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All types of aluminium cans now recyclable

Even empty beverage cans from abroad can now be returned to practically any recycling machine in Finland, whether you get a cash return for them or not. Cans should not wind up as mixed waste, bottle recycling company Palpa says.

Oluttölkkejä kaupan hyllyssä.
Whether you get cents from each can you recycle or not, it's now easier than ever to return them to stores, Palpa says. Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

A representative of the bottle and can recycling company says that almost every Palpa machine now accepts cans brought from abroad. A majority of non-refundable aluminium cans come from Estonia, which has its own recycling system.

Machines where bottles and cans made of glass, plastic and aluminium can be returned are all found inside or adjacent to grocery stores or Alko shops.

“There are about 4,000 bottle and can recycling machines in Finland that accept a very wide range of non-deposit beverage cans,” operative director Olli Alanen from Palpa said. “Meaning that there are no grocery chains that won’t accept non-refundable cans.”

If one of Palpa’s machines spits out a foreign can, the trouble is probably either with the condition of the can or with the status of the machine itself, which is not immune to malfunction.

“The can also has to be the right shape so the sensors can identify it,” Alanen said.

Recycling returns high

Helsinki metropolitan Finns throw away about a kilogram’s worth of aluminium in the trash per year, Yle Helsinki reported last week. A kilo per person means trouble for the Vantaa waste incineration plant, where metals interfere with the process.

“Returning a can to a recycling machine is always an ecological act, whether you get compensated for it or not,” Alanen said. “Cans returned to our machines go toward making new ones.”

Palpa’s yearly intake is about 1.2 billion cans, with a few percent of those having no deposit.

In 2013, about 17,000 tonnes of recycled aluminium was recovered from returned cans.

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