Chapter 1. Key environmental trends

Finland is one of the most northern countries in Europe with over one-third of its land extending north of the Arctic Circle. Nearly three-quarters of land are covered by forests, which support a strong forestry industry. Known as the Land of the Thousand Lakes, Finland also has vast freshwater resources, in addition to a long coastline along the Baltic Sea and many of Europe’s peatlands. The Finnish population, which enjoys a generally high level of well-being, has a deep relationship to nature and the countryside.

Finland’s environmental performance over the past decade has been mixed. The country made important progress in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reduced the emission of air pollutants and virtually ended the landfilling of household waste. However, pressures on Finland’s sensitive natural environments remain high. Agriculture continues to cause nutrient leakage into water bodies and coastal zones, while forestry is putting pressure on wood habitats and species. The poor status of wetlands is another area of concern. The government attributes high importance to environmental protection and aims to align the economy with the principles of sustainable development. Finland committed to become carbon neutral by 2035, to pioneer the world’s first circular economy and to halt biodiversity loss.

This chapter provides an overview of the main environmental trends observed in Finland. It highlights the country’s progress in the last decade towards its national and international goals, as well as remaining challenges for green growth and sustainable development. Where possible, trends are compared with those of other OECD member countries.

After a long period of lacklustre economic performance following the global financial and economic crisis, robust economic growth resumed in 2015/16. This was partly driven by comprehensive structural reforms, as well as by an agreement between social partners on wage moderation. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth remained healthy until the COVID-19 pandemic, albeit lower than in other Nordic countries (Figure 1.1). A swift and well-targeted policy response helped limit the health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Finnish economy fell into a deep recession in the first quarter of 2020 (Chapter 3). GDP declined by 2.8% in 2020 but is expected to recover in 2021 and continue growing in 2022 (OECD, 2021a).

Finland’s open economy has a prominent industry sector, which accounts for 28% of value added. The largest industrial sectors are wood and paper products, and manufacture of electronic and optical products. The service sector accounts for nearly 70% of value added, less than on average in the OECD (Table of Basic Statistics). The primary sector (agriculture, forestry and fishing) accounts for slightly less than 3% of value added, 1.5 times more than on average in the OECD. This is linked to the large forestry industry. Finland is highly integrated into the global economy, with larger exports and imports in terms of GDP than on average in the OECD (Table of Basic Statistics).

Public finances had been robust in the years before the pandemic. However, in 2020, the deficit jumped to more than 5% of GDP, while debt surged to over 80% and is projected to increase further. These increases were due mostly to measures implemented in response to COVID-19 (OECD, 2021a). In addition, the health care expenditure associated to a rapidly ageing population is putting pressure on public finances. Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, the government had committed to spending more on education, employment, infrastructure and climate policies, while maintaining a balanced budget in the medium term. Achieving this will require higher employment rates, more efficient public administration and public expenditure, and fewer unwarranted tax expenditures, including environmentally harmful subsidies (Chapter 3) (OECD, 2020a).

Finland’s population of 5.5 million people grew moderately over the past decade. It is expected to reach 6 million inhabitants by 2060. However, population ageing is expected to accelerate in the coming years and decades. With a population density of 16 inhabitants per square kilometre, Finland is one of the most sparsely populated and “rural” countries in the OECD (Table of Basic Statistics). The density per square kilometre varies, however, from 2 inhabitants in northern Finland (Lapland) to 185 in the south (Helsinki-Uusimaa) (OECD, 2021b). Regional inequalities (in terms GDP per capita) are smaller than in most other OECD countries. Finland experiences a strong migration from rural to urban areas (MoE, 2017a).

Finns enjoy one of the highest levels of well-being in the OECD. GDP per capita is above the OECD average (Table of Basic Statistics), although significantly lower than in Denmark, Germany and Sweden. According to the OECD Better Life Index, Finns perform in the top 20% in education and skills, subjective well-being, environmental quality, personal security and social connections (OECD, 2020b). Life expectancy has increased by nearly two years over the past decade. Finland is a top-performing country in terms of the quality of its education system. Some 46% of adults aged 25-64 have completed tertiary education, higher than the OECD average (Table of Basic Statistics). The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic consequences have accentuated income inequality. However, income inequality remains low by international comparison thanks to high redistribution through taxes and transfers (OECD, 2020a).

Finns generally attach high importance to the environment and showcase a high environmental consciousness. According to a 2019 Eurobarometer, Finns consider the environment, climate change and energy issues to be the European Union’s biggest challenge, and the second biggest national challenge (after health and social security) (EC, 2019a). National surveys suggest that over 90% of the population see nature as important, feel it is part of the national identity and believe that nature increases well-being and health. More than half of Finnish people report to have consciously reduced their consumption for environmental reasons (Sitra, 2019). Most people consider climate change as the main environmental challenge (65%), followed by air pollution, growing waste generation and water pollution (EC, 2017).

The energy mix is characterised by a high share of renewables, which accounted for 37% of total energy supply (TES) in 2019, one of the ten highest shares among OECD countries (Figure 2 in Assessment and recommendations). The share of renewables has increased steadily over the past decade (Figure 1.2). This is mainly driven by more use of solid biomass but also of wind power and biodiesel. Most renewable energy is generated from bioenergy (solid and liquid biofuels), which accounted for 79% of all primary energy from renewables and 29% of TES in 2020. Meanwhile, hydropower accounted for 4% and wind for 2% of TES. Fossil fuels accounted for 38% of TES in 2020, about half the average in the OECD, while nuclear power made up nearly 20% of TES, or double the OECD average.

Finland has almost no domestic fossil fuel resources. As a result, nearly half of Finland’s energy needs are met through imports, mostly from the Russian Federation (hereafter “Russia”), its neighbour. The country does boast 9.3 million hectares of peat lands, and peat fuels 4% of energy supply (IEA, 2021). Peat plays an important role as fuel in combined heat and power (CHP) plants and district heating, both of which are widely used in Finland (Chapter 4).

Finland is a global leader when it comes to bioenergy. Most bioenergy is produced from wood residues from Finland’s large forest industry (more than 90% of bioenergy use stems from solid biomass, with minor shares coming from biodiesel, biogasoline, black liquor and biogases). Bioenergy is mainly used for heat and power generation, either through district heating systems or through CHP plants. To a small extent, biomass is also used in industrial processes. Finland aims to maintain bioenergy as a central energy source, producing it on market terms from the side streams of other wood use.

Thanks to the continuous expansion of renewable energy, Finland’s national target of supplying at least 38% of energy gross final consumption from renewables by 2020 was already met in 2014. In 2019, renewables accounted for 43% of gross consumption. This means the country is also well positioned to reach its goal of satisfying at least 51% of energy consumption through renewables by 2030. National projections suggest that Finland will overshoot its 2030 target, assuming that the energy and climate policy measures included in the 2016 Energy and Climate Strategy and the 2017 Medium-term Climate Change Policy Plan are fully implemented.1 These plans, which were under revision at the time of writing, list Finland’s actions to reduce GHG emissions and set a number of targets for the energy sector (Chapter 4).

Power generation is largely decarbonised. Renewables accounted for over half of electricity generation in 2020. Hydro is the main renewable electricity source (23%), followed by biofuels and waste (17%) and wind (12%). Slightly over a third of electricity is produced by nuclear power plants (Figure 4.6). The share of fossil fuels declined to 14% in 2020, down from about 40% a decade earlier. Finland’s electricity grid is well connected to other countries, which facilitates the integration of a large share of variable renewable energy and enhances the overall resilience of the electricity sector. Finland plans to expand nuclear power to 60% of power generation, further reducing the need for fossil fuels (IEA, 2018). In addition, the government intends to phase out coal in energy (power and heat) generation by 2029 and at least halve peat use by 2030 (Chapter 4).

Both the energy intensity of the economy and energy consumption per capita are high compared to the OECD average (OECD, 2021; Table of Basic Statistics). This is due to the cold climate, a low population density and a relatively large share of energy-intensive industries. The energy intensity of the economy (TES/GDP) improved by 18% between 2005 and 2020, less than in many other OECD countries and the OECD as a whole (Figure 1.3).

Total final energy consumption (TFC) decreased by 3% in 2010-19. Energy consumption has broadly followed economy activity, dropping after the 2008 global financial crisis and in the early 2010s and increasing since 2016 as economic activity picked up again. Energy consumption in industry increased slightly over 2010-19, while it decreased in the transport, residential and commercial, and agricultural sectors (Figure 1.3). Domestic industries account for nearly half of energy consumption, due to energy-intensive industries such as paper and printing (which account for nearly 60% of industrial energy use), steel and chemicals. The residential sector is the second largest energy user, accounting for 20% of TFC in 2019 (Figure 1.3). Space and water heating accounts for roughly 80% of energy consumption in the residential and commercial sector. Road transport accounts for more than 90% of transport-related energy use.

Finland met its 2020 energy efficiency targets under the European Union (EU) Energy Efficiency Directive. In 2019, final energy consumption stood 5% below the indicative 2020 target of limiting final consumption to 310 TWh (Eurostat, 2021a). Finland’s Integrated Energy and Climate Plan envisages only a marginal decrease in final energy consumption (Chapter 4). Therefore, progress towards the 2030 target of limiting final consumption below 290 TWh needs to be closely monitored. Finland has no additional national targets for energy efficiency.

GHG emissions, excluding emissions from land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF), reached 53 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2eq) in 2019, 24% below the 2005 level and 25% below the 1990 level. As such, Finland met its mitigation obligations under the Kyoto Protocol (Chapter 4). Emissions peaked in 2003 and have since been declining. However, they stabilised around 2015 levels in recent years, reflecting the resurgence of the economy since the mid-2010s (Figure 1.4). According to preliminary data, in 2020, GHG emissions were 9% below their 2019 level.2 This reflects a warmer winter, a further shift away from fossil fuels in power generation, as well as reduction in transport activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic (MoE, 2021). Finland’s GHG intensity (GHG emissions per unit of GDP) and per capita emissions were lower than the OECD averages in 2019, but they were 12% and 24% above the average of European countries of the OECD, respectively (OECD, 2021c; Table of Basic Statistics).

Energy use accounted for 74% of gross GHG emissions in 2019 (i.e. excluding carbon sequestration from LULUCF), with remaining emissions coming from agriculture, industrial processes and waste (Figure 1.4). Energy-related emissions largely came from energy industries (which accounted for 33% of gross total emissions), transport, manufacturing and construction and energy use in the residential and commercial sectors (Figure 1.4). According to preliminary data, there were negligible changes to the structure of emissions in 2020 (OSF, 2021a). The LULUCF sector is a net carbon sink, absorbing about 30% of domestic gross GHG emissions during the past decade. Carbon sequestration fluctuates from year to year; it declined between 2009 and 2018 because of higher forest harvesting. The net sink improved significantly in 2018-20 thanks to lower forest removals (MoE, 2021).

Like other EU countries, Finland participates in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). The share of emissions covered by the system peaked in 2006 to 58% and declined steadily to 45% in 2019, with the shift to renewables (Figure 1.4). Preliminary data indicate that the share further decreased to 41% in 2020. This means that most mitigation efforts need to focus on the non-trading sectors, i.e. mainly transport, residential, commercial and agriculture. Under EU regulations, Finland is committed to reduce GHG emissions from the non-ETS sectors by 16% by 2020 and 39% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. According to preliminary data, non-ETS emissions fell by 3% in 2020 compared to the previous year but exceeded the annual emission allocations by 0.1 MtCO2eq. Hence, Finland is positioned to meet the 2020 target by using surplus emissions allowances banked from previous years (MoE, 2021). According to Finland’s Integrated Energy and Climate Plan of December 2019, existing and planned measures combined with the use of flexibility mechanisms will also allow Finland to meet its 2030 target.

The Government Programme of December 2019 defined a new ambition to become carbon neutral by 2035,3 and carbon negative soon after that. Existing and planned measures will not be sufficient to meet this goal (Chapter 4). Hence, swift measures and policy decisions to reduce emissions across all sectors and strengthen land-use sinks are needed. In July 2021, the environment ministry released the proposal for a revised Climate Change Act for consultation, with a view to including the 2035 carbon-neutrality goal in the act. The proposed bill also sets an emission reduction target for 2030 consistent with the carbon-neutrality goal and with reducing emissions by 90% by 2050 from 1990 levels.4 The government also plans to revise the National Energy and Climate Strategy and Medium-term Climate Policy Plan in 2021. These lay out key climate policy measures and provided the basis for the 2019 Integrated Energy and Climate Plan. In addition, the government adopted a roadmap for fossil-free transport in May 2021 and a climate programme for the land-use sector was envisaged for later in the same year.

As discussed in Chapter 4, Finland expects to reduce most of its emissions to 2030 in the transport and agricultural sector (which accounted for 38% and 22% of 2019 non-ETS emissions, respectively). Smaller reductions are expected in the buildings sector. Key measures to reduce emissions from the transport sector include increasing use of biofuels and improving carbon efficiency of vehicles, notably through the roll-out of electric vehicles. Other measures include the phase-out of coal for energy production by 2029, a halving of peat for energy production by 2030 and the phase-out of oil use in heating by the early 2030s. Different sectors also have specific targets to increase the share of renewables. Across sectors, significant emphasis is put on bioenergy, building on Finland’s vast forest resources and strong forestry industry. Given this emphasis, the sustainability of biomass and the impact on biodiversity and the carbon sink deserve special attention. There are trade-offs between forests’ potential as a carbon sink, essential to achieve the carbon-neutrality goal, and forest harvesting levels, including for biomass for energy generation (Chapter 4).

Finland is strongly affected by climate change. The average temperature increase in Finland is expected to be 1.5-2 times larger than the mean for warming globally (MoE, 2017a). The temperature increase will be larger in winter than in summer. The January mean temperature would increase by 4-11°C and precipitation by 10-60% by the end of the 21st century. Summer heatwaves will become longer and more frequent, whereas severe cold spells will gradually diminish. Heavy precipitation events will intensify in summer while the number of days with precipitation will increase in the winter. The snow season will become shorter and the Snow Water Equivalent will decrease, particularly in southern Finland.

Knowledge of the vulnerability and risks in specific sectors is generally good. Tools such as the web portal Climateguide.fi help citizens and businesses consider possible impacts and vulnerabilities. The economic impact of climate change is negative for some sectors and positive for others, assuming Finland acts on adaptation opportunities. For example, an increase in average temperatures may benefit the agricultural, forestry and tourism sectors. The largest economic losses are expected in the water sector due to heavy rains and flooding.

Finland was among the first countries to adopt a national adaptation strategy in 2005. The National Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2022, launched in 2014, updated the first strategy. This was in keeping with the 2015 Climate Change Act, which provides for a national adaptation plan at least every ten years. These plans aim to identify the most important tasks to promote adaptation nationally. The latest plan aims to ensure Finnish society can manage and mitigate climate-related risks in each sector. A multi-stakeholder group monitors implementation of the plan. At the subnational level, several regional and local governments have integrated adaptation elements into their climate strategies. Ten Finnish cities are signatories to the Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy in relation to adaptation (CMCE, 2021).

A mid-term evaluation of the National Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2022 concluded that awareness of climate change and adaptation needs has increased among administrative actors. It also found that adaptation objectives have been integrated into planning and activities of the various sectors (MoAF, 2020). The most advanced sector is water management, where adaptation has been integrated into decision making and where digital monitoring and risk management processes have been developed. Agriculture is also relatively advanced, while implementation in transport and communication, forestry, health, energy, tourism have only begun in recent years (EC, 2018a). Since 2017, environmental impact assessments need to include an assessment of climate change risks.

Nevertheless, the management of climate-related risks is partly insufficient (MoAF, 2020). Finland needs to raise more awareness about climate risks and options to mitigate them. Clearer division of responsibilities and co-ordination, especially for cross-sectoral issues and between private and public actors, was also identified as a priority area for improvement. Tools such as guides and early warning systems for regional and local actors can help promote practical adaptation to reduce weather- and climate-related risks. There is also a need to improve knowledge on the potential costs and benefits of impacts and measures (EC, 2018a).

The emission of air pollutants continued to decline over the past decade. Emissions of sulphur dioxide (SOx) fell by more than half between 2010 and 2019. Much of this was driven by two factors: more stringent EU regulations (including application of EU minimum emission limit values and best available techniques for major emission sources) and a shift towards cleaner fuels. Nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions declined by 36% over 2010-19. This decline was largely driven by improved vehicle technology, which reduced emissions from road transport. Emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) fell in the early 2010s before levelling off in the second half of the decade (Figure 1.5, left panel). In terms of emissions per capita and per unit of GDP, Finland generally ranks close to the OECD average. The exception is for NOx emissions, where intensities are higher than in many other OECD countries (OECD, 2021c). This is linked to Finland’s relatively old vehicle fleet and to the higher share of coal, peat and biomass burning.

Fuel combustion for energy generation and heat production (in power stations, industry and buildings) are the main sources of SOx, NOx and PM2.5 (Figure 1.5, right panel) and are also a source of heavy metal emissions. Small-scale combustion (e.g. the burning of wood for home heating and saunas5) causes about half of PM2.5 emissions. It is also a major source of non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) and black carbon emissions. Transport is a major emission source for NOx; industrial processes (notably the pulp and paper and chemicals industries) are a significant contributor to NMVOCs and SOx emissions (Figure 1.5, right panel); and agriculture accounts for most ammonia (NH3) emissions.

Finland’s targets related to atmospheric emissions are set under the EU National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD). Finland has met the NECD targets for 2010 except for NH3 but has complied with the NH3 target since 2016.6 The country is expected to meet its 2020 targets for all five air pollutants targeted under the NECD (Figure 1.5, left panel).7 However, NH3 emissions may exceed the target because progress has slowed down since 2015. Emissions are projected to decline slightly over the next decade (EC, 2020). The action plan to reduce NH3 emissions from agriculture aims primarily to improve storage and application of livestock manure (MoAF, 2018). Finland also seems on track to meet the 2030 targets using existing measures (Figure 1.5, left panel). In addition to targets set under the NECD, Finland – along with Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden – has affirmed its support to achieve a collective reduction of black carbon emissions in the Arctic region by 25-33% below 2013 levels by 2025.

In accordance with the NECD, Finland prepared a National Air Pollution Control Programme 2030 (NAPCP) in 2019. The NAPCP highlights synergies between climate mitigation and air pollution control policies. It also refers extensively to measures under Finland’s national climate mitigation plans (Section 1.4.2). The NAPCP identifies the two most significant measures to reduce air emissions: a fuel shift in road transport towards electricity, natural gas and biofuels; and a mode shift from private car use to walking, cycling and using public transport. Energy efficiency improvements and more stringent requirements under EU legislation will continue to drive emission reductions from energy generation and industrial activity (MoE, 2019). Additional policies to adopt the best available techniques extensively could allow Finland to further reduce emissions and enjoy associated health benefits without affecting economic growth (OECD, 2021d).

Even though Finland is expected to meet the 2030 targets under existing measures, the NAPCP proposes new measures to reduce air pollution. It focuses on pollution from small-scale wood burning and street dust, with a view to mitigating the persistently high health impact from these sources (Section 1.4.2). For example, the NAPCP proposes to intensify and expand information campaigns on health effects from small-scale wood burning; enhance guidance on the correct use of fireplaces; establish new co-operations (e.g. schools and sauna clubs); and study the feasibility of standards for sauna stoves, as well as the potential of voluntary requirements with stove manufactures (MoE, 2019). However, due to limited resources, not all of these measures are being implemented. Additional measures, including subsidies, seem justified to accelerate replacement of inefficient fireplaces, space heaters and sauna stoves, given the considerable health benefits of such investments.

As regards road dust, the NAPCP proposes to promote diffusion of best street cleaning and maintenance practices among municipalities and contractors. These practices include selection criteria for procurement activities, improved information on the effect of tyre choices on air pollution and investigation of the regulation of studded tyres in certain areas, as practised in Norway, for example. In Oslo (and certain other cities), a charge for using studded winter tyres has significantly reduced their use.

Reduced overall traffic volume will remain one of the most efficient measures to cut emissions from both exhaust gases and road dust. This is achieved through the shift from private car use to more walking, cycling and use of public transport. Fewer cars will also generate important co-benefits for climate change mitigation (Chapter 4). It should therefore remain a priority in Finland’s efforts to improve air quality.

Air quality in Finland is among the best in the OECD. Unlike nearly all other countries, good air quality is nearly uniform across Finland. In 2019, mean exposure to PM2.5 pollution was 5.6 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m3), the lowest value among OECD countries and 60% below the OECD average (OECD, 2021c; Table of Basic Statistics). Exposure to PM2.5 is higher in the urban areas of Lahti and Helsinki, but it remains below the World Health Organization’s guideline value of 10 µg/m3. No air quality zones exceeded the EU standards for NO2, PM10 and PM2.5 (EC, 019b). The annual limit value for NOx and the daily limit value for PM10 have been randomly exceeded in the largest cities and near streets with heavy traffic in the early 2010s (MoE, 2019), but no exceedences have been recorded since 2016. The exceedance of PM10 values is largely caused by the use of studded tyres, and either sand or salt for the winter maintenance of roads and streets.

Despite generally good air quality, health risks exist. The welfare costs resulting from exposure to ambient air pollution from particulate matter was 0.7% of GDP in 2019, lower than in most other OECD countries (OECD, 2021c). Still, ambient PM concentrations are estimated to have caused some 1 600 to 2 000 premature deaths in Finland each year in 2005-15 (MoE, 2019). Despite the expected decline in the emission of air pollutants, the number of premature deaths is projected to drop only mildly to 2030. This is linked to population growth and ageing, as well as urbanisation. While the health impact of transport-related exhaust gas emissions will decline with the expected decline in these emissions, the adverse health effects caused by street dust and small-scale wood burning are projected to remain constant. Small-scale wood burning is projected to account for more than half of PM2.5 emissions in 2030, and to become the major driver of premature deaths from air pollution (MoE, 2019).

According to national legislation, municipalities shall prepare a plan to reduce air pollution when limit values are exceeded or risk being exceeded. On this basis, municipalities in the Helsinki metropolitan region have prepared air quality protection plans. Helsinki’s 2017-24 plan includes measures such as investment in electric buses, electric charging stations and purchase of electric vehicles for the city administration. The municipality has also been investigating implementation of vehicle traffic pricing. Meanwhile, new street cleaning methods and practices are being tested to reduce dust. The plan also advocates for better integration of air quality perspectives into urban planning (e.g. compact city structures and connection to public transport) (City of Helsinki, 2016).

Waste generation increased by about 20% in 2010-19. The increase was largely driven by mineral and solidified waste (e.g. rock, soil) generated by mining and construction, which account for about 90% of total waste generated. Most mining and construction waste is deposited in mining areas, although an increasing volume of mineral waste is reused (10% in 2018). Manufacturing industries accounted for 8% of the total waste generated in 2019, and households and services for 4% (OSF, 2021b).

Municipal solid waste (MSW) generation has also continued to increase, rising by 24% between 2010 and 2019. As such, Finland did not meet its target under its 2008-16 National Waste Plan to reverse the trend of increasing MSW generation by 2016. Per capita MSW generation increased by 20% over this period (Figure 3 in Assessment and recommendations), which stands in contrast to the overall trend in the OECD. In 2019, per capita generation was 13% above the OECD Europe average (Figure 1.6, right panel). In the absence of strong policy measures, MSW volumes are expected to continue increasing alongside economic growth (Salmenperä, Moliis and Nevala, 2015). Households generate two-thirds of MSW in Finland.

As regards waste treatment, Finland has seen a massive shift from landfilling to incineration in the last decade. While nearly half of municipal waste was landfilled in 2010, this share dropped to less than 1% in 2019. Meanwhile, the share of waste being incinerated increased from 22% to 56% (Figure 1.6, left panel). The shift was accelerated by a ban on landfilling of organic waste. The ban, which came into force in 2016, stimulated significant investment in waste-to-energy plants and in biowaste collection and treatment (EC, 2019b). The tax on the landfilling of recyclable waste (Chapter 3) has also played a role, especially in diverting non-organic waste streams away from landfilling. Moreover, its effect increased as the tax rate increased.8 However, the landfill tax had only limited effects on recycling rates, as much of the previously landfilled waste was diverted to incineration plants for energy recovery. Opting to include incineration plants in the EU ETS could help steer waste streams from incineration towards recycling. However, pricing incineration should be included in a broader policy package that looks at the entire waste value chain (Chapter 3).

The volume and share of material recovered (i.e. recycled or composted) has started to increase in recent years (Figure 1.6, left panel).9 This can be attributed to more emphasis on separate collection in urban areas, as well as Finland’s producer responsibility programmes for products (e.g. vehicles, tyres, electrical appliances, batteries and packaging).10 The share of recovered materials is slightly below the average of European OECD countries (Figure 1.6, right panel). It is also below the target to recycle 50% of MSW by 2020 set both by EU and Finnish legislation (Figure 3 in Assessment and recommendations). Further efforts are therefore needed to comply with the more ambitious recycling goals under the updated EU Waste Directive to re-use or recycle at least 55% of MSW by 2025, 60% by 2030 and 65% by 2035. Investment needs to focus on waste prevention, separate collection and sorting, and recycling infrastructure.

As in other countries, responsibilities for waste management are split among many actors. According to the 2011 Waste Act, municipalities are generally responsible for collecting waste from household and public institutions. In most cases, private companies collect waste on behalf of the municipality. Municipalities can also transfer the responsibility to inhabitants, who then chose their waste collector freely. Businesses manage their waste separately. In practice, producer responsibility organisations (PROs) collect most recyclable waste, including from households. Door-to-door collection of recyclable waste has been limited in Finland, with the exception of collection at multi-apartment buildings. Most household recyclables are collected through drop-off points, a sub-optimal solution to maximise recycling, especially in densely populated areas dominated by single-family houses.

The revised Waste Act, approved in mid-2021, aims to address the inefficiencies caused by the fragmentation of waste management responsibilities and collection operations, which risk holding back further progress towards higher recycling rates (EC, 2018b; Papineschi et al., 2019). The separate collection of different waste streams reduces economies of scale and incentives to invest in separate waste collection and recycling infrastructure.11 In addition, numerous local collection companies, which often have strong vested interests, are involved. This has made it politically challenging for most municipalities to impose instruments that would encourage waste reduction and recycling, such as obligations for separate collection or reduced collection fees for sorted waste.

The revised Waste Act requires municipalities and waste producers to establish agreements on the organisation and collection of packaging waste (paper, plastic, glass and metal waste) from households. It also establishes a basic obligation for separate waste collection, as well as a requirement for door-to-door collection of biowaste and packaging waste for multi-apartment buildings and public and private operators generating MSW.12 Waste collected separately for re-use or recycling, for example, shall not be disposed of in landfill or be incinerated. These measures are expected to improve separate collection and recovery rates and to support the development of recycling markets – a crucial precondition for Finland’s circular economy aspirations (see below). However, the framework for waste charges and taxes remains unchanged.

Finland could make better use of the charge system, especially to provide incentives for recycling over incineration. Municipal waste charges cover the cost of municipal waste management services (including collection and treatment). All municipalities use a pay-as-you-throw scheme, where the charge is based on bin volume and emptying frequency of bins (Papineschi et al., 2019). Weight-based systems are used only in a few municipalities; some also set lower charges for sorted waste to encourage waste sorting and recycling. In addition, some municipalities levy an additional “eco-charge” to recover costs associated with a separate waste collection and recycling infrastructure and service. A well-designed nationwide weight-based pay-as-you-throw system would be an effective way to increase recycling rates (Salmenperä et al., 2019). Hazardous waste too is subjected to service charges (EUR 270 per tonne, on average). Drop-off points of hazardous waste are free of charge for households.

Finland launched numerous strategies, roadmaps and action plans to advance the circular economy. It was the first country to adopt a National Roadmap to a Circular Economy in 2016 (updated in 2019). This roadmap aims to make Finland a world leader in the circular economy by 2025 (Sitra, 2016). A Circular Economy Action Plan, launched in 2017, aims to build platforms for circular economy pilot models, promote public procurement for the circular economy, and support product and service innovation. The National Waste Plan “From recycling to a circular economy”, adopted in 2018, sets recovery targets for four key waste streams.13 It announced voluntary agreements between central government and enterprises for selected industries (Chapter 3); stable funding for material efficiency audits and their expansion to new sectors;14 and better attention to material efficiency in environmental permits to promote the circular economy (MoE, 2018). The Plastics Roadmap, also launched in 2018, aims to reduce the environmental damage caused by plastics. It outlines potential actions to avoid unnecessary consumption of plastics, improve recycling and find alternative solutions to reduce single-use plastics and dependency on fossil raw ingredients.

Despite these efforts, the use of circular material was estimated at about 6% in 2019, compared to nearly 12% in the European Union (Eurostat, 2021b).15 Material productivity (expressed as the amount of economic value generated per unit of materials used) has improved. However, in 2019, it was about half the OECD average and among the lowest in the OECD (OECD, 2021c; Table of Basic Statistics).

In early 2021, the government launched the Strategic Programme to Promote a Circular Economy, which aims to transform the economy into one based on the principles of circular economy by 2035. The programme includes specific targets on raw materials use and resource production. For example, it envisions that the total consumption of primary raw materials in 2035 will not exceed what it was in 2015; and that resource productivity and the circular material use rate will double. Achieving this will require a regulatory and incentive framework that supports new business models. This could include, for example, promoting ownership-free and sharing models; requirements and financial support for circular design, repair, sharing and reuse; labelling for longer lasting products; new deposit-refund schemes; and using public procurement policy to promote circular economy in key sectors. It will also require higher recycling rates and expansion of recycling systems to products that are not yet recycled. Finland could also establish a single entry point for firms operating with circular business models (like Denmark did).

Nearly all of Finland is in the boreal coniferous forest zone. Forests cover over more than 70% of the Finnish total area, a higher share than in any other OECD country. Inland waters cover nearly 10%, cropland 9% and wetlands cover 8% of land area. Built-up area accounts for less than 0.5%. While the share of agricultural land and built-up area is small compared to most other OECD countries, Finland lost 1.7% of its (semi-)natural vegetated land between 2004 and 2019. This is a high share compared to most other OECD countries (OECD, 2021c).

Finland hosts approximately 48 000 animal and plant species, representing about 30% of total species described for Europe (SYKE, 2019; IUCN, 2020a). Nearly half have been evaluated for their conservation status. The latest assessment of 2019 showed that every eighth species is threatened (12% of assessed species; Figure 1.7), an increase compared to the previous assessment of 2010. The highest proportion of threatened species is found among birds, and reptiles and amphibians. Twenty-three species are critically endangered, including iconic species such as the Arctic fox and landlocked salmon (IUCN, 2020b).

The decline and degradation of habitats is the single largest pressure for species. Of the nearly 400 evaluated habitat types in Finland, 48% are categorised as threatened (Figure 1.7). The situation is particularly worrisome in southern Finland, where habitats are often fragmented and land-use pressures much greater than in the north. In terms of habitat types, mires, forests and semi-natural grasslands are facing the largest pressures. The overall status of habitats has not improved during the past decade, despite some progress in individual habitats (GoF, 2019).

As in other countries, anthropogenic factors are the biggest threat to species and habitats. The main reason for the threatened status of mires has been drainage for forest cultivation (see below). The degradation of forest and woody habitats is linked to intensive forestry and associated reduction of old-growth forests and large trees, as well as decreasing amounts of dead and decaying wood. The intensity of forest use (i.e. the ratio between actual harvest over annual productive capacity) is high compared to other OECD countries (OECD, 2021c). Moreover, it has increased with the growth in biomass use observed during the past decade. Other pressures on habitats and species include construction activities and the eutrophication of inland and coastal waters and overgrowing of open habitats. Climate change is evaluated as a significant threat (GoF, 2019).

Finland is a country of wet habitats and many European wetland habitat types are primarily found in the country.16 Roughly two-thirds of Finland’s land area was originally mire. However, two-thirds of this former mire area have been substantially altered during the 20th century, mostly through drainage for forestry and, to a lesser extent, agriculture.17 In recent times, the natural state of mires is threatened by a variety of factors. These include commercial peat extraction for energy generation, clearing of mires for agricultural use, construction of reservoirs, removal of vegetation from streams, soil preparation, felling in untrenched wooded mires, road networks and groundwater abstraction.

Drainage of mires has negative consequences on biodiversity and also causes significant GHG emissions (Chapter 4). First-time ditching of peatlands for peat production is prohibited by law. Peat extraction is permitted only in already drained or otherwise altered bogs. Draining intact peatlands for forestry has been reduced, but peatlands have continued to be converted to fields and peat production areas. No clear change has occurred in restoring mires to a semi-natural state (MoE, 2017b).

Finland declared to have achieved the Aichi target of conserving at least 17% of its terrestrial areas and inland waters by 2020. This share includes statutory protected areas on state-owned and private land (protected by government resolution), sites reserved for nature conservation in the process of being officially established, and sites under “other effective conservation measures” (as defined by the UNConvention for Biological Diversity, or CBD, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature). Parks and Wildlife Finland manages the protected areas officially established on state-owned land, which covered about 13% of total land area in 2021.18 Most (85%) of the terrestrial protected areas are designated as nature or wilderness reserves within the Natura 2000 network. The most valuable wetlands are part of a network of conservation areas. Finland’s 49 Ramsar sites are also included in the Natura 2000 network (MoE, 2016).

As in most countries, further improvement is needed with respect to the geographical distribution, connectivity and representativeness of ecologically valuable land in the protected area network. For example, three-quarters of protected areas are in northern Finland, in the regions of Oulu, Kainuu and Lapland, where pressures from human activity are less acute (GoF, 2019). The ongoing revision of the land-use planning law provides an opportunity to strengthen the connectivity of nature protection zones (Chapter 2).

Marine protected areas covered 12% of Finland’s territorial waters in 2021, above the Aichi target of 10%. This includes Natura 2000 sites and Ramsar sites. As for terrestrial protected areas, there remains room for improving the connectivity and ecological efficiency of the network. Studies suggest the marine protected area network covers merely 27% of the ecologically most valuable areas (Virtanen et al., 2018).

Finland’s National Strategy and Action Plan for the Conservation and Sustainable use of Biodiversity 2012-2020 (NBSAP) is largely based on the goals of the UN CBD, as well as the European Union’s biodiversity strategy. The strategy aims to halt biodiversity loss in Finland by 2020, and to ensure favourable status of biodiversity and ecosystem services by 2050. Given the increasing number of threatened species and the continuously worrisome state of habitats, Finland has not attained this goal.

An impact assessment of the NBSAP noted the action plan’s 105 measures have led to progress in several areas. These include sectoral responsibility of the administration; communication and education; and nature management in agriculture and forestry. Overall, however, they have not been effective and timely enough to halt biodiversity loss (Auvinen et al., 2020). Only one in ten actions was estimated to have led to a clear improvement in the trend sought by the NBSAP. This is due to a combination of factors, including insufficiently ambitious or poorly defined goals and policy measures, insufficient funding, delays in implementation and conflicting development goals (e.g. overuse of natural resources). Some measures were simply too vague to allow for an impact assessment.

The development of the post-2020 biodiversity framework provides an opportunity to focus conservation on areas with the largest likely impact. At the same time, the framework could establish clear and measurable targets supported by adequate indicators to track the implementation and effectiveness of individual measures. Building on the success of the Climate Change Panel (Chapter 4), Finland should consider legally recognising the Nature Panel to strengthen its role in advising public institutions in assessing the potential and actual impact of policies on ecosystems.

As in other countries, funding has been a major impediment to more effective conservation action. Finland makes limited use of economic instruments to raise revenue for biodiversity protection. These include fishing and hunting licence fees, whose receipts are used to finance management of fish population and game, and water protection charges paid by industrial installations and fish farms licenced prior to 2000. Public funding for biodiversity has decreased in the 2010s, alongside broader government efforts to improve public finances (Auvinen et al., 2020). Due to insufficient resources, the biodiversity indicators on the Biodiversity.fi portal have not been updated comprehensively since the early 2010s. The overall financial gap for implementing the NBSAP was estimated at EUR 46 million annually for 2016-20 (GoF, 2019). In 2020, Parliament allocated an additional EUR 100 million for nature conservation (MoE, 2020). Of this, EUR 42 million will be used for Helmi, a voluntary programme that aims to improve the conservation status in key ecosystems. Helmi compensates landowners for efforts to conserve ecosystems such as mires, aquatic shores, and semi-natural and wood habitats.19

About one-third of forests is publicly owned. About two-thirds of the Finnish terrestrial area is available for forestry use, making effective nature management in commercially managed forestry a key component of biodiversity protection. Biodiversity is integrated into forestry legislation, programmes and guidelines. About 13% of forest area is protected. The application of sustainable forestry practices has also improved. For example, use of lighter soil preparation methods and safeguarding of small key habitats are more widespread. However, the effect of these efforts is diminished by more wood harvesting for energy. This practice reduces the accumulation of decaying wood needed for several species in commercially managed forests. In this context, Finland will need to carefully study the potential impacts of the anticipated increase in bioenergy use on biodiversity and develop measures and performance targets to ensure the bioeconomy goals do not increase pressures on forest ecosystems (Chapter 4).

One of the main programmes to protect private forests is the Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland (METSO) 2008-25. METSO aims to promote voluntary forest protection by compensating private landowners that protect their forests temporarily or permanently. Budget cuts in 2015-17 threatened the goal of protecting 96 000 ha of land by 2025. Since 2018, funding has increased but may not be enough for METSO to meet its needs. If Finland were to expand the total forest area under the programme, funding would need to at least double from current levels (Kärkkäinen et al., 2021). In addition, more demand for forestry products (including for bioenergy) will increase wood prices. Thus, the cost of compensating landowners for protection and better nature management will likely increase. Finland therefore needs to ensure the METSO programme concentrates on areas where benefits to biodiversity are greatest. It may also be important to enlarge the area of strictly protected forests, especially in the south of the country. Finally, Finland should consider evaluating whether regulatory changes are needed to ensure better nature management (e.g. larger retention of deadwood) in private forests.

Cropland covers less than 10% of Finland total area – a small share compared to most other OECD countries (OECD, 2021c). However, agriculture has significant biodiversity impacts. Notably, these impacts include nutrients leached into ditches, rivers, lakes and coastal areas, causing eutrophication in water bodies (Section 1.7.1). Organic farming covered 13% of agricultural area in 2019, above the EU average of 8.5%. Some 5 000 farms (11% of all Finnish farms) practised organic farming in 2018 (Niemi and Väre, 2019).

The main tool to reduce the impacts of agriculture on biodiversity are the agri-environmental payments under the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Subsidies to Finnish farmers are among the largest in Europe. Part of the subsidies are used to address the impact of agriculture on biodiversity, notably to reduce the leakage of nutrients to water bodies. However, the overall impact of CAP payments on agricultural practices has been limited. Agricultural subsidies should play a greater role in stimulating sustainable agricultural practices that reduce GHG emissions and impacts on biodiversity. The reform of the CAP provides an opportunity to achieve this goal (Chapter 3).

Finland is rich in water resources. Inland waters cover a tenth of the country’s surface area and shorelines extend over 336 000 km. More than half of the population live within 500 m of a river, lakeshore or seashore (SYKE, 2017). Finland shares freshwater resources with Norway, Sweden and Russia. It has traditionally been active in transboundary water co-operation, including though the Helsinki Commission for the protection of the Marine Environment in the Baltic Sea (HELCOM).

In line with the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), the ecological and chemical status of inland and coastal waters are evaluated as part of river basin management plans (RBMPs) every six years.20 The national objective, as well as for the European Union, is to achieve good ecological status for all surface water and groundwater bodies by 2027. According to the latest assessment of 2019, two-thirds of the length of rivers and 85% of the area of lakes are in high or good ecological status (Figure 1.8), an improvement from the previous assessment in 2013 (EEA, 2018).

Most rivers in northern Finland are in good ecological status, but not in the south, west and southwest of the territory where most of the population and agricultural land are located. There, many watercourses are affected by excess nutrients from agriculture. In some watercourses, dams impede the natural river flow and obstruct fish migration and sediment transport. The ecological status of lakes is generally better than that of rivers. However, problems associated with eutrophication, such as alga blooms, are widespread in small and medium-sized lakes in agricultural areas. Shallow lakes are easily contaminated by pollution. Even relatively low concentrations of excess nutrients, acidic deposition or other harmful contaminants can disrupt the lakes’ sensitive aquatic ecosystems. Overall, half of the monitoring stations in rivers, lakes and coastal waters are eutrophic or hypertrophic (EC, 2018c).

Improvements in inland waters have not been reflected in coastal waters, nearly 90% of which still fail to achieve good ecological status (Figure 1.8). In 2007, the nutrient reduction scheme of HELCOM’s Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) entered into force to tackle eutrophication of the Baltic Sea. Finland is meeting its nutrient input ceiling (NIC) targets for all Baltic Sea basins but the Gulf of Finland and Bothnian Sea (HELCOM, 2021). Measures under the RBMPs and the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive National Implementation Plan are expected to be sufficient to achieve the Gulf of Finland NIC target for nitrogen by 2027 but not for phosphorus (Knuuttila et al., 2017).21 Further nutrient reduction efforts may be required, both for nitrogen and phosphorus, with the ongoing update of the BSAP. However, its overall goal of achieving good ecological status of the Baltic Sea by 2021 is unlikely to be met.

As regards chemical status, Finland's inland surface waters are 70% compliant with environmental quality standards for priority substances (in average annual concentrations). The contamination of the remaining 30% is largely due to transboundary air pollution for heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium and nickel. Some of the metals that affect the chemical status of inland waters also occur naturally. All coastal waters achieve good chemical status (EEA, 2018).

Groundwater is widely used by local residents and by waterworks. It is often much purer and better protected from contamination than the water in lakes and rivers. Untreated groundwater is generally considered suitable for human consumption, with only 2% of groundwater bodies failing to achieve good chemical status (Environment.fi, 2019). There are a few instances of nutrient pollution from agriculture but not on a large scale.

The main pressures on water ecosystems are nutrient loads from agriculture. Agriculture accounts for an estimated 60% of phosphorus and nearly 50% of nitrogen loading. The remainder stems from forestry, individual wastewater systems in sparsely populated areas, municipal wastewater treatment plants, industrial plants and fish farms (Niemi and Väre, 2019). Climate change will likely exacerbate pressures, as stronger winter rainfall, more frequent snowmelt and the shorter duration of snow cover are increasing nutrient leaching from fields into lakes and rivers.

Finland did not achieve its target to reduce nutrient loads entering water bodies by one-third by 2015 compared to 2001-05. The nutrient surplus of Finnish agriculture declined slightly in the early 2000s but has remained relatively unchanged since 2005, at around 50 kg/ha for nitrogen and 5 kg/ha for phosphorus; these surpluses are in the middle range of OECD countries (OECD, 2021e). Use of chemical fertilisers has decreased slightly since 2005 for both nitrogen and phosphorus, alongside declining crop production. Meanwhile, use of nitrogen and phosphorus from manure has remained stable.

Better recycling of nutrients from manure (and sludge from sewage treatment plants) could further reduce reliance to chemical fertilisers and reduce excess nutrients. Nutrient recycling would also reduce CO2 emissions linked to the energy-intensive production of chemical fertilisers. Finland provides financial support to direct manure to biogas production, which is an effective form of nutrient recycling.22 It could consider other policy measures such as nutrient reporting at farm level (as in Denmark) and taxing nutrient surpluses. Such taxes would improve environmental performance without compromising productivity or overall social welfare, especially if applied in combination with a revenue-recycling mechanism to avoid negative effects on farm income (Lankoski et al., 2018). Finland could also direct CAP financial support to integrated nitrogen management; this would encourage agricultural practices that reduce nitrogen in all its forms23 with co-benefits in terms of air, climate and biodiversity (Chapter 3). Finally, in the context of the BSAP, it could allow cap-and-trade in nutrients in the Baltic Sea watershed (as in New Zealand lakes).24

Renewable freshwater resources available per capita are among the highest in the OECD. Water abstraction intensity is low in international comparison. Approximately 90% of the Finnish population are served by municipal waterworks and some 60% of the served water is groundwater. The remaining 10% of the population rely on small systems of private wells. These are appraised by municipal authorities only in case of health concerns of the population.

Finland has a high treatment efficiency of urban wastewater. In 2019, 85% of the population were connected to public wastewater treatment plants applying tertiary treatment (OECD, 2021c). The remaining 15% of the population rely on independent wastewater treatment. This relatively high share is explained by the large number of sparsely populated areas of the country, which host almost one-fourth of the population. In these remote areas, the connection to a public sewage network would not be economically viable. Finland complies with the requirements of the EU Urban Waste Water Treatment (UWWT) Directive for agglomerations of more than 2 000 population equivalent (EC, 2021). All property-specific treatment systems were to meet tertiary treatment standards by the end of 2019. However, not all treatment systems comply with these standards.

Despite the good performance of water supply and sanitation (WSS), challenges remain with regards to ageing public infrastructure. Much of the water network is considerably old, and its actual condition is often not precisely known (Laitinen et al., 2019). Within the framework of the Protocol on Water and Health to the UNECE Water Convention in 2019, Finland is assessing the vulnerability of its water infrastructure to climate change, particularly the risks of untreated storm water overflow caused by increased heavy rain.

Finland does not use water abstraction and pollution charges, but industrial facilities and fish farms with permits dating from before 2000 continue to pay a water protection charge. Most water utilities operate according to the cost recovery principle, with some smaller utilities requiring public subsidies for their operation. As a rule, WSS services are not eligible for state aid in Finland, except to encourage the diffusion of new technologies such as smart meters. All municipal and industrial water usage is metered. Water supply charges consist of a fixed (connection, basic charge) and volume-based component. Municipal wastewater charges are based on water consumption (as a proxy for wastewater volume). Wastewater charges for large users are based on the volume and quality of wastewater. Water tariffs cover 95% of WSS expenditure, with budgetary transfers covering the rest. However, tariff levels will result in a financing gap of EUR 2.8 billion needed to comply with the EU Drinking Water Directive and the UWWT Directive by 2030 (OECD, 2020c). Water tariffs will eventually have to increase to finance infrastructure rehabilitation and upgrade. Tariff increases may exacerbate regional disparities in tariff levels. Finland could consider tariff levels per watershed, as in England and Wales, to share the infrastructure rehabilitation bill between residents of the watershed.

Steps can also be taken to reduce demand for water infrastructure. Prompted by the European Union’s amendment of the Directive on Energy Efficiency (2018/2002) and its provision on hot water consumption in buildings, Finland amended its Water Services Act in November 2020. The new legislation requires housing companies to charge tenants for their consumption of water. Individual water meters have been required since 2011 in newly built properties, and in building undergoing pipe renovations since 2013. This is a step in the right direction as it creates incentives to reduce water demand and, in doing so, reduces the need for WSS infrastructure. However, despite the installation of water meters, tenants’ water bills often remained based on the number of people in the household.

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Virtanen, E. et al. (2018), “Evaluation, gap analysis, and potential expansion of the Finnish Marine Protected Area Network”, Frontiers in Marine Science, Vol. 5/Nov, p. 402, http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2018.00402

Notes

← 1. The projections refer to the With Additional Measures (WAM) scenario, presented in Finland’s Integrated Energy and Climate Plan of December 2019.

← 2. The calculation of instant preliminary data on emissions and removals for 2020 was based on a less detailed methodology than that used for GHG inventories. Hence, the 2020 preliminary data present higher uncertainties than the GHG inventory data and will be revised. Preliminary GHG data are expected to be released in December 2021 and official data in March 2022 (OSF, 2021a).

← 3. With net zero referring to gross GHG emissions being offset by net LULUCF sinks and/or purchases of foreign emission permits.

← 4. The 2015 Climate Change Act (609/2015) provides for the legal and institutional structure of climate policy planning across government. It set the long-term goal to reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2050 compared to 1990.

← 5. There are some 2 million wood-based saunas in Finland.

← 6. Finland applied for adjustments for i) manure management; ii) small-scale combustion; and iii) transport sector emissions. When applying the adjustments, which were accepted for small-scale combustion and transport in 2015, ammonia emissions were below the emissions ceiling set by EU NECD in 2016 and 2017. Finland applied for an adjustment of agricultural emissions for 2019. If this proposed adjustment is accepted, Finland is complying with ammonia emissions reduction targets for 2019.

← 7. Final official estimates of 2020 emissions of air pollutants were not available at the time of writing.

← 8. The tax has been increased several times in the past decade. Since 2017, the tax rate has been EUR 70/t (Chapter 3).

← 9. Note that the estimation method for recycled waste changed in 2015, which explains most of the increase observed between 2014 and 2015.

← 10. Producer responsibility pertains to companies that import or manufacture the following products: i) cars, vans and comparable vehicles; ii) tyres from motor vehicles, other vehicles and equipment, as well as vehicles or equipment supplied with tyres; iii) electronic and electrical appliances; iv) batteries and accumulators; v) printing paper and paper for manufacturing other paper products; and vi) packaging where the producer responsibility pertains to the packers of the products and importers or packaged products but excluding the packaging producers.

← 11. For example, this system does not encourage municipalities to separate the recyclable material from the mixed waste they collect, because the PROs, which are responsible for collecting these waste streams, receive the income these materials can bring.

← 12. Door-to-door collection of biowaste and packaging waste will become mandatory for agglomerations with at least five apartments from July 2022 and July 2023, respectively. Door-to-door collection of biowaste will be expanded to agglomerations from July 2024. Equivalent requirements for non-residential properties (i.e. public and private operators generating MSW) will enter into force as from July 2022.

← 13. Construction and demolition waste, biodegradable waste, municipal waste, and waste electrical and electronic equipment.

← 14. The material efficiency audits, launched in 2010, investigate the amount of waste generated by a business’s operations, the costs of the waste and measures for reducing waste, with a view to enhancing competitiveness and reducing costs and carbon footprint.

← 15. Circular material use, or circularity rate, measures the share of material recovered and fed back into the economy in overall material use. It is defined as the ratio of the circular use of materials to the overall material use (Eurostat, 2021b).

← 16. Finnish wetlands include shallow gulfs and archipelagos, lake habitats, mires, peatland forests, ponds, alluvial meadows and forests, and spring complexes, as well as flowing waters.

← 17. Ditches lower the water level in peatlands and improve tree growth. 

← 18. The network of statutory protected areas includes 37 national parks, 19 strict nature reserves, 12 wilderness reserves and some 500 other protected areas.

← 19. Among other things, the programme aims to protect 20 000 hectares (ha) of mires, restore 12 000 ha of ditched mires and rehabilitate 80 wetlands by 2023.

← 20. The ecological status of surface waters reflects aquatic life, underlying physico-chemical parameters (including nutrient pollution), as well as habitat alteration due to hydrological or morphological changes. The chemical status reflects compliance with environmental quality standards for 45 hazardous substances and substance groups (priority substances).

← 21. The WFD RBMPs set more stringent nutrient reduction targets for coastal waters than the HELCOM BSAP; the only exception is the phosphorus target for the Gulf of Finland.

← 22. The digested biogas slurry can be used as an organic fertiliser for agriculture.

← 23. Nitrates, ammonia, nitric oxide and nitrous oxide.

← 24. Duhon, McDonald and Kerr (2015) and www.rotorualakes.co.nz/cleaning-up-lake-rotorua.

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