The Finnish Environment Institute monitors international waste transfers in cooperation with, among others, Customs and the police. In addition to inspections carried out at ports and border crossings, the Finnish Environment Institute conducts corporate inspections in collaboration with environmental authorities that oversee companies. - Okko Saastamoinen, Finnish Environment Institute


In a significant environmental and industrial shift, Finland has witnessed a dramatic increase in the import of waste requiring waste transfer permits, reaching a record high of approximately 310,000 tonnes in 2023. This growth not only underscores the country's evolving waste management strategies but also reflects broader changes in the international waste market.

The Finnish Environment Institute (Syke), the authority responsible for international waste transfers, highlighted this unprecedented rise in its preliminary data for 2023.

The volume of waste imported into Finland last year was nearly double that of its exports, showcasing the country's increasing role as a destination for international waste processing and energy recovery.

A notable change from previous years was the surge in imports of waste-derived fuels, which quadrupled to about 180,000 tonnes. These fuels, imported from countries including Italy, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Poland, and Norway, are used in various Finnish energy and cement plants such as Finnsementti Oy, Fortum Waste Solutions Oy, Lahti Energia Oy, Syklo Oy, and Vantaan Energia Oy. Gemifin Oy played a significant role in importing these fuels, demonstrating the strategic importance of waste-to-energy solutions in Finland's waste management ecosystem.

This shift aligns with Finland's increased waste incineration capacity and growing demand for recycled fuels, a stark contrast to the years 2018-2020 when Finland exported significant amounts of municipal waste due to insufficient domestic processing capabilities. The cessation of wood and wood waste imports from Russia has also impacted the market, driving changes in waste import and export patterns, including a decrease in the export of construction and demolition waste and an increase in the import of treated wood waste and waste oil.

While the report from the Finnish Environment Institute focuses on wastes that require a transfer permit, it's important to note that "green" wastes, deemed environmentally benign, such as scrap metal, waste paper, and untreated wood waste, are generally transferred within EU and OECD countries without the need for a permit.

These developments reflect Finland's adaptive approach to waste management, aiming to balance environmental considerations with the practicalities of waste disposal and energy recovery. As the country continues to build its waste processing capacity, it plays a pivotal role in the international waste management landscape, promoting sustainability and efficient resource use.