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Finnish and EU regulation

The Finnish municipal solid waste (MSW) management system is based on a holistic approach. Sustainable waste management is a combination of legislation, regulatory and financial guidance and controls, segregated waste collection practices and incentives, technology and environmental education.

A key principle of waste management in the EU and Finland is the order of priority:

  • The priority is to prevent the production of waste.
  • If the production of waste cannot be prevented, the waste must be prepared for reuse.
  • If the waste cannot be reused, it must primarily be recycled as material and secondarily recovered as energy.
  • Only if its recovery is not technically or economically feasible, waste can be disposed of in landfills.


The Finnish waste legislation is largely based on EU legislation, but in some cases it is stricter. Finnish waste legislation covers all wastes except some special types of waste, e.g. radioactive wastes. General waste legislation in Finland includes the Waste Act and the Waste Decree, and the environmental impacts of wastes are addressed in the legislation on environmental protection; Environmental Protection Act and the Environmental Protection Decree. There are also numerous government decrees and decisions on specific waste types or activities, waste treatment, and directly applicable EU regulations.

The latest, wide-ranging reform which boost recycling and the circular economy came into force through the Waste Act on July 19, 2021. The Waste Act obliges waste operators to separate collection and to recycle waste more efficiently than previously. There will also be new accounting, monitoring and reporting obligations for operators. The aim is, that 55% of MSW will be recycled in Finland in 2025, and 65% will be recycled in 2035. Efficient separate collection is needed to increase the recycling rate, therefor separate collection obligations are intended to take effect gradually between July 2022 and July 2024. Municipalities will organize the transport of separate collectable wastes from housing, namely biowaste, metal waste, and packaging waste from properties after a transitional period.


Biowaste is biodegradable food and kitchen waste from housing, offices, services and similar activities, similar waste from food production and biodegradable garden and park waste

  • There are requirement for separate collection of certain waste fractions, e.g. biowaste
  • Residents of the detached houses often also have their own home composter
  • Garden waste is collected and treated separately e.g. in waste stations


The wide-ranging reform entered into force though the Waste Act 7/2021

  • Obligations for the separate collection of biowaste are more strict than earlier
  • From 7/2022 biowaste is collected separately in all settlements in properties of at least 5 apartments
  • Equivalent requirements for non-residential properties concerning e.g. biowaste from 7/2022.
  • Separate collection of biowaste will be extended to all properties in settlements of more than 10,000 inhabitants by 2024 at the latest.
  • Municipalities can use waste management regulations to expand or reduce separate collection.


Source: Jätelaki 646/2011 – Ajantasainen lainsäädäntö – FINLEX ®


From Recycling to Circular Economy – National Waste Plan to 2027

The Finnish National Waste Plan to 2027 “From recycling to circular economy” includes both a plan to reduce the volume and harmfulness of waste and a waste management plan. The plan covers the whole Finland except for the Åland Islands. The national waste plan is a strategic plan adopted by the Government laying down the objectives and measures for waste management and waste prevention.

Vision of the National Waste Plan to 2030 is:

  1. Material-efficient production and consumption save natural resources and mitigate climate change.
  2. The volume of waste has decreased from the present. Recycling and reuse have risen to a new level.
  3. High-quality waste management is part of a sustainable circular economy.
  4. Circular economy markets function well. Recycling and reuse create new jobs.
  5. Valuable raw materials present in recycled materials even in small concentrations can be recovered.
  6. Material cycles cause no harm and hazardous substances are used less and less in production.
  7. Cooperation between operators in the sector promotes high-quality material cycles.
  8. Reliable and comprehensive data supports the circular economy. Information is available for use in digital form.
  9. There is high-quality research and experimentation in the waste sector and expertise on waste management is of a high standard.
  10. Legislation supports circular economy innovations and the conditions where it operates.


The Waste Plan suggests means to reach the objectives and vision. Both the implementation and the impact of the Waste Plan will be monitored every year.


The six key areas in the National Waste Plan are municipal waste, packaging waste, reduction of single-use plastics, biodegradable waste, waste electrical and electronic equipment, and construction and demolition waste.


Biodegradable waste

  • The need to introduce advanced biowaste treatment methods
  • The need for treatment plants in areas where are food industry and agriculture
  • The need to increase treatment capacity for sewage sludge and biowaste regionally


The detailed targets set for biodegradable waste are:

  1. Halving food waste by 2030
  2. Recycling 60% of the biowaste included in all municipal waste generated
  3. Increasing the use of fertiliser products made from recycled raw materials and those are used to replace fertilisers made from virgin raw materials


The means to reach the targets set to biodegradable waste

A. Target: Halve food waste by 2030

  • Promote the actions of the Food Waste Roadmap


B. Target: To recycle 65% of all generated biowaste in municipal waste, and to promote the recycling of other biodegradable waste

  • Monitor the development of separate collection and recycling of biowaste after the reform of waste legislation (2021). If necessary, new steering instruments will be investigated and introduced.
  • Communicating about the sorting of biowaste as the Waste Act changes
  • Studies on the composition of mixed and biowaste from trade, food and restaurant services will be carried out and, in connection with these, studies on the share of food waste will be carried out
  • Shops, institutional kitchens and restaurants develop the sorting of biowaste in the long term and ensure the sorting expertise of staff and customers
  • Further intensify advice on sorting biowaste for residents and develop collection systems
  • Instructing property owners on the waste management of alien plants


C. Target: Increase the use of recycled fertiliser products to replace fertilising products made from virgin raw materials

  • Continue R&D funding on recycled fertiliser products and nutrient recovery from waste
  • Develop and implement agricultural instruments that encourage the use of recycled nutrients in farming
  • Explore and implement regulatory models suitable for different biodegradable materials
  • Study on sewage sludge recovery and best practices
  • Improve the competitiveness of recycled nutrients by improving product ease of use and processing and application techniques
  • A voluntary quality system for recycled fertiliser products is marketed and developed
  • Creating tailor-made models for the provision and utilisation of recycled nutrients
  • Procurement guidelines for landscaping by municipalities and other public procurers will be developed to promote the use of recycled nutrients




Biological treatment of waste

In Finland biowaste and wastewater sludges from municipalities and the industry are processed in biological treatment plants. In 2020, 186 composting plants were operational in Finland, most of which were windrow composting plants. Windrow composting is mainly used as a post-composting method of wastewater sludge. In recent years there has been a strong shift from composting to anaerobic digestion of biodegradable waste. Composting becomes a post-treatment of already digested waste. Most of the new biological treatment plants under design or in construction are biogas plants.

Composting and biogas plants are owned by municipalities, governmental companies, or private companies (including biogas plants in farms). Municipal biogas and composting plants are often situated in eco-industrial centres. There are also exceptional cases (e.g. Etelä-Savon Biohauki Ltd.), where local farmers and an energy company set up a joint venture to own and operate a biogas ecosystem. In 2023, there are 82 biogas plants in Finland. Biogas plants can be divided into co[1]treatment plants, farm plants and wastewater sludge treatment plants. Co-treatment plants treat a variety of biowastes with agricultural manure and wastewater sludges. Farm plants deal with manure as well as other organic waste and by-products of agriculture.

In addition to the widely used wet digestion plant, dry digestion plants are becoming more common. Dry digestion differs from the traditional wet digestion plants as the process uses solid materials, which usually have a dry matter content of about 30%. In this case, the amount of wastewater from the plant requiring treatment is also lower.

In Finland, ethanol is made from biowaste to be used e.g. as transport fuel. There are several plants manufacturing biowaste ethanol in Finland. Plants use municipal biowaste or waste from the food industry to manufacture ethanol.

Ever tightening emission reduction targets have increased the interest of the industry, agriculture and transport sectors in biogas and biomethane, as well as boosting nutrient recycling. Both biogas production and demand have grown steadily in Finland and Europe. The biogas industry has potential in terms of raw material exploitation and biogas production.

New carbon neutrality targets, need for improving the national self-sufficiency of energy and nutrients, advancing the vitality of the regions and emission reduction targets for transport and agriculture create opportunities for biogas. The biogas sector should make a clear shift from waste management towards the production of energy and recycled nutrients. The unstable profitability of biogas production is challenging, as the end-product markets (energy and nutrient) are still developing.

It is estimated that in 2030 biogas production could be even up to 4-7 TWh. Production would be based specially on the utilization of by-products from agriculture, but also new technologies and feeds would have an important role (e.g. gasification). In 2035, biogas production could be 6-15 TWh. In 2030 there would be a need for biogas and biomethane of 4-11 TWh of which heavy vehicles could consume 2.5-4 TWh, passenger cars 0.5-1 TWh, buses 0.5 TWh, industry 0.5-4 TWh and ships 0.85-4 TWh of biomethane. 0.4-2 TWh of biogas would be used in heat and electricity generation.

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