, what cost-effective collection practices there are and how the environmental impacts of collection can be minimised,” states Juhani Ilmola, who is also a member of the Ecopoint pilot management group.

In his opinion, the majority of collection points should remain in their present locations. “A major issue for the consumer is whether there will be a new collection network for consumer plastic packaging, and if so what form it will take. In the autumn we will know whether it is worth collecting plastic packaging for recovery as raw material, whether the quality of the collected plastic will meet industrial requirements, whether it makes sense to collect only certain qualities of plastic and so on,” he further explains.

Vesa Kärhä, the Managing Director of Suomen Uusiomuovi Oy, says that the producer organisation for plastic packaging expects the data from the study to provide information on the quantity and quality of the plastic and the costs involved. “We want to know who can accept consumer plastic packaging and recover it – a power plant or recyclers of the material,” he adds.

Collection of plastic popular

Consumers have enthusiastically accepted the collection of plastic – in Tampere perhaps too much. The bins for packaging plastics have been filled five times quicker than estimated. Ilmola considers one reason to be the use of the term “household plastic” instead of “plastic packaging”. Household plastic covers much more than merely plastic packaging.

“Consumers should really know what is included in the plastic packaging to be collected. For example, small plastic jam jars sold in shops may be taken to the ecopoints, but buckets from children’s sandboxes do not belong in the collection bins. Consumers have been interviewed at the ecopoints in Tampere and Kuopio. Ecopoint users have been profiled in the interviews by age, sex, residential area, the way of sorting waste and so on. The first enquiries were conducted in January. We asked such questions as how easy it was, in their opinion, to return a certain type of waste to the collection points. Nine out of ten considered it easy to return recyclable paper while only a fifth of respondents felt that plastic packaging was easy to return and sort,” he explains.

Ilmola feels that this kind of result was to be expected, as paper has been collected for decades. The collection of consumer plastics has been small and location-specific. Up till now it has only been possible to take packaging plastics to bins for energy fraction in some housing companies, for example. In many residential areas it has only been possible to dispose of plastics in mixed waste bins.

Text Jaakko Kilpeläinen | Illustration Atte Lakinnoro



The aim is to set up an efficient network

The Ecopoint pilot project started in the first week of January and will end at the end of August. Those involved include the producer organisations in the packaging sector, the Finnish Food Marketing Association, the Finnish Solid Waste Association, the Federation of Finnish Commerce, the Finnish Food and Drink Industries Federation, Tampere Regional Solid Waste Management Ltd, the Kuopio based waste management firm, Jätekukko Oy, the Ministry of the Environment and the Pirkanmaa Centre for Development, Transport and the Environment.

The pilot study gathers information on the collection of packaging waste as stipulated in the new Waste Act. The Waste Act, coming into force on 1 May this year, will change producer responsibility and impose new requirements on the scheme for the collection of packaging waste. The transition period for the new act regarding consumer packaging will end on 1 May 2014.

The aim of the Ecopoint pilot scheme is to provide knowledge that can be used when developing a network of reception points for consumer packaging and an operating model that will meet the requirements of the new Waste Act. The intention is that the network of collection points will be located at the kerb of normal public thoroughfares for the main part close to shops.