All subjects
Opinion & Commentary

Finland moves from waste export to import market

Finland moves from waste export to import market
Unloading RDF bales. Finland has turned from an exporter of waste to become a net importer of waste-derived fuels (photo courtesy Geminor).

For as long as Gemifin Oy, the Finnish subsidiary of Norway-headed biomass and waste-derived fuel aggregators and suppliers Geminor AS has existed, the Finnish market has only been an exporting market. Now this trend has reversed, says Ismo Hiltunen, Manager at Gemifin.

In Finland, the market for waste products is turning upside down. Ever since 2011, Gemifin has annually exported between 100 000 and 150 000 tonnes of waste for material or energy recovery to Central Europe.

Now this trend has reversed, says Ismo Hiltunen, Manager at Gemifin.

During the last couple of years, the Finnish market has changed radically, and we are now seeing a growing demand for waste fractions. The reduced volumes of waste in Finland have put an end to waste export, and this is a situation that probably will last for the foreseeable future, said Ismo Hiltunen.

Three main reasons

According to Ismo Hiltunen, there are three main reasons why the waste market is changing in Finland

Less residual waste in the Finnish market has to do with the increased political focus on the sorting of waste. Finland has become a leading country in the EU regarding material recycling of food waste, plastic, and paper. From the summer of 2023, there will also be stricter requirements for the sorting of plastics, which will have an impact on residual volumes, explained Ismo Hiltunen.

Ismo Hiltunen, Manager at Gemifin Oy, a subsidiary of Geminor AS (photo courtesy Geminor).

Hiltunen also points to lower economic activity being the reason for the decline of national waste volumes in Finland.

Another reason is the war in Ukraine. Russia and Belarus are now banned from the Finnish market, which is particularly noticeable because Finland has greater economic ties to Russia than most countries in Europe.

An example is the import of wood from Russia, which now is a closed chapter. In addition, imports of coal, oil, and gas have stopped, bringing the energy market out of balance. This increases the importance of energy production from residual waste, said Ismo Hiltunen.

Increasing incineration capacity

A third reason for the turning of the Finnish market is that municipalities have increased their national waste incineration capacity considerably in the last couple of years.

This year, the capacity for waste-to-energy (WtE) recovery is around 2.2 million tonnes, which is a growth of 10 percent in a short time.

Two larger district heating and WtE plants have recently been built and expanded in Finland. Luonavoima in Salo outside the city of Turku was built in 2021 and has a capacity of 120 000 tonnes. In addition, Vantaan Energia, which supplies the Helsinki area with district heating, has increased its WtE capacity by 200 000 tonnes. Several other WtE plants have moved from incinerating Russian biochips to using SRF. As a result, both SRF and RDF have become in demand in Finland, but the national market cannot supply enough, Ismo Hiltunen highlighted.

Plastic is important in the “new” market

Big changes normally introduce new challenges. But for Gemifin, it’s all about planning well and thinking long-term.

We believe that waste plastic for mechanical and chemical recycling will become more important in Finland in the future, and this is something we want to focus on, Ismo Hiltunen said.

At present we operate two HUBs in Finland where we supply SRF both for WtE-plants and for cement production. In the time to come, we will concentrate on securing tailor-made fuel for the Finnish plants. A very important factor in the present market is to have international access to the right fractions. At the same time, entering new surplus markets in Europe will make a big difference in supplying Finland with much-needed waste for energy recovery, ended Ismo Hiltunen.

Most read on Bioenergy International

Get the latest news about Bioenergy

Subscribe for free to our newsletter
Sending request
I accept that Bioenergy International stores and handles my information.
Read more about our integritypolicy here