Waste management as a critical sector

2020-05-25 Aino Heikura

In my work, I often consider how the transition to the circular economy could be promoted and how the amount of waste could be reduced. Now that we are in a new situation globally, the effectiveness of waste management is one of the critical themes. The implementation of wastewater treatment and the availability of clean drinking water are also absolutely central to the maintenance of society's functions.

All of these are necessities for people to stay in their own homes at all.

The Regional Council of North Karelia is involved in the Circwaste – Towards a Circular Economy project, the main goal of which is to implement a national waste plan in North Karelia. This includes, in particular, the objective of preventing the generation of waste, but also of making the waste generated recycled to materials for new uses.

This is the basis for implementing a circular economy.

The Finnish Environment Institute SYKE monitors the accumulation of waste in the areas involved in the project. In particular, the aim is to map the amounts of household waste and the recycling rate for monitoring. The key goal is to reduce the amount of waste in households as well.

But what is happening to waste volumes right now and how are waste volumes actually evolving?

Now the situation is that people spend a lot of time at home, which means that a lot of waste is also generated at home. On the other hand, not so much waste is generated in restaurants, industry or SMEs, for example.

Remote working has really initiated the transition towards a paperless office.

Instead of the total amount of waste, individual indicators, such as household waste, are monitored in the development of waste volumes. It may be that during the COVID-19 year, the amount of waste increases, although the goal is to reduce it.

In waste volumes, it is important to monitor the identified indicators, but they do not reveal the whole truth and may also be misleading. A better and more accurate picture of the development of the total amount of waste could be obtained if we could see the whole development trend. In that case, it should include the amount of waste generated by households, businesses and services.

Finally, I would like to make one wish: Sort the generated waste as well as possible, so that the materials have a future for other uses.

In the Joensuu region, the recycling rate of household waste was only 49 per cent in 2017. So there is plenty to do in this area.

I thank the waste management operators for taking care of the waste and transport and enabling material recovery and end-use. Especially important work is being done with waste!

Aino Heikura

Aino Heikura, Regional Council of North Karelia

The author is a Project Manager in the project Circwaste – Towards Circular Economy in the region of North Karelia

The article was published in the newspaper Karjalainen on 15 May 2020.

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