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Finns discard 9 million euros in returnables every year

Finland loses an estimated 60 million redeemable cans every year. Officials are turning to awareness campaigns and new trials to encourage consumers to cash in on the nine million euros that remain unclaimed each year.

Oluttölkkejä kaupan hyllyssä.
Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

Finland ranks among the top countries in the world when it comes to recycling. In fact, up to 95 percent of returnable cans and bottles are recycled. But this also means that consumers don’t bother to take in five percent of their cans and bottles to recycling stations, missing out on the cash refund.

The Finnish Returnable Packaging Company (Palpa) has estimated that the five percent of redeemable cans and bottles that aren’t returned amounts to 60 million containers. Finnish consumers purchase some 1.2 billion cans every year, the majority of the 33 decilitre size.

“That’s a lot of waste, because five percent of all redeemable bottles is a vast amount. Its monetary value is around nine million euros,” said Palpa chief executive Pasi Nurminen.

According to Nurminen one reason why the return rate isn’t better has to do with mobility.

“When people are on the move, they won’t necessarily return single cans or bottles to the recycling point. These include energy drinks, for example,” Nurminen speculated.

Palpa has turned to awareness-building campaigns to reach target groups that use products such as energy drinks.

Returnable cans and bottles also end up in the wrong place, the Palpa CEO said, such as in household waste.

City of Helsinki teams up for pilot

Six months ago Palpa joined forces with the city of Helsinki to launch a pilot in the Hesperia Park, where officials have placed a tube for returnables next to regular trash cans to help prevent them from winding up in the garbage.  Known as the “Deposit Park” the tube can be removed so that its contents can be taken to recycling stations. Similar trials have also been introduced in other European countries such as Sweden.

“We’re monitoring the trial during the autumn, we don’t have an interim report yet, but we hope that it’ll show good results. We’ll consider continuing on the basis of those results,” Nurminen explained.

One way to encourage consumers to turn in their returnables in exchange for cash, would be to increase the deposit fee on cans and bottles. However the recycling association hasn’t warmed to this idea.

“If we increase the value of the deposit, it would no longer act as an incentive, it might tempt the producers to avoid the recycling system altogether,” Nurminen added.

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