Kotka and Hamina recycling company plastic packaging

The cities of Kotka and Hamina are taking part in a Kiilto plastic pilot project. Even for the public sector the collection of company packaging has been easy and efficient.

Companies in Finland have been recycling their plastic waste, but consumers are now lending a hand when it comes to recovering HDPE packaging. Since 2019, Kiilto has been working with its customers to make the collection and recycling of such packaging as efficient and effortless as possible.

“In line with Our Promise to the Environment, we want to promote the circular economy and do the environmentally right thing. Our aim is also to create closed circulation of packaging, among other things. We want to collect so much plastic that we can use it to make new Kiilto packaging,” says Product Development Manager Heidi Kähkönen.

Kiilto has already carried out plastic collection pilot projects in the Turku and Tampere regions, which have benefited the entire industry.

The cities of Kotka and Hamina are now the first public sector players that will be experimenting with the collection of companies’ plastic waste.

Material no longer burnt

Warehouse manager Tuija Lahtinen and cleaning services manager Leena Järvinen from the City of Kotka say they were naturally drawn to the project when they heard about it.

“We were more than happy, in fact. It’s been really demoralising that material that could easily have been recycled has been sent for incineration,” says Lahtinen.

“A number of ecologically sound decisions have already been made in the cleaning sector, such as reducing the environmental impact of cleaning agents. The logical next step is to deal with the packaging,” says Järvinen.

Cleaning operations manager Pia Mentunen says that it was obvious in Hamina that they would join the project.

“It seems crazy to bring in raw material from abroad if you already have good material in the country that you can recycle.”

Don’t go empty-handed

In Kotka, the collection of plastic packaging has been organised on the good old principle of ‘don’t go empty-handed’.

“As products are delivered from the city’s central warehouse, the drivers always bring back any empty plastic bottles and canisters. These pre-used packages are stored temporarily at the central warehouse in plastic containers. When four containers have been filled up, waste management company LHJ Group will pick them up for further processing,” says Lahtinen.

Up to 35,000 recyclable HPDE plastic cleaning agent packages are delivered from the central warehouse to Kotka’s daycare centres, schools, cultural facilities and offices.

“You can fit in 125 five-litre plastic containers in one cubic-metre container,” says Lahtinen.

In Hamina, which is smaller than Kotka, the volumes are correspondingly lower.

“I visit many of the sites myself and bring back any empty packages. We also have a container in the yard where empty packages can be left. And once the renovation that’s under way is completed, we’ll also have cardboard containers indoors,” says Mentunen.

The journey continues

The collection pilot project in Kotka and Hamina started in 2021 and the preliminary results are very promising.

“The logistics work fine. Processing the packaging requires very little extra effort from the staff. All you have to do is rinse the bottles and canisters once before recycling,” says Lahtinen.

Järvinen is already envisioning a logistics system that goes one step further. She hopes that in future users of plastic containers in companies would engage in closer cooperation.

“At the moment, the City of Kotka alone recycles plastic company packaging. We should have a system in which the same intermediate storage facilities and transport to final processing could also be used by other local businesses. Transportation would be more efficient and everyone would pitch in with the expenses,” says Järvinen.

“We are obviously awaiting eagerly to hear how the plastics can be utilised in final processing,” says Lahtinen.

The cities of Kotka and Hamina want to encourage other cities to recycle companies’ plastic waste.