Finnish waste management is based on the EU’s regulations and its aim is promoting circular economy, decreasing the amount of waste and ensuring well-functioning waste management. Thus, this law is a base for textile waste management as well. In EU level the Circular Economy Action Plan is also guiding the Finnish goals on waste management.
According to the EU:s waste hierarchy the first aim, also for the textiles, is to prevent the generation of waste. For the consumers’ point of view it means that it is important to buy as few clothes as possible and to use them as long as possible. Sustainably produced textiles are always the best option. After giving up textiles the aim is to prepare them for the re-use as such, for instance by repairing them. If reuse is not possible, textiles should be recycled as material to make new products of them or their fibres.
* Photo: Kierrätyskeskus
The separate collection of waste disposal textiles by waste management companies is expected to develop significantly in the coming years. Finland is adopting the EU directive on textile separate collection (aiming to start in 2025) two years earlier than the other EU members in 2023. This separate collection is organized by municipal waste management companies nationwide.
Nowadays, textiles are collected from the textile collection points organized by private companies. Collection points are often situated next to the Rinki Eco Take-Back points or straight in the city, for example, on streets or in the supermarkets or supermarket yards. Charity oragnization, such as U-landshjälp från Folk till Folk i Finland sr (UFF), Salvation Army, Finnish Red Cross (SPR), Finnish Red Cross Kontti (SPR Kontti), Fida, and Metropolitan Area Recycling Center collect end-of-life textiles. Also, some stores selling textiles accept used clothes and other textiles from the customers
* Photo: UFF
Textile flows in Finland
The global consumption of textiles has been growing. So called fast fashion has resulted in shorter using time of the clothes, as well as lower quality of the textiles and increased textile waste volumes. In Finland there is active research and development on textile collection, sorting, separation and recycling. Textile flows in Finland 2019 report had 6 product groups of textiles they studied: textile yarn and thread, woven textiles, other textiles, clothing (except fur apparel), fur apparel, and knitted and crocheted apparel. (Dahlbo, et al., 2021)
In Finland, the consumption of clothing and other textiles has remained at the same level for about 10 years. The total use of textiles was surveyed for the first time in Finland in 2019 for the report Textile Flows in Finland 2021 and it was about 130 million kilos. According to the report, domestic use is divided between intermediate use by industries (47%) and households (53%). Finns consumed 11.3 kilos of new clothing and home textiles per person in households, public sector and companies
In total, about 85 million kilos of end-of-life-textiles accumulated in 2019. Of this, 82% remained in Finland for reuse or recovery as material or energy and the rest was exported abroad. About 44 % of end-of-life-textiles (clothing and home textiles) purchased by households ended up in the separate collection in 2019. Still, around 60% of all the end-of-life-textiles went into incineration plants among mixed waste.
Households get textiles as new from stores, as international online purchases, or as used textiles. From households the textiles end up after use in one of 5 categories: to household mixed waste, to separate collection, to friends or family, to exchange either online or on place with other people, and some end up as losses. From household mixed waste and some from separately collected textiles are recovered as energy. From separately collected textiles the rest are reused, the material will be recovered, or the textiles will be exported to other countries (to be reused, for material recovery or they end up in landfills). Textiles that go to friends and family will be reused. Textile losses can be for example thefts from charity organization containers and fluff loss while using the textiles. The textiles that end up in reuse will be used in new households and can end up again to any of the 5 categories. In 2019 up to 9 900 tonnes of used textiles from households were reused. This equals about 1,8 kg per capita.
Most of the separately collected textiles are collected by charity organizations. In addition to those there is some textile collection done in municipal waste collection system but that doesn’t yet cover the whole Finland. Some textile stores also collect used textiles.
Helsinki Region Environmental Services HSY collects end-of-life textiles that are dry useless clothing and other household textiles. These textiles should be left as dry in plastic bags to prevent them from getting dirty or wet in transportation. These textiles will go to a waste service centre for pre-sorting and from there they will go to Lounais-Suomen Jätehuolto Oy (LSJH) in Turku where the material will be further sorted and is waiting for processing. LSJH has launched as part of a Telaketju project of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment a pilot-phase processing plant for end-of-life textiles from households being mechanically refined into recycled fibre. (HSY)
* Photo: LSJH
Charity organizations such as Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre Ltd. collects textiles as donations. From there these textiles can go directly for selling or donation, or they can be repaired for selling or donation. Donated textiles need to be in overall good shape, or they can’t be reused and will end up as waste. (Kierrätyskeskus)
In UFF, 95,5 % of the textile donations were being reused or used as material in 2020. About 80 % of the textiles went for wholesalers in Finland, the Baltic Countries, Russia, and Asia. The wholesale customers forward these textiles for reuse as they are or as material for new products. Small portions of the clothes will go for donations in Africa where most of the clothes go also to wholesalers who sell these clothes to local people and the sales revenue will go for children’s education. (UFF)
In 2019 some municipal waste management companies started to collect end-of-life textiles separately. The amount of collection was 213 tonnes in 2019 and 416 tonnes in 2020. Hotels, restaurants, and hospitals are textile users that use primarily textile rental services that are provided by laundries. Thus, the laundry companies discard these end-of-life textiles, which amounted 1,330 tonnes in 2019. Out of this 67 % was being incinerated, 32 % recycled and 1 % was being reused. In The Finnish Defence Forces used textiles are taken to clothing repair centers where they are being washed, repaired or discarded. About 53,408kg (80% of the discarded textiles) of the end-of-life uniforms were incinerated in 2019 as the material is considered difficult to recycle.
About 40 000 tonnes of used textiles ended up in mixed waste in 2019 (Dahlbo, et al., 2021). About 61% of all used textiles end up being incinerated for energy generation.
The export data from 2012 to 2020 shows that in Finland the export of end-of-life textiles is about 11 times higher than import of end-of-life textiles. Between 2012 and 1029 the export have doubled from 7,000 tonnes to 14,000 tonnes while import have been stable. (Dahlbo, et al., 2021)
- Helena Dahlbo, Aija Rautiainen, Hannu Savolainen ym (2021): Textile flows in Finland 2019. Reports from Turku University of Applied Sciences 276, 2021. http://julkaisut.turkuamk.fi/isbn9789522167873.pdf HSY, (n.d.) [viitattu 3.11.] https://www.hsy.fi/en/waste-and-recycling/sorting/clothing-and-other-textiles/
- Kierrätyskeskus (n.d.) [viitattu 3.11.2021]. https://www.kierratyskeskus.fi/lahjoita_tavaraa/mita_lahjoitustavaroille_tapahtuu
- Suomen virallinen tilasto (SVT): Jätetilasto [verkkojulkaisu]. ISSN=1798-3339. 2015, Liitetaulukko 2. Jätteiden käsittely 2015, tonnia . Helsinki: Tilastokeskus [viitattu: 27.10.2021]. Saantitapa: http://www.stat.fi/til/jate/2015/jate_2015_2017-06-15_tau_002_fi.html UFF (n.d.). [viitattu 3.11.2021] https://uff.fi/vaatteen-uusi-elama/
- Ympäristöministeriö (18.11.2021). Uusi jäteasetus velvoittaa nykyistä tehokkaampaan erilliskeräykseen ja kierrätykseen. Haettu 25.11.2021 osoitteesta: < https://ym.fi/-/uusi-jateasetus-velvoittaa-nykyista-tehokkaampaan-erilliskeraykseen-ja-kierratykseen >