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Environmental education

Meeting strict recycling targets requires more efficient sorting of waste on properties to allow for a larger proportion of waste to be reused. In Finland, correct sorting practices are taught to children from preschool age onwards.

Local authorities are responsible for providing statutory communication and guidance related to waste management. Municipal waste management companies provide guidance and education on waste management to local day cares, schools, housing associations, resident groups, associations and communities in the form of free lessons and materials to support environmental education, courses on composting, etc. The costs are covered by the basic waste management fee. The lessons and materials are in line with municipal curricula and support the execution of schools’ sustainable development plans. The focus is on practical learning, and waste management companies provide a wide range of instruction on the topic in schools and day cares (games, plays, visits to waste treatment centres).

The goal of providing guidance is to motivate residents to consume sustainably, reduce the amount of waste, and sort waste efficiently at the source. Environmental education and sorting advice is provided at various information sessions, over the phone, online on websites and on social media and in the form of various handbooks, materials and awareness campaigns. Awareness campaigns are targeted to various audiences based on research data on sorting motivation. Some waste treatment centres co-operate with local organisations or freelancers to outsource advisory services if the treatment centre does not have the capacity to employ its own staff for this purpose.


Example of environmental education activities: Case municipal waste management company HSY

Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY advises residents on household waste sorting in several ways.  The electronic Waste Guide on HSY’s website is a search engine that provides instructions for the searched waste item or material. The Waste Guide works handily on a mobile browser without the need to download a separate app. HSY’s website also has sorting instructions for each type of waste, including information about their reuse.

HSY also provides printed sorting guides free of charge. HSY waste bins on properties are marked with the name and picture of the type of waste and contact information for questions. In addition, housing associations can order wall posters that provide mainly visual instructions on how and what to sort in each bin.

Property managers and housing association boards have an important role in relaying information to residents. They can subscribe to a free monthly or near-monthly email newsletter that provides information about current issues related to waste management and recycling and reminders about offered waste management services, such as separately ordered, printed sorting instructions and information sessions.

HSY purchases environmental advice and education services on waste and water management for residents of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, children between ages 5–6, schools, associations and private individuals, integration training services, and expert groups visiting HSY’s facilities. The service about 35,000 residents face-to-face every year and includes lessons, training for educators,  a friendship school programme, information sessions at resident events, and visits to HSY’s facilities, among other activities. During the COVID pandemic, the service was expanded to include digital games and remote advisory services. The service is provided by Pääkaupunkiseudun Kierrätyskeskus Oy on behalf of HSY. Environmental advice is free of charge for users.

HSY regularly carries out public awareness campaigns in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and Kirkkonummi, one of the goals of which is to increase sorting awareness and motivation. Several awareness campaigns for different target audiences have been carried out under the “Thank you for sorting your waste” slogan. For example, HSY’s 2021 campaign on waste bin types raised awareness of new waste management regulations in multiple channels with a customer-oriented approach. The campaign’s main message was that new waste bins in housing associations will make waste sorting even easier by providing separate bins for each waste type on residents’ backyards. Another message of the campaign was that the journey of waste to reused raw materials begins at home.  The target audiences were, in particular, property managers and chairs of housing association boards as well as residents included in the scope of the expanded sorting service. Communication channels included resident and customer letters, websites, social media and electronic newsletters. In addition, the campaign organised a webinar together with Uusimaa Real Estate Federation, brought a popular Finnish comedian onboard to serve as HSY’s recycling ambassador, and produced promotional videos to be shown in cinemas.

HSY’s bio-waste campaign was targeted specifically at young adults. The campaign emphasised that sorting gives new life to waste as it is converted to raw materials for new products. The campaign’s video and audio messaging was distributed in channels popular among young people, including social media, streaming services, and music and audio apps.


Example: Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre or Kierrätyskeskus

Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre, Kierrätyskeskus, is a non-profit organisation working towards a better community that provides an alternative to single-use culture.

It stand with you enabling sustainable lifestyle and preserving natural resources. It has several stores with unique, usable second hand items in the metropolitan area: in Vantaa, Espoo and Helsinki. At stores the customer can also learn about environmentally-friendly consumer choices.

Everything they sell is donated by the public or various companies. Everyone are welcome to donate, as long as the items given are fit for reuse. All possible profit is used to better our services, instead of handing it out to shareholders.

Kierrätyskeskus aspires to benefit the community by increasing environmental awareness among people, companies and organisations around the Helsinki metropolitan area. To succeed in this they provide environmental education and consulting services to 60,000 children, adolescents, adults and educators each year. Kierrätyskeskus also organises environmental awareness events and provides educational materials.

Kierrätyskeskus is a social enterprise: many of their employees have previously been long-term unemployed. They offer work for people in different life situations: for disabled people, the long-term unemployed, students of Finnish language, on-the-job trainees and people performing community service.

More about Kierrätyskeskus: 

Learn more about Kierrätyskeskus: 


Photo by Kelli Tungay on Unsplash
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