The recycling of household waste has become more efficient in many municipal areas in Finland

News 2022-12-15 at 9:01

The Finnish Environment Institute SYKE has published new regional information on household waste volumes and recycling rates. The recycling rate of household waste has increased in almost all municipal areas that have been monitored in the period 2016–2021 (some of the municipalities have been monitored from 2018–2021). The trend in the volume of household waste has fluctuated: during the monitoring period, about one-half of the municipal areas witnessed an increase in the household waste per capita and about half of the areas witnessed a decrease.

Change in the amount and recycling rate of household waste in 2016-2021. © SYKE

The monitoring data on the volumes of household waste and recycling rates were calculated for ten municipal areas, i.e. Forssa, Hyvinkää, Joensuu, Jyväskylä, Kuopio, Lahti, Lappeenranta, Porvoo, Riihimäki, and Turku. In addition, the data from Helsinki Metropolitan Area that the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY calculated with their own model is also included. The municipalities involved in this study have committed to promoting circular economy by being part of either the pioneering municipalities in the Circwaste - towards a circular economy -project or by being part of the FISU network (short for Finnish Sustainable Communities). Municipal area refers to the whole area in which the waste facilities of the monitored municipalities are responsible for waste management.

Recycling rate is on the increase

The recycling rate increased in nearly all the monitored municipal areas. In the Hyvinkää, Riihimäki, Joensuu and Porvoo regions, the recycling rate has risen from 2016 to 2021 at the pace required by the EU targets, i.e. by about five percentage points over five years.

“There appears to be a number of reasons for this positive development, such as a more efficient separate collection of biodegradable waste and a reduction in the amount of mixed waste. Furthermore, in some municipal areas, the more precise monitoring of waste data has had an impact on the results. Waste sorting and recycling still need to be even further developed in the coming years at a fast pace throughout the country,” says Tiina Karppinen, researcher at SYKE.

The national recycling rate of municipal waste has remained at the same level for a long time. Approximately half of the municipal waste is generated by households. The recycling rate of municipal waste in Finland stood at 37 per cent in 2020. The European Union and Finland aim to increase the recycling rate to 55 per cent by 2025, to 60 per cent by 2030 and to 65 per cent by 2035.

Regional differences in the development of waste amounts

Reducing the amount of waste is an important national objective. According to the data from Statistics Finland, the amount of municipal waste in 2021 has settled at the level it was on in 2020, but the amount had previously been in quite a steady rise ever since 2010.

In the municipal regions, the development of household waste volumes has been divided. During the monitoring period, the amount of household waste has decreased in the Hyvinkää, Riihimäki, Joensuu, Jyväskylä, Turku and Vantaa regions. The decreases in these areas have varied from a few per cent to over ten per cent. The Forssa, Kuopio, Lahti, Lappeenranta and Porvoo regions, on the other hand, have seen an increase in waste volumes, but even in these regions the amount of household waste was lower in 2021 than in 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic has increased waste amounts in the municipal areas due to people spending more time at home. The pandemic particularly affected the numbers in 2020. Some of the waste facilities report an increase in the amount of waste brought to waste stations, for example, as a result of people cleaning their homes and giving their belongings away. According to the producer organisation, the amount of packaging waste has also increased, presumably due to the increase in people ordering takeaway and using parcel services.

Regional waste data is needed

The National Waste Plan guides the development of waste management in Finland. According to the plan, municipal waste data would help to boost local recycling. “The amount of household waste shows a lot about people’s consumption habits and the recycling rate gives a good indication of the efficiency of sorting. Municipal waste facilities, municipalities and companies often monitor their waste volumes and how they are utilised closely. It would be important to gather this data in one place, so that we can form an overall picture of municipal waste in a given area,” Karppinen reminds.

Together with the waste sector operators, SYKE has been involved in the Circwaste project creating a method for estimating household waste volumes and monitoring recycling rates in different parts of Finland. For reasons related to the method and the lack of available data, as well as inventory changes, regional waste volumes and household waste recycling rates are comparable only between the different years and percentage changes of each municipal area. This method is not suitable for making other comparisons between the areas.

Find out more about the indicators

Sources: Waste facilities (Etelä-Karjalan Jätehuolto Oy, Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY, Jätekukko Oy, Kiertokapula Oy, Loimi-Hämeen Jätehuolto Oy, Lounais-Suomen Jätehuolto Oy, Mustankorkea Oy, Puhas Oy, Salpakierto Oy and Rosk’n Roll Oy Ab), Finnish Packaging Recycling RINKI Ltd, Suomen Palautuspakkaus Oy Palpa, Statistics Finland and Pirkanmaa Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment.

Additional information

  • Researcher Tiina Karppinen, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, tel. +358 (0)29 525 1376,
  • Circwaste accountable project manager, Head of Unit, Tuuli Myllymaa, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, tel. +358 (0)29 525 1437,

Circwaste – Towards circular economy

The Finnish Environment Institute is the coordinator of the Circwaste – Towards circular economy project. Part of the EU Life programme, this seven-year project’s budget totals almost 19 million Euros. The goal of the project is to promote circular economy with practical measures in construction, agriculture, industry, food chains and homes. The most efficient hands-on practices for boosting circular economy will be identified in the project.

The Circwaste project receives funding from EU for the production of project materials. The views indicated in the materials represent the views of the project, and the European Commission takes no responsibility of them.


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