Jarkko Kauranen drives a dustbin lorry in Lohja. “I went for a job that will not disappear, whatever happens to the euro.”Waste disposal services for housing companies are proving a bone of contention as the vocal opposition by waste companies has thwarted the plans to implement a national model in which municipalities invite tenders from service providers.

The municipality carries out the tendering process for waste disposal services in the Capital Region and in Tampere, with the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) responsible for the process in Helsinki.

"Preventing free competition leads to weaker services and higher prices for waste collections," argues Harri Peltomaa, the managing director of the waste management company Lohjan Puhtaanapito Oy.

Only Lohja and Hämeenlinna have opted to swap private contracts between housing companies and waste service providers for municipal tender processes.

"A complaint has been submitted regarding the decision in Lohja as the regional waste management board made a decision on the matter against local residents' wishes," says Peltomaa.

Out of the main cities, Oulu and Lahti are included in the more than 90 per cent of municipalities that will allow housing companies to shop around for their waste service provider also in the future. In these cities, it is not a rare sight to see dustbin lorries from different companies driving along a street.

"Almost all the decisions have been complained about or appealed. Furthermore, the region of Vaasa has not made a decision yet as the region has not been able to set up a regional waste management board as required under the current legislation," explains Tuulia Innala, an environmental engineer at the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities.

The situation has come as a total surprise also to Jarkko Kauranen, who drives a dustbin lorry collecting waste from housing companies in Virkkala, in Lohja.

"In the past, everyone could to choose their own rubbish collector. From now on, one company selected by the municipality will collect waste from all the housing companies in the region," he says.

"As we live in a democracy, shouldn't residents be allowed to decide on their waste service provider? This is turning into a Soviet system."

Waste of time

Administrative courts are taking their time over handling the complaints on the waste collection decisions. The transition time being three years even at its shortest, status quo will remain for some time also in Lohja.

"In contrast to what's been said, the municipal tender process will help to decrease prices for waste collection services. On top of that, we'll keep contract areas small, so it's not possible for a big service provider to snap up all the contracts in a region," argues Jukka Paavilainen, the managing director of the waste management company Rosk'n Roll.

To date, Rosk'n Roll has invited tenders for waste disposal services for its entire area stretching from Hanko to Karkkila, with the exception of Lohja.

Operating in Western Uusimaa, Rosk'n Roll is owned by municipalities, with Hanko, Inkoo, Karkkila, Lohja, Raasepori, Siuntio and Vihti holding 99.62 per cent of its shares. The area covered by these municipalities has some 135,000 residents.

Under the new waste act, which entered into effect on 1 May 2012, all municipalities that had a contract-based system in place had to decide within a year whether to continue with that model or scrap it in favour of the municipal tender process.

"The municipality-centred model has been lobbied extremely forcefully," says Pia Vilenius, the acting managing director at the Association of Environmental Enterprises, which represents waste management companies.

According to Vilenius, the municipal tender process is presented in favourable light by including only the charge for emptying rubbish bins in the calculations, leaving out all the extra costs that will be added to the bill.

"For example in Ylivieska, Vestia charges a fee for collection points where dustbin lorries have to reverse a long way. Our member companies do not charge such extra fees," comments Vilenius.

If a lorry has to reverse more than 50 metres, Vestia charges an extra fee of 3.10 euros for collecting the waste.

"The rationale behind the extra charge for a long reversing distance is to get the rubbish bins transferred closer to the road. Before implementing the municipal tender process we looked into waste collection prices and found that the gap between the lowest and the highest rate was 150 per cent. Now the prices are the same across the whole region, which complies with the spirit of the waste legislation," says Antero Isokoski, the managing director of Vestia.

Tapio Mainio, Jukka Harju – HS
Niina Woolley – HT