Reusing materials – sorting and recycling beverage packaging

Beverage packaging is valuable material. You can return deposit bottles and cans to any recycling machine in Finland. Other material and non-deposit packaging should be sorted into different waste fractions.

Bottles and cans can be used to make new beverage containers and other products

Recycled aluminium cans are melted and used to manufacture new cans. Recycling is worthwhile, as an aluminium can made from recycled materials generates 85 per cent fewer carbon dioxide emissions compared to a can made from virgin materials. Aluminium can be recycled almost endlessly.

Recycled PET bottles are ground into plastic pellets. This transparent recycled plastic is used to make bottle blanks for new plastic bottles. Coloured pellets are used to make other recycled PET products.

Glass bottles are crushed, cleaned and sorted by colour. In Finland, this recycled material is used to make things such as foam glass, glass wool and glass aggregate. Generally speaking, the use of recycled glass in glass manufacture can save a significant amount of energy, as the production of virgin glass requires an extremely high temperature of about 1,400–1,600˚C. A small fraction of deposit beer bottles can also be reused as containers immediately after cleaning.

Suomen Palautuspakkaus Oy (PALPA) manages the recycling system for beverage containers with a redeemable deposit in Finland.

(Source: Suomen Palautuspakkaus Oy PALPA)

Other materials are recycled to make new products or burnt to produce energy

Non-deposit beverage containers and other beverage packaging materials are sorted into different waste fractions. Please note that sorting instructions may vary in different cities and municipalities. Check the guidelines for your own area!

material sorting instructions
boxed wine cartons, cardboard cartons cardboard
plastic inner bags, taps and handles from bagged and boxed wines Alko recycling point, plastic or waste-to-energy
the inner bags (contain aluminium), wine bags, taps and handles from bagged and boxed wines Alko recycling point or mixed waste
natural corks mixed waste
plastic corks, plastic screw caps plastic or waste-to-energy
metal corks, metal screw caps, metallic shrink capsules metal
non-deposit glass bottles glass
non-deposit plastic bottles plastic or waste-to-energy
non-deposit cans metal
non-deposit ceramic beverage container mixed waste
non-deposit plastic-coated glass bottles, non-deposit painted glass bottles mixed waste

Return wine bags to an Alko recycling point

Wine bags (that is, bagged wines and the inner bags from boxed wines) cannot be returned through the deposit-based recycling system for beverage containers. However, wine bags can be returned to recycling points that can be found at the majority of Alko stores all across Finland. Here is a list of exceptions, that is, stores that do not have a recycling point (in Finnish).

Wine bags are made from multilayer plastic that cannot be separated for recycling. The insulation layers in wine bags also contain aluminium and ethylene vinyl alcohol, which makes the material difficult to recycle. The insulation layer protects the product from oxidation, but it poses challenges at many waste-to-energy facilities, for example, by causing corrosion in incinerator walls.

If your nearest Alko does not have a recycling point, wine bags can also be sorted as plastic, waste-to-energy or mixed waste depending on local municipal guidelines. However, as wine bags are unsuitable for the manufacture of new plastic, even those collected from plastic recycling containers will be used in waste-to-energy production. The cardboard packaging used in boxed wines is also recycled.

Wine bags are used in the manufacture of recycled fuel

The wine bags returned to Alko stores are used in cement manufacture. The plastic is used as a recycled fuel and the aluminium they contain binds to the end product, that is, cement. The use of recycled fuel helps to reduce coal burning, which in turn reduces the environmental impact of the process.

Stores load the recycled bags onto returning delivery vehicles that would otherwise be heading that way, and they are then sent on to the cement plant in Parainen. The goal is to avoid large volumes of additional transportation just for recycling.