Decrees on the recycling of different packages come all the way from the EU. Finland uses a deposit-based return system for beverage packages, which enables the efficient collection of packages for recycling.
GUIDED BY THE BEVERAGE PACKAGING TAX
A beverage packaging tax of EUR 0.51 per litre is collected for the packages of certain alcoholic beverages and soft drinks, but becoming a member of an approved and operational return system or organising a new return system provides an exemption from the tax.
The Finnish Government has issued a decree on the recycling objectives of return systems and the minimum values of different beverage package deposits. In practice, most of beverage manufacturers and importers are members of return systems managed by Suomen Palautuspakkaus Oy, hereinafter Palpa.
BENEFITS OF A DEPOSIT-BASED RETURN SYSTEM
By becoming members of Palpa’s return systems, beverage manufacturers and importers are exempted from the beverage packaging tax.
The deposits of the packages encourage consumers to return empty beverage packages for recycling. This prevents the packages from ending up in nature or in mixed waste.
The deposit is a good incentive for recycling. Other aspects, such as the location of the nearest return point and the functionality of the reverse vending machines, affect the will to recycle. Habits and attitudes also have an effect: In Finland, returning bottles and cans is learned in childhood, and it is considered important. Therefore, the recycling rates of beverage packages in Finland are among the best in the world.
When the materials of beverage packages are efficiently recycled, we are able to conserve natural resources and keep our environment cleaner. When, for instance, an aluminium can is made from recycled aluminium cans, the production only requires 5% of the amount of energy consumed in making a can from new materials. The recycling materials acquired from PET plastic bottles and glass bottles are used for the manufacturing of new bottles and other products in many different sectors of industry.
RECYCLING IS COOPERATION
Many parties, from the design and manufacture of beverage packages and the sales of beverages to transporting and recycling empty packages and reusing the materials, take part in the recycling of beverage packages:
- PALPA manages and develops return systems.
- The manufacturers and importers of beverages fund return systems through different types of payments.
- Consumers return deposit packages to stores and kiosks.
- Hotels, restaurants, offices, schools and different event organisers return deposit packages through beverage suppliers.
- Stores receive deposit packages and pay the deposit to the consumer.
- Transport companies deliver empty beverage packages to the operators.
- Operators calculate the plastic bottles and cans not returned via machines and bale the materials for transport. The glass bottles returned from return points are picked from operators for transportation.
- Those utilizing the materials sort and process the materials for reuse. Most of the materials end up reused by the beverage industry as new beverage packages.
WHO PAYS FOR THE RECYCLING OF BEVERAGE PACKAGES?
The manufacturers and importers of beverage packages pay a membership fee and package-specific recycling fees. The fees collected from the members are used to cover the expenses of the return systems.
The expenses of recycling beverage packages are the result of i.e. logistics, the transportation of the packages in different stages of the recycling chain, the compensations paid to the return points, and the processing of materials, among other things.
PALPA, the administrator of the system, is a non-profit company.
IDENTIFYING DEPOSIT PACKAGES IN STORES AND WITH A REVERSE VENDING MACHINE
The consumer identifies a can or plastic bottle belonging to a deposit-based return system of PALPA on the basis of the deposit marking on the package. The marking also indicated the value of the deposit. All deposit glass bottles do not have a marking. In these situations, the deposit can be checked from the purchase receipt, the shelf marking in the store, or using the tool for checking the deposit of a product found in PALPA website.
A reverse vending machine identifies a deposit bottle or can by comparing its barcode and shape to the information in the reverse vending machine’s register. To ensure a successful identification, the deposit package should be intact and the barcode should be readable.
A correct identification of the package is important in order to ensure that the person returning the package will receive the correct amount of deposit.
The reverse vending machine sorts the packages during the returning event. The better the recycled materials can be sorted immediately in the early stages of the recycling process, the less time and money is required later for cleaning and sorting the materials.
HOW THE RECYCLING SYSTEM WORKS
1. The manufacturer or importer of the beverage pays PALPA the deposit for the product delivered for sales
2. The manufacturer or importer of the beverage delivers the product for sales in a shop which pays the deposit to the manufacturer or importer of the beverage in the price of the product
3. The consumer pays the deposit when buying the product and receives it back when returning the empty package to a returning point
4. The return point and the processing plant report the returned packages to PALPA
5. PALPA pays the deposits to the return points in accordance with the number of reported returned packages
FLOW OF PRODUCTS
1. The manufacturer or importer of the beverage delivers the product for sales in a shop
2. The consumer buys the product and returns it empty to the return point
3. The driver picks up the returned empty packages from the return point
4. The driver delivers the packages to the processing plant
5. The material is delivered from the processing plant to the reprocessor
6. Most of the recycling materials received from beverage packages return to use as new beverage packages and other products
OTHER FEES AND COMPENSATIONS
1. PALPA pays handling fees to the return points accepting packages from consumers
2. PALPA pays transport compensations to the drivers
3. PALPA pays the expenses of the processing of beverage packages in processing plants
4. The reprocessor pays the price of the material to PALPA
5. The expenses of the system are covered by the fees paid by manufacturers or importers of beverages
How does the recycling of beverage packages work abroad?
In other Nordic Countries, beverage packages are recycled with the help of a national and general deposit-based system, as in Finland. The recycling rates, i.e. the share of returned packages in relation to the number of sold packages, are very high in the Nordic Countries.
Other options for recycling beverage packages include individual deposit systems of store chains, optional sorting as with other household waste, and sorting at waste treatment plants.