By recycling our materals we conserve natural resources - Lahti

By recycling our materals we conserve natural resources

Finnish people still have possibilities to improve waste material recycling and actions towards circular economy. Although recycling has become commonplace for many, there’s still work to be done, especially in sorting plastics and biowaste, writes Jenni Rahkonen.

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Finland has been a role model in waste sorting. However, these days Finland barely reaches the EU average in recycling. Spain and Latvia are at the same level, while countries like Germany and Austria are at the top.

Finland’s municipal waste recycling rate is at risk of falling below the EU’s target level. Recycling of plastic packaging waste is also far from the target. According to a study conducted by the Finnish Environment Institute in 2023, while recycling is becoming familiar to Finns, a significant shift towards a circular economy is still in its early stages.

Finland’s municipal waste recycling rate was 43.7% in 2022. The goal is to increase it to 55% by 2025. There is still much to improve in sorting biowaste and plastics. These waste types still mostly end up in mixed waste in households. Less than a third of plastic packaging and less than half of biowaste are recycled.

There is also a need to reduce the amount of waste. This means more conscious consumption and reuse.

What are the benefits of sorting and recycling?

Material recycling reduces the need for virgin raw materials and generally requires less energy than manufacturing new ones. By recycling, we get the same products and services, but we save natural resources, money and energy. At the same time, we reduce emissions and the effects of climate change while maintaining a healthier environment.


Sort at least biowaste and plastics! Less than a third of plastic packaging and less than half of biowaste are recycled.

Examples of how materials circulate and why everyone is needed for sorting:


By recycling plastic, we reduce the need for virgin plastic production. This saves energy and raw materials such as oil, which is needed for plastic production. In addition, recycling reduces the amount of plastic waste in the environment and helps to prevent harmful effects on animals and habitats caused by plastic waste in seas and water bodies.

Plastic bottles

With the well-functioning deposit system, the recycling rate of plastic bottles is high in Finland, 90%.

Other plastic packaging

Recycled raw materials from sorted plastic packaging are used to make new plastic products, such as consumer goods (dish brushes, flower pots), furniture, construction, and garbage bags.


If all Finns sorted their biowaste, we would be less dependent on electricity, heat, and fuel produced by others. When biowaste is sorted separately, it can be used to produce biogas and compost. Biogas can be used for heating, electricity production, and transportation.


By recycling paper, we save forests, as recycled paper can be used to make new paper without the need to cut down more trees. This promotes forest biodiversity and prevents harmful environmental effects such as deforestation.


A cardboard package can circulate up to seven times and saves the wood needed to make virgin fiber. Recycled fiber is used to make, for example, new cardboard packaging, tube cardboard, and specialty papers.

Electronic waste

By recycling electronic waste, we reuse valuable metals and other materials from electronic devices, reducing the need to mine new raw materials.


Good-quality textiles that are suitable for reuse as they are should be sold or donated to charity or recycling centers. Household textiles and clothing that are no longer usable can be collected for recycling. Recycled textile fibers can be used to make various products, such as clothing, accessories, acoustic elements, household textiles, and carpets.

The text has been translated with the assistance of ChatGPT artificial intelligence.

Jenni Rahkonen
Jenni Rahkonen
The author works at the City of Lahti as an environmental coordinator focusing on circular economy and sustainable development themes.