Pre-separated waste is transported in biodegradable bags through a sealed pipeline. Each type of material is delivered to an appropriate container for recycling, disposal or use as an energy source.
"The main innovation of the XMIT system is that different waste fractions can be transported in the same pipe, making separation easy," said Pertti Värtö, managing director of developer www.puzer.com Protekno Puzair.
"Investment costs are 20 to 40 per cent lower and maintenance less than half of that of competing systems."
In Finland, the system is currently in use at a shopping-residential complex in Espoo. Another is being installed in downtown Helsinki, serving a shopping mall, department store, three blocks of flats and three office buildings.
The development illustrates how retailers can help manufacturers in recycling and disposing of packaging waste. In the UK, supermarket Tesco recently launched the country's first fully automated recycling machine, developed by Norwegian company Tomra.
As with the Finnish innovation, the machine takes the hassle out of recycling by automatically sorting the plastic, metal and glass, using the latest technology to process up to 80 items per minute.
Recycling is becoming a key issue in manufacturing. UK businesses that attempt to increase profits at the expense of the environment have been told that they face tougher fines. A recent environment agency report entitled Spotlight on Business: Environmental Performance in 2003 showed that 11 company directors last year received fines of up to £20,000 for pollution incidents, around four times as many as five years ago.
The UK's packaging industry also has to find new methods of disposal. The country has a history of using landfills to dispose of both hazardous and non-hazardous wastes cheaply and easily, but this practice of co-disposal will be banned from 16 July 2004.
In addition, the number of landfills licensed to deal with hazardous waste in England and Wales will drop from 200 to 10 in mid July, which the agency warns will have a significant impact on the ability of business to dispose of their wastes.