Waste management in remote areas, example of Kymenlaakso-area
If the property is located on an island or very…
Municipal waste management in the remote areas
In Finland, based on the Waste Act, waste holders are primarily responsible for the management of waste. However, municipal solid waste (MSW) management belongs mainly to the responsibility of the municipalities. Municipalities organize and finance the waste management mainly by collecting charges from the properties they are providing the services for. In addition, they may offer services to, for example, companies. However, the basic line is that according to the waste legislation, the municipal solid waste management is financed with the collected charges and no tax money is used for the maintaining the system. Also producers are obligated to organize the waste collection and treatment system for some of the waste fractions.
Although there are huge regional differences in, for instance, climate, geography, infrastructures, transporting distances and location of facilities, in Finland, the municipal waste management should be in a proper level nationwide. This text presents some basic information about the general waste management in Finland, challenges caused by the regional differences, examples how to organize the waste management in remote and/or sparsely populated areas and future aims in the municipal waste management.
Finland is the most sparsely populated country in the EU. In the end of 2021 population of Finland was 5 549 599 inhabitants. Average population density was 18 inhabitants per square kilometre but the average density varies strongly depending on the region of Finland (e.g. from less than two inhabitants/km2 in north, Lapland, to 187 inhabitants/km2 in the region of the Southern Finland). Share of persons in Finland is as follows: in urban areas is 72.1% and in rural areas is 26.7% (of which in sparsely populated rural areas 4.8 percentage units).
In 2021 Finland has 19 regions and 309 municipalities, 293 of which are in mainland Finland and 16 in Åland (Figure 1). The median area of municipalities is 760 km2, the smallest municipality being 6 km2 and the largest 17,334 km2.
Nine cities have a population exceeding 100,000 (country’s capital Helsinki with a population of about 656 000, followed by Espoo, Tampere, Vantaa, Oulu, Turku, Jyväskylä, Lahti and Kuopio). Those nine cities account for 1 % of Finland’s land area, 30 % of the country’s population and 40 % of all jobs. Half of the municipalities have fewer than 6,000 residents. These small municipalities account for about 50% of the land area, 15 % of the population and for about 10 % of all jobs. The smallest municipalities have fewer than 200 residents.
The border between taiga and tundra in Finland runs in the Kaunispää area, which is a popular skiing, downhill and other holiday destination. Finnish Lapland has two large artificial lakes (Lokka and Porttipahta) and the 483 kilometer long Kemijoki-river, which is the longest river in Finland. In the eastern part of Finnish Lapland there are marshes and lakes, the largest of which is Lake Inarijärvi (1,040 km²). Lapland’s climate is subarctic. In summer, a nightless night prevails in a large part of Lapland, when the sun does not set at all, and in winter, kaamos, when the sun does not rise at all. In Utsjoki, the nightless night lasts 72 days and the kaamos lasts 53 days.
The climate in different parts of Lapland varies a lot. Central Lapland’s continental climate is affected by extensive marsh areas. In some places, the Arctic Ocean affects the otherwise very continental climate of northern Lapland. The land is covered with snow for 6–7 months. The thermal summer lasts an average of 90 days in Rovaniemi, only 46 days in Kilpisjärvi.
Northern Finland has less than two inhabitants per square km (This is Finland, 2014). The area of Lapland is over 25% of the total area of Finland (land area 338,424 km2), but it has only 3.4% of the population (ELY center for Lapland, 2011). Many municipalities are rather small and far apart and the main road infrastructure may be scarce. There are also great contrasts in climate; there are cold winters and fairly warm summers. In Northern Finland, the length of the thermal winter (average daily temperature below zero Celsius degrees) is 5-7 months (Finnish Meteorological Institute, 2016). Finnish circumstances are unique, so they need to be taken into account when selecting the most suitable MSW treatment method, especially in north. In Lapland may be temperatures as low as -40 °C, usually in the middle of winter although usually they are not that low. Summer temperatures are usually mild, between 10 °C and 25 °C. As global warming has effect on climate, especially in the Arctic regions, it’s ever harder to forecast temperatures, especially the extremes.
The Arctic Circle may be considered of as the boundary of the Arctic. Finnish Lapland does not locate entirely above the Arctic Circle. For over 10,000 years, people have lived in the Arctic areas. The population has grown from the small indigenous populations that first explored and settled the regions. Finnish Lapland has just over 200,000 inhabitants.
Waste companies operating in Lapland are Lapland Waste Management (Lapin Jätehuolto kuntayhtymä, website in Finnish), Napapiirin Residuum Oy (website in Finnish, waste sorting guide in English) and Perämeren Jätehuolto Oy (website in Finnish).
North Karelia is one of the easternmost regions of Europe. Population is about 163 000 and number of municipalities 13 of which 5 are towns. Total area is 21,585 km2, of which 70% are forests. The region has 2,200 lakes of which lake Pielinen is the fourth largest in Finland (894 km2). Hilly forest landscapes dotted with rivers and lakes are characteristic of North Karelia. One of the Finland’s best-known national landscapes is Koli with the highest point of Southern and Central Finland (347 m). Lumber, wood, metal, stone, plastic, food, and also travel are region’s leading industrial fields. In North Karelia, the four seasons have a clear rhythm, and there is snow during every winter.
North Karelia has a 300 km border with Russia. The Niirala border crossing point in Tohmajärvi is the fourth busiest in Finland having 1.2 million crossings per year. The large Russian markets are near and Russian tourists contribute to the region’s tourism, commerce and services. Traditionally strong industries of the region include the forest, metal, extractive and food industries and its undisputable strength is forest bioeconomy. (North Karelia.)
Kymenlaakso region has approximately 180 000 inhabitants. It is one of the most significant forest industry clusters in Europe and international hub of logistics. It has Finland´s biggest international port and Finland’s largest railway hub in Kouvola. Primary border crossing point between European Union and Russia is in Vaalimaa. The region offers seaside, archipelago, river and lake sceneries. The region is home to three national parks, Repovesi’s magnificent, extensive national park area and the Eastern Gulf of Finland National Park in the archipelago in the southern Kymenlaakso, and Valkmusa National Park in Pyhtää. In addition to these, there are plenty of different nature and recreation sites in Kymenlaakso.
The province of Kymenlaakso is located in the southeastern Finland, on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, between the Helsinki metropolitan area and the Russian border. Success of Kymenlaakso is based on the expertise in the forest industry and transport, as well as on the opportunities offered by the region of Russia nearby. Kymenlaakso is one of Finland’s first highly industrialised regions. Along the River Kymijoki, the first centers of the forest industry, sawmills and later the production of cardboard and paperboard have emerged. The wilderness of North Kymenlaakso, the River Kymijoki, the south Kymenlaakso sea area with its archipelagos and the built cultural environment based on forest-industrial history reflect the diversity and richness of the region. Tourism is one of kymenlaakso’s strong attraction factors. The sea, archipelago, river Kymijoki and three national parks provide a good base for the nature tourism. (Kymenlaakso Region.)
In accordance with the Waste Act, waste holders, such as private individuals, property holders or companies, are primarily responsible for the management of waste. As an exception to this rule, municipalities, as well as manufacturers and importers of certain products, also bear responsibility for organising waste management for their part. The most economically viable technology and the best practices for preventing harmful environmental or health effects must be used in waste management. The Waste Act prohibits uncontrolled dumping or treatment of waste in all the regions of Finland.
Municipalities are responsible for the management of household waste (including municipal waste and hazardous household waste reception and treatment) and municipal waste generated by the municipality’s administrative and service functions in all the municipalities in Finland, also in the sparsely populated and remote areas. Waste management duties have often been transferred to local waste companies which organize most of the municipal waste management, including transportation, treatment, landfills, composting and incineration plants and waste guidance. Some of the services are procured from private waste management companies.
Municipal waste management authority is responsible for the public administrative duties related to waste management, including deciding on waste management system and the municipal waste tariffs. If several municipalities form a regional waste management company, the municipalities must also set up a joint organ to handle the administrative duties. Municipal environment protection authorities can have one or several municipalities under their responsibility. The authorities issue waste permits to smaller operations, including the storage of hazardous waste and end-of-life vehicles. They also accept notifications of professional waste carriers in the waste management register. Municipal authorities supervise the compliance of businesses and the public.
Municipalities are not responsible for waste covered by producer responsibility. Producer responsibility refers to the responsibility of manufacturers and importers (i.e. “producers”) to organise and pay for the management of waste resulting from their products. Producer responsibility covers the tyres of motor vehicles and other vehicles and equipment; cars, vans and other comparable vehicles; batteries and accumulators; newspapers, magazines, office paper and other comparable paper products, electronic and electrical appliances (EEE); and packaging. The producers or producer corporations formed by producers are obliged to organise regional collection points for waste of this type. The amount and location of collection points is regulated by the legislation and it depends e.g. on the amount of inhabitants in the area. Hence, in the most sparsely populated, remote areas the transportation distances to such collection points may be long.
Pursuant to the Waste Act, municipalities must charge waste holders for the costs of the waste management they provide. Municipal waste charges are used to cover the costs of carrying out waste management. The waste charge must correspond to the service level provided by the municipality and, where possible, provide incentive to reduce the amount and harmfulness of waste and implement waste management in accordance with the order of priority laid down in the Waste Act. The amount of the waste charge is affected e.g. by the type, quality and quantity of waste, as well as collection frequency. Other factors that affect the charge include the conditions for collecting and transporting waste on the property and in the pick-up area, the use of municipal waste collection equipment and the transport distance if the waste is picked up separately.
Municipalities can also collect a separate basic charge, also known as an “eco charge”, to cover the costs incurred from the provision of waste guidance, maintenance of registers and other similar tasks related to waste management. The eco charge is only used in some of the municipalities and the amount of the basic charge can be affected by the number of persons living on the property, the property’s purpose of use or other similar grounds.
In addition to the property-specific collection system, some regions may have separate collection points for the municipal waste. Separate collection system network (so called Rinki eco-take back points) for the packaging under Producer responsibility systems is nationwide. There are more than 1 850 Rinki eco take-back points for cardboard, glass and metal packaging across and more than 600 points accept plastic packaging. Most of the Rinki points are located in the most densely populated areas (Figure 2).
Mixed waste and separately collected recyclable waste fractions are treated mostly in rather large treatment facilities. Majority, about 58%, of mixed waste is incinerated in waste-to-energy (W2E) plants which are mostly located near cities or other waste sources (Figure 3). Due the location of the treatment facilities, some remote and sparsely areas need to have so called transfer stations where wastes are first collected regionally and then transported with larger vehicles e.g. to be incinerated in W2E plant.
Biowaste is collected in the largest cities of Finland and also many other densely populated areas. Obligation to collect biowaste separately is stated in the waste management regulations of the municipalities. The separate collection is not carried out in all the densely populated areas of Finland, due to the challenges caused by the climate, transportation distance or bad road infrastructure. Home composting is then strongly advised.
Separately collected biowaste is also mainly treated in the large facilities located in the most densely populated areas which may locate rather faraway from the source (figures 4-5). Nowadays the most common way to treat biowaste is anaerobic digestion in biogas plants which is also generating biogas to be used as fuel and digested to be used e.g. as a fertilizer. Biowaste can also be used to manufacture biofuel (e.g. bioethanol, biodiesel) or composted. As Finland is a rather heterogeneous country in terms of population density and environmental conditions, there is no single biowaste management strategy that would be suitable for the entire country so regional, small-scale solutions should be considered also in the remote areas.
Number of landfills in Finland has decreased strongly during the last decades. The amount of landfilled MSW has also decreased; in 2020 only 0,5% of MSW was landfilled. Only some of the landfills is located in remote areas (Figure 5).
In addition to the Rinki eco take-back points (Figure 2) which are organized by the producers due to the waste legislation, there are some other regionally organised waste collection points. Other separate collection points, especially in the sparsely populated, remote areas, are villages’ own collection points. Usually they are closer to residents than Rinki points, residents are payer themselves and the use of such bins is only available to payers with a key. For the use, there need to be a contract with a waste management company. One way to arrange collection for, for instance, mixed waste is a common container for several properties based on the contract with a waste management company. More details about those solutions will come in the example part.
Regional collection points and block collection points are example ways to organize joint use of waste containers. Mixed waste is usually collected on a property-specific basis. In sparsely populated areas, collection may have been arranged at local collection points or in containers common to several properties as a block collection. Regional collection points are collection points for mixed household waste. The waste collection points per dwelling area, i.e. the block collection, are central waste collection points organised for properties in a particular housing area, where mixed waste and recyclable waste are collected.
A regional collection point is a regional mixed waste collection site. The right to use it can be obtained by paying the regional collection point fee. Joining a regional collection point and taking mixed waste there is one way to take care of the property’s waste management obligations. A regional collection point is recommended if the use of your own waste container or block collection container is not suitable for the property, for example in the case of remoteness or difficult access to the property. The property owners take the waste themselves to the regional collection point. The annual cost of waste management consists of a basic fee and a regional collection point fee (summer or full year access).
Block collection is recommended if the amount of waste is low or transport connections to the property are difficult for a heavy waste truck. In this case, the waste container is used by several properties, in which case the emptying costs are also divided. A contact person must be designated to manage the system. The annual cost of waste management consists of a basic fee and the emptying fees of the collection container. The basic fee is invoiced to each member of the group once a year. The invoice for the emptying is addressed either to the contact person of the group or distributed directly to each member of the group.
In addition to permanent collection sites, hazardous waste, WEEE and large scrap metal are collected in many localities by mobile collection trucks. The waste fractions in question are transported for proper treatment after collection.
Keep the Archipelago Tidy Association does environmental maintenance works in the archipelago, on beaches and lakes. The association e.g. builds and maintains waste points, dry toilets, as well as arranges separate collections of scrap and hazardous waste. Association operates nearly 200 Roope service points across the country. Roope services are services provided and maintained by Association for the boaters in the sea areas and in Lake Finland. They also include dry toilets, 30 floating toilet waste suction discharge stations and separate collection sites (e.g. collection of metal, WEEE and hazardous waste with local operators such as municipalities or waste management companies). Roope services benefit every boaters and the services are funded by Association’s membership fees.
In some areas, locked common containers are available to the inhabitants of the archipelago. The key to the locked container can be accessed by having a contract with a local waste company and paying an annual fee. The container is intended only for residual waste from the households, i.e. waste remaining when recyclable waste and hazardous waste are sorted separately.
In some places of the archipelago, hazardous household waste, WEEE and scrap metal, even end-of-life vehicles, are accepted free of charge for mobile waste collection system. Inhabitant can also bring construction and cleaning waste to the collection for a fee. Construction and cleaning waste is packed in the waste management company’s large waste bags.
The planning and building of the regional collection points and waste centers are mostly responsibility of three waste management companies of several municipalities which are operating in Lapland region. The establishment of the regional collection points requires consent from the landowner and a planning permission from construction supervision. The location of the regional collection points can be guided/governed by the land use planning. Building a waste center also requires an environmental permit and the buildings for the waste center require building permits. In the Lapland Waste Management joint municipal board, Lapeco, region the size of the waste bins has been monitored and estimated based on the number of residents in that local area.
There are seven waste transfer stations in the Lapland region. There are no typical solutions in implementing them. Earlier the municipal waste was pressed with a waste press straight to the containers in which they were transported onwards but the waste presses have been given up because of their poor reliability.
Transfer stations can also have activities for recyclable material, i.e. separate collection. Stations for recyclable material receive recycled waste components, and those are transported for further treatment or for utilization. In Lapland, there are 14 separate stations that only do recyclable material station activities. In waste stations hazardous wastes, electronic and electronical equipment wastes, and large wastes such as furniture, are received. These waste stations are open only during certain times when there will be personnel guiding and supervising the sorting of wastes. The waste stations are fenced-in areas and they have lockable gates and camera monitoring.
Overmunicipal waste management companies arrange mobile waste collection for hazardous wastes (mainly used oils and electric scrap) and large wastes (for example furniture) in rural areas yearly basis.
There are closed halls for the temporary storing of the combustible waste that is heading to incineration. There is a loading area for waste inside the hall which reduces littering of the environment during the loading. There are suitable earth building equipment that are being used for the waste loading, which has benefits of robustness and easy replacement of the machinery. The transfer stations aim avoiding of storing of waste more than for a short period of time.
Separate collection is the starting point for the proper waste management. It’s often necessary that different waste fractions are kept separate and sorted already in their source so that a good quality of the waste can be guaranteed, which is necessary for the high quality utilization of waste based on the order of priority for the waste.
Waste Act requires that the producers or importers of certain products must arrange the waste management for these products and to be responsible of the costs of the waste management based on producer responsibility. This kind of products are for example tires of vehicles, electrical and electronic equipment, and batteries. When these products become waste, consumers can return them to the place where they are sold. The waste management cost has been included in the purchase price.
In rural areas separate collection is arranged in the regional collection points, where usually metal, glass, cardboard, and paper are being collected. Some collection points also have collection for plastic; and small goods and clothes that are in good condition. In average, there is one collection point for about 770 residents in the whole Lapland region (range of variation 93–2661) and outside of cities the average is one point for about 550 residents. The amount of collection points is affected strongly by the locations of tourist areas. Especially during the Christmas, spring and autumn seasons the number of people in the biggest tourist centers are comparable to densely populated urban centers, which creates pressure for the regional waste management operations.
In Lapland, there is hardly any cleaning, separating or sorting of municipal waste collected among mixed waste
The WasteLess Karelias project has helped to build own waste points in the villages of North Karelia and Karelia in Russia. The waste fractions to be collected, the emptying frequencies of the containers and the sharing of costs shall be agreed with the users of the waste point on a case-by-case basis. At these points, it is usually possible to recycle the most common packaging materials such as glass, metal, plastic and paper board. Some collection points are locked and used only by paid households.
In the villages of North Karelia, there are also biowaste or mixed waste bins common to a number of households. These are waste containers, the emptying of which is paid for jointly by the households and their emptying has been agreed with the waste company.
If a property is located in an island, very far, or if the road leading to the property is very narrow or in bad shape, as a solution for waste management there are lockable joint waste collection points, lock points. A permission to join is applied from regional waste management authority (Kyme’s Waste Board). if it is not possible to drive to the property with waste truck. The lockable joint waste collection points are in this case meant for mixed municipal waste where recyclable packaging waste such as plastic and metals have already been sorted out to the regional collection points for the recyclable waste fractions. Biowaste should be composted in the property. Lock points are located in marinas and near summerhouses and they have 10–100 properties as users. The size is determined by the amount of users, the bin can be for example 600 liter bin or even 8 m2 size container. Emptying frequency of the bins is about once a week and the local point is maintained by a local waste company or a municipality. A yearly fee is charged for the use of the point and it varies by utilization rate (all-year, summer use).
The use of a joint collection point is always an exception to the ordinary property-specific collection in the Kyme’s waste board area. The waste management system is based on the fact that all properties have their own waste container or e.g. shared with the neighbor. This is often cheaper than joining a joint collection point.
In Lapland, it’s important to have waste bins that enable mechanical loading of waste. The regional waste collection points in Lapland mostly have deep collection containers (95 % of the bins in the Lapeco area). Pressing machines are also being used for the collection of plastic and cardboard packagings, making the emptying frequency longer (in producer responsibility organization Rinki Inc.’s packaging waste points). Surface collection bins that are being used are front loading containers.
The municipal waste management regulation has orders for the property-specific collection bins. Property specific collection bins being used are either deep collection bins or lidded and wheeled bins that have handles to grab on and they can be moved by hand, which are easy for the waste truckdriver to empty/collect. Surface collection bins are often placed in a shelter.
Interchangeable containers or other containers can be used in waste stations. There are tight lock-up bins or containers with a drainage basin for hazardous waste.
There is separate collection for biowaste in the Lapland region in Rovaniemi, Kemi, Keminmaa, Tornio, Ranua and Pello town centers and also for example in Levi and Ylläs tourist areas. During the wintertime freezing interferes the separate collection of biowaste. There has been a strong need and demand both among Lapland’s tourist services and agricultural industry workers (agriculture, reindeer husbandry, and fishery) for the biogas plants that could utilize compact organic waste. The possibilities of the implementation of these plants have been investigated in i.a. Tornio, Kolari, and in the Eastern Lapland region, but so far there has not been practical implementation of plants yet.
The separately collected biowaste is transported to be treated in a biogas plant in Oulu. The transportation distance is hundreds of kilometers long. In rural areas the property owners are being encouraged to independent treatment of biowaste (composting) in their property by granting a reduction in the waste charge for the properties that compost. The newest change of the Waste Act will broaden the obligation of separate collection of biowaste to other regions as well. During the wintertime freezing interferes the separate collection of biowaste.
Source separation is relevant in the reusing and recycling of different waste fractions. Waste bins must be able to be emptied by trucks. Waste trucks must be compressing and equipped with a hoisting machine (for deep collection tank emptying/collection).
The waste that goes to manufacturing of RDF fuel is being transported from transfer stations either to Laanila Waste Power Plant in Oulu or to Boden or Kiiruna Power Plants in Sweden.
Waste management companies have cooperatively made a review of the compositions of the municipal waste batches going to waste plants. Based on the review it can be noticed that the amount of plastic and biowaste in the part of the municipal wastes that is directed to incineration is still very high, in total about 60-70 %. There is a clear need to strengthen the sorting of these fractions and taking the material for utilization. Moist biowaste is reducing the energy value of material and making the waste collection harder especially during the wintertime due to freezing.
In Finland, the landfill ban of organic waste came in force in the beginning of 2016. After this it has not been legal to take organic, biodegradable waste to landfills. Biodegradable waste means material that burns, decomposes, and decays, such as biowaste, textiles, wood waste, paper waste, and plastic. As a result of this ban the amount of solid municipal waste permanently disposed on landfills has decreased to under one tenth (67,000 t/a -> 5,000 t/a) in comparison to year 2010.
In Lapland all the municipalities’ center landfills that didn’t fulfill the tightened EU requirements were closed in 2008. After this there have been only two municipal centers’ landfills: Jäkälä Waste Center in Tornio and Napapiirin Residuum Inc.’s Kuusiselkä landfill in Rovaniemi. The Kuusiselkä landfill will be closed during the year 2022. The structural requirements for the landfills are prescribed by Government decree on landfills (331/2013)
Wide-ranging reform came into force through the Waste Act on July 19, 2021 and the reform will boost recycling and the circular economy. This may have effect on the waste management and its organisation also in the sparsely populated areas.
Municipalities will organize the transport of separate collectable wastes from housing, namely biowaste, metal waste, and packaging waste from properties after a transitional period. The transport system will change in the municipalities where the transport of waste has been transferred to the responsibility of the holder of the residential property at the moment. The municipality may continue to decide, if the conditions laid down in the law are fulfilled, that the holder of the residential property arranges the transport of mixed municipal waste by agreeing directly with the transport company. Municipalities and packaging producers will organize separate collection of housing packaging waste from real estate in a joint operation. Producers will pay compensation to municipalities for collection. In addition, packaging producers will still have a duty to maintain regional reception sites for packaging waste. (Ministry of the Environment, 2021.)
Producers responsible for the waste management of packaging materials will be merged into a “super producer corporation”, which will be responsible for the obligations of producers relating to all packaging materials. In all product categories, producer responsibility will be extended to international remote trade. Producers outside of Finland may fulfil their obligations through an authorised representative in Finland or by accession to the producer community. Producer liability charges levied by producer entities on producers will be staggered to favour recyclability, fixability, upgradeability and reusability of products. The producer community will receive the funds necessary for the recycling and waste management of its products under producer responsibility from producer liability fees paid by consumers at the price of the product. The monitoring of waste flows will be intensified and the digitalization of the sector will progress. There will be tightening in the accountancy and disclosure obligations of operators. In monitoring the flow of hazardous and certain other wastes, electronic transfer documents will be used. The procedures to be followed in applying for municipal secondary waste management services will be amended for public procurement entities. (Ministry of the Environment, 2021.)
New Government Decrees will regulate which waste fractions should be collected on properties, but municipalities can tighten or reduce separate collection requirements in their waste management regulations. Some of the new regulations may change the collection requirements also in the remote areas.
New separate collection obligations regulated by new waste decrees are e.g.; (Government Decree on Waste, 2021)