14.08.2020 -

Plastic recycling: The consumer does the sorting; Suomen Uusiomuovi Oy does the recycling!

Suomen Uusiomuovi Oy was founded in the early 1990s when the plastics sector recognized the significance of recycling plastics as an important topic for the future. Today Suomen Uusiomuovi Oy is a community responsible for overseeing the implementation of legal responsibility of more than 2,500 companies in the recycling of packaging. Its tasks include the organisation of a network of facilities for the collection and recycling of plastic packaging and the promotion of recyclability of packaging in accordance with Finnish law and national and EU requirements.

For the consumer, Suomen Uusiomuovi’s operations can be seen through the services of Rinki Oy, a Finnish packaging recycling company. Rinki brings plastic collected from households to reception terminals where the plastic is weighed and bailed. Of this, two-thirds will end up at Fortum’s Riihimäki plastic refinery and the remaining one-third to other recycling treatment facilities abroad. Fortum’s Riihimäki refinery is currently the only plant in Finland that can handle household plastic waste.

In the best months, 60-70% of household plastic has ended up in recycling, and even in normal situations, more than 50% of the accumulated plastic will find a new life through recycling, as new products.

Finland is on its way to becoming a model country for plastic recycling

Approximately one-third of recyclable plastic comes from companies and two-thirds from consumers. ­­­­According to EU regulations, 22% of plastic waste for businesses and consumers must be recycled. By 2025, this recycling requirement will increase to 50% and Finland is well on the way to achieving this future objective, with a current combined value of 42% of plastic waste recycled from businesses and consumers. However, the situation has not always been so good.

“If you look at the situation four years ago, our plastic recycling percentage was in the lowest quartile of countries in the EU. Now we are in the second-highest quartile,” According to Vesa Soini, CEO of Suomen Uusiomuovi.

Thanks to YLE’s “I love plastic” campaign, 2019 was a turning point

The campaign significantly raised consumer awareness of plastic recycling, resulting in a 79 per cent increase in consumer plastic collection.

Vesa Soini is delighted with YLE’s good work on plastic recycling.

“YLE’s “I love plastic” campaign managed to tell ordinary consumers what it is all about. It brought many ordinary citizens the understanding that plastic is not bad, you just have to make sure that plastic packaging is sent to recycling collection.”

A new waste law and challenges for the future

The goal of Suomen Uusiomuovi Oy is to further increase Finnish plastic recycling collection capacity. In the future, however, there will be changes that will bring challenges. In the autumn of 2020, the Government will introduce a new Waste Act for approval. This would make it mandatory for the producer community to provide recycling services for all packaging materials. All recycling operators should have the capacity to recycle all types of packaging materials. According to Vesa Soini, the new Waste Act poses challenges for the recycling sector.

“Plant investments are large and investments such as these require sufficient security of raw material availability to materialize. Waste Act has introduced a situation where there is currently no recycling operator capable of ensuring this kind of long-term availability. As a consequence, investment projects are not progressing,” says Soini.

The new Waste Act requires that municipalities will have responsibility for waste collection in the future

In the past, house companies have been able to settle things directly with the company providing waste management. In the future, the role of local and municipal companies will increase and the role of private waste collection companies will be reduced.

Fortum’s announcement of a possible shutdown of the Riihimäki plant in 2021 also poses challenges. This raises the question of where Finnish recycled plastic will be exported to in the future? And where will Finnish companies who now make products from recycled materials procure their recycled plastics in the future?

“If they will have to buy their recycled plastic from Germany, for example, then it will take time to change this habit,” thinks Soini.

Woodly and Suomen Uusiomuovi

Vesa’s thoughts are warmed by the fact that Woodly product is clearly plastic and is made to be recycled. Unlike other plastics, Woodly is not made from fossil-based raw materials but its main raw material is softwood cellulose.

“Finding alternatives to fossil-based raw materials is a good, new direction,” concludes Soini.

Woodly and Suomen Uusiomuovi have together designed the recycling path for Woodly’s product and agreed on the use of a recycling label. Both parties hope is that the future use of Woodly-based products will increase and that Woodly-based products would be able to be separated out from other plastics at the recycling plastic refinery.

Author: Maria Aksela
Vesa Soini’s picture borrowed with permission of Suomen Rengaskierrätys Oy.

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