Waste sorting system enabling more effective material recycling
Valuable materials and nutrients are lost when landfilling and incinerating waste. Developing the waste separation system at Päijät-Häme Waste Management company (PHJ), in Kujala Waste Treatment Center, Lahti, Finland, enables more effective recycling of waste material.

PHJ strives to achieve a 50% material-recycling rate by processing waste into raw materials for industry and minimising the amount of waste incinerated or taken to landfill. The region promotes at-source sorting system. In addition, the new sorting plant LATE supplements the regional sorting system when at-source sorting of waste is not possible, e.g. when handling construction and mixed waste as well as waste generated by industry. The plant processes mixed waste and separates fibres, plastics, cardboard and various metals that can be recycled. It utilizes the newest mechanical waste-sorting technologies. Separation is based on material size, shape, optical and physiological features. Waste that can’t be recycled as material is used as energy. Only a small share of the rest, e.g. rocks and other inorganic material, is landfilled.

The public company PHJ serves over 200 000 residents and 13 000 companies. The LATE sorting plant receives 250 tons waste/day (66 000 t/a). It comprises 14 exit points for sorted material. It is the first of a kind smart sorting plant in Finland.

From the circular economy point of view, continuous development of the system and the plant will ensure the best possible results.

Resources needed

PHJ is jointly owned by 10 municipalities. Planning and supervising construction 0,4 M€, construction work 3M€, process procurement 6,6 M€. In total 10 M€.
The plant employs directly 4 employees/shift working in 2 shifts, and indirectly several more persons in the further processing of materials.

Evidence of success

Previously, the regional focus has been on utilizing waste as an energy source. In 2016, the recycling rates of municipal waste were 42 % as material, 55 % as energy, while 3 % was landfilled. The percentage of recycling will increase in the coming years, depending on the success of further processing.

Difficulties encountered

The success in increasing material recycling requires continuous development and dialogue between downstream companies and packaging manufacturers. A challenge is to increase sorting of biowaste at the place of origin, in order for the waste ending up at the sorting plant to be as clean as possible.

Potential for learning or transfer

To reach high material recycling rates a functional at-source sorting system in households is fundamental. However, all waste is not separated at-source and mechanical separating of mixed waste is also needed. The smart LATE plant provides an example on effective additional waste separation.

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Main institution
Päijät-Häme Waste Management Ltd
Etelä-Suomi, Finland (Suomi)
Start Date
December 2016
End Date


Susanna Vanhamaki Please login to contact the author.

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