The recycling of carrier bags is increasing rapidly in Finland, and around 60 dedicated consumer recycling points have been established across the country to date, typically alongside existing recycling facilities for returnable bottles. Lassila & Tikanoja and Suominen Flexible Packaging opened the first such recycling point around a year ago.
"The rapid growth of the network is a clear indication that consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits that come from recycling different types of materials. The dedicated recycling points that have been set up for carrier bags represent a valuable step forward in improving the potential for recycling this type of plastic. Greater recycling of more types of materials translates into reduced use of raw materials and less pressure on landfills," says L&T's Sales Director Petri Salermo.
L&T is responsible for managing and emptying the recycling points in question. Carrier bags are sorted and sent to L&T's processing plant at Merikarvia, where they are regranulated into raw material; or alternatively sent for use as fuel in energy generation. Higher-grade granulate is sent to Suominen for use in manufacturing new carrier bags and garbage sacks, while other granulates are used in producing other plastic products.
Consumers have taken to the new system enthusiastically, and their role will be critical in determining how much benefit it will deliver. Suominen has already produced a number of test batches of end-products from the recycled granulate that it has received as part of the project. Incorrectly sorted material has emerged as something of a problem, however, as other materials included with the bags make them unsuitable for granulation and can only be used as fuel.
"It is very important from our point of view that consumers understand the need to sort carrier bags properly and only drop off empty bags. Bags can be wet, but they should not contain anything like bottle tops, board, or paper," explains Marketing Manager Laura Astor of Suominen Flexible Packaging. "Suominen's carrier bags are produced from three-layer plastic film, and we can use recycled material in the outer and core layers of our film. The inner layer is always produced from virgin material to ensure the quality and safety of our end-products. Recycled material accounts for over 50 % of the material used in recycled bags produced by Suominen; and by choosing recycled bags, consumers can make their own contribution to reducing the use of virgin raw materials."
Kesko Food has been a pioneer in introducing recycling points in its stores, in line with the company's general proactive emphasis on the environment. "People's environmental awareness is growing all the time, and consumers are increasingly looking to us to offer them practical and easy ways of shopping more responsibly. We now have nearly 40 recycling points for carrier bags around Finland, and we have got positive feedback on them from our customers," according to Kesko Food's Environmental Manager Timo Jäske.
"We want to offer our customers different ways of making a difference, environmentally," continues Markku Hautala, who runs K-citymarket Järvenpää near Helsinki. "We put a lot of effort into installing a quality bottle recycling unit when we remodelled the store recently, and as part of this we also installed a dedicated recycling point for carrier bags on the basis of input from our customers. This has proved very successful and typically fills up every day."
L&T and Suominen plan to continue expanding the network of recycling points, and a special web site (www.muovikassikiertoon.fi
) has been set up to promote the project.
Lassila & Tikanoja plc, Sales Director Petri Salermo, tel. +358 (0)10 636 2852
Suominen Flexible Packaging Ltd., Marketing Manager Laura Astor, tel. +358 (0)10 214 2276
Kesko Food Ltd, Environmental Manager Timo Jäske, tel. +358 (0)10 532 8222
Lassila & Tikanoja plc
Lassila & Tikanoja specialises in environmental management and property and plant support services. L&T is operative in Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Russia and Norway. Net sales in 2007 amounted to 555 million euro. L&T employs 9500 persons, 2400 of which are located outside Finland. L&T's shares are listed on OMX Nordic Exchange. www.lassila-tikanoja.com
Suominen Flexible Packaging Ltd.
Suominen Flexible Packaging produces high-quality plastic film packaging for consumer applications for industry and the retail sector. The company is one of Northern Europe's leading producers in the field, with production units in Finland, Sweden, and Poland. Suominen Flexible Packaging is part of Suominen Corporation, which recorded net sales of some €215 million in 2007 and employs 1,070 people. www.suominen.fi