Recycling containers, wrappers and bags – how to sort plastic packaging

What kind of plastic can you put in the collection container? Do the pieces of packaging need to be washed or packed inside each other? Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY’s Environmental Specialist Minna Partti offers advice for the complex questions of sorting plastic packaging.

Written by Kati Jalagin

The new waste containers for collecting plastic packaging are yellow in colour, so they stand out well from the other waste containers. The older containers that have been in use for longer are in different colour, either grey or orange. The containers meant for plastic can also be identified by the label on their side. 

- As the name suggests, only plastic packaging can be sorted into plastic waste collection containers. Packaging here refers to plastic tubs, containers, wrappings and bags used for packing sales products, for example. It also includes shopping bags that you use to carry home your purchases, says Environmental Specialist Minna Partti from HSY.

All plastic packaging sorted into the containers must be empty.

All kinds of plastics, excluding PVC packaging with the code 03 or 3, can be sorted into the plastic waste containers. Oil cans or plastic packaging containing traces of hazardous waste cannot be sorted into the plastic packaging collection container. Furthermore, plastic items that are not packaging should also not be sorted in with plastic packaging. These include items such as toys, dish brushes, watering cans and plastic sleds.

All plastic packaging sorted into the containers must be empty. Lids and caps should be removed from the packaging and put into the waste containers separately, as they might be made of a different kind of plastic to the rest of the packaging. If you have several yoghurt tubs or similar of the same kind, they can be put inside each other, but otherwise all different packaging and its parts should be placed into the collection container separately. For example, plastic bags cannot be put inside plastic bottles or containers.

As long as the packaging will not start to grow mould or smell, it is clean enough.

- The packaging sorted into the collection point must be empty and clean enough. As long as the packaging will not start to grow mould or smell, it is clean enough. If you cannot get the packaging clean by rinsing it lightly or giving it a quick wipe, it should be sorted into mixed waste. Labels or price tags do not need to be removed from the packaging, Partti says.

Sorting plastic packaging is easy to do. When you start sorting, it will gradually become an everyday routine that happens effortlessly and almost automatically. The amount of mixed waste decreases as if by magic, and the plastic packaging will continue its life as the raw materials of new products.