Sorting and recycling of packaging

Pakkausten kierratystilastot

Can I return the packaging of the product I bought back to the company that sold the product? Are sellers obliged to take back packaging from consumers?

The packaging producer, i.e. the seller of the product, is not obliged to take back the packaging of the products it sells. Packaging producers manage the collection and recycling of their packaging by belonging to Rinki, which organizes the Rinki eco take-back point network on behalf of the producers with the recycling fees paid by them. Sure, individual companies can offer their customers an empty product packaging return service, but there is no obligation to do so.

Why are products packed in the first place? Isn’t it pointless?

Packaging has an important job. Products are packed in order to ensure that they remain undamaged from the factory to the end user. If a product is broken or spoilt during transport, this causes waste. In addition, the energy and material used in the manufacturing process are completely wasted. This results in more waste and damage to the environment.

Above all, packaging is used to protect the product from the environment and the environment from the product. So it is better to have packaging in the bin instead of spoilt or broken products.

Where does plastic packaging waste collected from Rinki eco take-back points end up?

All plastic packaging waste collected from Rinki eco take-back points is delivered to Fortum’s Plastic Refinery in Riihimäki, as is the plastic packaging collected from consumers’ homes. In Riihimäki Fortum sorts plastics and makes recycled raw materials or finished products. After sorting, a small part goes to further processing in Finland and the rest of Europe.

At the refinery, various types of plastic packaging are sorted and different types of plastic are processed into raw materials for the plastics industry. Plastic packaging can have a new life in items such as recycled plastic bags, cleaning tools or flowerpots. Non-recyclable plastic can be used with mixed waste as fuel at waste-to-energy plants. More information: www.uusiomuovi.fi.

What can packaging waste be used for?

From Rinki eco take-back points, packaging is transported to plants that use packaging waste, and the material collected is processed into raw materials for the production of new products.
At plants such as Fortum’s Plastic Refinery in Riihimäki, plastic packaging waste is processed into material that is used in the production of recycled plastic products. Plastic packaging can have a new life in items such as recycled plastic bags, cleaning tools or flower pots.
Other packaging materials are also recycled. Metal packaging waste and small metal items can be used in bicycle frames, for example, while glass packaging can be turned into new glass packaging and carton into a variety of cores or even things such as the laminate used in playground equipment.
Read more: Packaging recycling

How carefully do I need to clean the packaging?

As a rule of thumb, packaging is clean enough if it could be stored at home for some time.

Packaging must be free of visible dirt such as food or other residues. If necessary, rinse the packaging with cold water and drain it dry as well. Packaging that is very dirty or difficult to clean should not be washed. If warm water or detergents are needed to clean such packaging, it may be better for the environment to put it into the mixed waste. Mixed waste is used for energy production in Finland.

Packaging taken to Rinki eco take-back points must be empty, clean and dry. Why?

If there is any food residue left in the packaging, it will be easily spoiled and may be unrecyclable. Dirty packaging also easily causes smell-related problems. Bad smells can attract pests to waste containers and waste management facilities.

Humidity also increases contamination, especially in warm weather. During the collection process, packaging waste can be compressed into a small space, causing packaging containing liquid or wet waste to also contaminate correctly sorted packaging. In winter, wet waste can freeze and stick to the container, thus making emptying difficult.

Excess residues also add to the weight of the transported waste, which unnecessarily increases the environmental burden of the collection operations.

How do I sort packaging that contains multiple materials that cannot be separated? Items such as coffee and crisp bags or twist ties for bags made of metal and plastic?

Packaging is sorted according to which material weights the most.
If the packaging does not specify whether it is metal or plastic, try scrunching it: if it does not return to its original shape, it is probably metal. If it does, it is plastic. If you are still not sure which material it is, put it into the mixed waste.

Coffee and crisp packets as well as some dog and cat food packaging are usually mainly plastic, although they may have a thin layer of aluminium foil. These packets are sorted into plastic packaging, but due to their metal composition, they are generally not recyclable but are used in energy production. Some coffee packets are made of plastic only.

Twist ties for bags may contain metal wire in addition to plastic. Perform the scrunch test mentioned above: if the tie does not return to its original shape, it contains more metal than plastic and should be put into a metal recycling container.

Milk and juice cartons are recycled as carton packaging even though they contain carton and plastic and often also metal.

Why do I have to be so careful when sorting the packaging waste? Isn’t it a waste of time? I have heard that all kinds of waste end up in landfill.

Sorting is not a waste of time. It is actually very important, as it ensures that waste can be reused as efficiently as possible. Together we can achieve more: the more people who sort their waste correctly, the more good material we have for reusing.

From Rinki eco take-back points, packaging is transported to plants that use packaging waste, and the material collected is processed into raw materials for the production of new products.
Recycling reduces the use of new raw materials. It minimises the amount of material loss and waste, and it saves energy and natural resources.