Finland and a number of other EU countries are at risk of not meeting municipal waste targets for 2025, according to the European Commission.
A report issued on Thursday identified the countries that were — or were not — likely to meet targets for re-use and recycling of municipal and all packaging waste.
Finland is at risk of missing the municipal waste target, along with Estonia, France, Ireland, Latvia, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
Finland's recycling rate in 2020 was 41.6 percent, while the EU's 2025 target is more than 55 percent.
Finland is also at risk of not meeting plastic waste recycling targets, with a 39.4 percent recycling rate, falling well short of the EU's 2025 goal of 50 percent.
The Commission noted that nine states are on track to meet both targets, including Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Slovenia.
"Some countries also continue to landfill most of their municipal waste and will probably fail to meet the 2035 landfilling target," the Commission said in a press release on Thursday.
According to the Commission, each person in the EU generates an average of around 530kg of municipal waste per year, which includes waste from households and businesses.
"Although it is increasingly recycled and less landfilled, municipal waste remains one of the most complex waste streams to manage. In the EU, about 50 percent of municipal waste is recycled or composted and 23 percent is landfilled," the release stated.
Meanwhile, according to the commission, the amount of packaging waste generated in the EU is growing. It said that between 2013 and 2020, packaging waste volumes grew by 15 percent across the EU, amounting to almost 80 million tonnes.
Environment Ministry worried about increased incineration
"The most worrying thing about Finland's situation is that the already-distant municipal waste recycling goal seems to be slipping further and further away," said Sirje Stén, a senior official at the Environment Ministry.
In Finland, mixed waste is incinerated to produce heat and electricity. However, this rubbish also includes biowaste, plastics, cardboard and paper that could be recycled to make new material.
"The key thing is that sorting should be improved," said Stén.
The commission also raps Finland for under-collecting biowaste and plastic in particular. However, due to statistical delays, the report is based on information from 2020, and Finland has taken action on those since then, explained Stén.
For example, the collection of biowaste has become mandatory in all housing units with more than five flats. Biowaste is one of the biggest challenges, as it makes up about a third of mixed waste.
"We're moving in the right direction, but we still need people to sort more. Recycling boxes in the courtyards of buildings houses and businesses don't help if people don't put their refuse into the right containers," Stén told Yle.
Another concern at the ministry is that more corporate recyclable waste has been sent to incineration since the Russian attack on Ukraine. Due to the cut-off of wood imports from Russia, industrial plants have had to look for replacement fuels for their boilers.
"This is a trend that is not yet visible in the Commission's figures and about which we have heard worrying messages. The amount of waste that is ending up being incinerated may have even increased since 2020," said Stén.
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