Waste sorting pioneer is often sought out for advice
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Waste sorting pioneer is often sought out for advice

At Levi Ski Resort, waste sorting was started as early as in the 1980s. Today, the ski resort, which has developed its own set of sorting symbols, is known among other operators in the tourism industry as a waste sorting pioneer, to whom others come to seek advice.

We talked with Hannu Mäkitalo, who is responsible for starting the ski resort’s waste sorting activities, as well as with the current Security Manager Heikki Saarensalmi from the Levi Ski Resort.

– We initiated environmental efforts at Levi back in the 1980s. At that time, we were sorting waste generated by our maintenance operations, and in 1987 we piloted three snow grooming machines that were functioning on bio-oil. We received an environmental award for these early measures from the Keep Lapland Tidy organisation, Hannu Mäkitalo mentions.

– We have often been quite ahead in the development of our operations. Even now, in addition to sorting hard plastics, we separate coloured and clear soft plastics, even though the waste management operators in the region are not yet able to fully serve us in this area, Hannu continues.

Heikki Saarensalmi explains that active efforts are made to resolve the issue and discussions are ongoing with the waste management operators. For example, solutions for plastic processing are starting to become available to businesses in the North as well.

– At the moment we sort 18 different types of fractions for recycling: bottles and cans, plastics, compostable biowaste, carton and cardboard, paper, glass, metal, energy-saving light bulbs, electric and electronic equipment, batteries and accumulators, wood, impregnated wood, construction waste, rubbers, fluorescent lights, batteries, paint waste and oils, Heikki lists.

– We also encourage our customers to sort their waste into collection points that are located around the fells and restaurants. We have three waste collection points in our restaurants and are another about 30 sorting points around the slopes, all of which offer sorting for combustible waste, bottles and cans, as well as plastics.

– We have placed more than 30 collection points in the slopes so that there is at least one collection point for each lift line. On the busiest lines, waste collection points have been placed at both ends; the upper and lower stations. This has resulted in a visible change in the tidiness of the slopes. There is less rubbish on the ground and, for example, hardly any empty cans and bottles can be found anywhere other than in the appropriate recycling points, Heikki sums up.

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As part of the waste sorting activities, Levi Ski Resort has ended up having its very own waste sorting symbols designed.

– In order to effectively instruct people on waste sorting in different contexts, we felt that we needed clear symbols for all the different waste fractions. It came as a great surprise when we learned that there were no uniform symbols even for the most basic fractions. So, we made the decision to design the symbols for ourselves, and they have aroused a lot of interest among various actors nationwide, Heikki mentions.

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– We have been contacted quite a few times now by other tourism industy operators who have heard about our waste sorting bins in the fells as an exemplary implementation. We are even asked to teach our approach to others, and some ask if they can come for an excursion to see and learn first-hand, how we have organised these things. Such interest is certainly the best possible recognition for the work we have done to develop our waste sorting practices, says Heikki.


Tuukka Sutinen, Sustainability Manager for Levi Ski Resort, says that thanks to the municipality of Kittilä the waste sorting symbols have been introduced to the entire Levi tourist region.

– The municipality of Kittilä coordinates regional co-operation in environmental matters. A discussion about the sorting symbols had arisen within a project team that is developing the waste management plan for the Levi Tourist Region and as a result our recycling symbols have been implemented for the use of the entire region. The symbols were further developed in co-operation with, for instance, Lapeco, a consortium of Lapland’s municipal waste management operators. The region's tourism marketing organization, Visit Levi, has from then on been managing the distribution of the symbols to the use of the different actors in the region's, Tuukka explains.

– The development of waste management is a shared mission for the region, and Levi Ski Resort sets an example every year by arranging a fell cleaning day for its staff on the World Environment Day. At the same time, we also challenge other tourism operators in the region to join in on the efforts and contribute their share. Local associations, such as the sports association Immelän Vihurit, have also been very active for years in these volunteer efforts, says Tuukka.

Did you know that Levi is the first ISO 14001 certified ski resort in the Nordic countries? Learn more about the 8 most impactful areas of our environmental efforts. Be sure to also share your own environmental deeds with us under the #sustainablelevi tag in social media!

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