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Report: Strong guidance needed to increase recycling

Government Communications Department
Publication date 22.11.2016 11.36 | Published in English on 23.11.2016 at 10.49
Press release 509/2016

To reach the EU targets for the recycling of municipal and construction waste, stronger steering instruments need to be introduced in Finland. More efficient waste sorting is needed both in households and in industry. Waste materials from construction should be more efficiently utilised especially in renovation building. Possible means to increase recycling include a tax on the incineration of municipal waste and system of charges based on the weight of waste.

The project Kohdennetut keinot kierrätyksen kasvuun (KEIKKA) - Targeted means to increase recycling, led by the Finnish Environment Institute, examined the steering instruments by which more of the municipal and construction waste could be directed to recycling.

More efficient sorting of municipal waste

Most of the municipal waste, 65%, is produced in private homes. In many places waste is already sorted quite efficiently, but large amounts of recyclable material still ends up as mixed waste. Recycling of waste in households could be improved by stricter limits for the obligations concerning waste collection from individual properties. Better advice on sorting is also needed.

“To reach the 50% recycling target required by the EU in all urban areas of Finland there should be a sorting system for individual properties concerning biowaste, cardboard, metal and glass in all properties with at least two apartments. Plastic should be collected from all properties with at least ten apartments. We are concerned with a major expansion of our recycling system”, says Hanna Salmenperä, Senior Coordinator at the Finnish Environment Institute.

The remaining 35% of the municipal waste is generated in the administration, service and industrial sectors. To recycle 50% of this, the recovery of waste fractions should increase by 20 to 50% from the present. Means to expand the collection network and improve sorting include the obligation to organise separate collection and through advice.

The research project also proposes financial steering instruments such as a tax on the incineration of municipal waste and introduction of a system of charges based on the weight of waste. There is a lot of recycling potential especially in cardboard and plastic waste. Further study is needed on the introduction of a waste incineration tax and its impact. In a system of charges based on the weight of waste the producer of waste would pay on the grounds of the amount of waste only, with the highest charges collected on unsorted waste fractions.

Materials recycled in renovation building

Waste from housing construction should be more efficiently targeted to recycling and use. Steering instruments are needed to increase the amount of waste directed to recycling and strengthen the markets of recycled materials. However, uncertainties in the knowledge base of construction waste make it difficult to target the measures.

"The knowledge base of construction waste should be improved by using data in the transfer documents concerning the transportation of waste required under the Waste Act. To achieve this, we need to start using electronic documents and improve the compatibility of different information systems", Salmenperä says.

Construction waste is generated especially in renovation building, where the share of mixed waste is much larger than in new building and demolition. The most significant types of construction waste are concrete, wood and mixed waste.

The recycling of construction waste could be improved by a pre-demolition survey where types of waste that are fit for recycling and those containing harmful substances are listed. Sorting at renovation and demolition sites could be promoted through voluntary contracts. Guidance is also needed on public procurement operations that support the use of recycled materials.

The report has been prepared as part of the implementation of the Government’s analysis, assessment and research plan for 2016. The project is carried out by the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE in cooperation with the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Statistics Finland.

Kohdennetut keinot kierrätyksen kasvuun (KEIKKA) – Report on targeted means to increase recycling (in Finnish)

Policy Brief (in English)

Inquiries: Hanna Salmenperä, Senior Coordinator at the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, tel. +358 295 251 605, [email protected]

Further information about the Government’s analysis, assessment and research at