According to Finnish Waste Act, wastes include all objects or substances which the holder discards, intends to discard, or is legally obliged to discard.
Where waste comes from
Waste is generated practically in all economic activities. In Finland, over 70 million tonnes of waste is produced annually. Manure recycled by agriculture and logging waste left in forests are excluded from the amount. In 2007 approximately 74 million tonnes of waste was generated, equaling some 14 000 kilos per capita. The figure is circa seven per cent more than in the previous year. The largest amounts of waste is generated within the construction and the mining and quarrying sector. The great majority of the construction waste is mineral waste. The mining and quarrying sector generates mostly such wastes as waste stone, ore dressing sand and excess soil.
What happens to wastes
From the perspective of recovery, waste is merely raw material in the wrong place. Recovering the material or energy content of wastes enables reductions in the use of natural resources, which is particularly important where non-renewable resources are concerned. In 2007 over 29 million tonnes of waste was recovered as material or as energy. The figure equals 40 per cent of the amount of wastes generated. Waste recovery rates usually vary from sector to sector. In 2007 mineral and wooden wastes and metal scrap formed the majority of the wastes recovered as material. A large part of the amount of wastes recovered as energy consisted of wooden wastes and sludge. Wastes not recovered as material or as energy were mainly stored temporarily or deposited at landfills. The proportion of the deposited wastes is some 60 per cent of the total amount generated.
The environmental effects of wastes
Wastes can pollute the environment and even constitute health hazards, depending on their hazardous properties and any dangerous substances they may contain. The recovery and processing of wastes may also generate various types of emissions. Waste also means inefficient use of raw materials and loss of resources during different stages of the life cycle of the materials.
In monitoring wastes and compiling waste statistics, wastes may be classified according to their origin, their properties, how hazardous they are, and how they may be sorted, recovered or treated. The waste classification system used in Finland is based on the current European Commission waste classification system (List of Wastes).
In Finland, the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) works together with Statistics Finland in compiling waste statistics and providing data for national and international reporting. Statistics Finland produces official waste statistics on industrial, energy production, construction and municipal waste, and on sewage sludge. The statistics are largely based on data received from the databases of the Finnish environmental administration. SYKE assists the Finnish Ministry of the Environment in reporting the data to the European Commission and the European Environment Agency.