Circular economy

Advancing the circular economy is one of the focus areas of our sustainability strategy. Our goal is for K Group's operations to generate as little waste as possible. We are reducing food waste, excess packaging and the use of plastic in a target-oriented way, and offer customers recycling opportunities in stores.

Our goal, which is in line with the circular economy, the spirit of the Waste Act and the K Group's sustainability targets, is to reduce the amount of waste for incineration and to direct materials for recycling.

We are committed to the food industry’s material efficiency commitment, where our goal is to reduce food waste and achieve a 4% increase in the waste recycling rate in our own operations and at the K-food stores by the end of 2026 compared with 2019, when the recycling rate was 74%. At the end of 2023, the recycling rate at food stores covered by our centralised waste agreement was 79%. We are also committed to halving the amount of food waste we generate by 2030 from the 2019 baseline.

We were the first company in the retail sector to join the Construction Plastics Green Deal agreement. The goal of the agreement is to promote the circular economy of plastics by reducing the use of plastic and promoting the recycling of plastic in the construction industry. We have also joined the SUP Green Deal, which aims at reducing the consumption of portion packaging. Under this agreement, we are reducing the amount of single-use plastics in portion packaging in the grocery trade and developing new packaging solutions with our partners.

We offer all K Group’s grocery stores and building and home improvement stores in Finland the opportunity to participate in the national centralised waste management framework agreement (Circular Economy Agreement). At the end of 2023, a total of 876 K Group stores and locations were covered by the Circular Economy Agreement. The recycling rate of waste generated at these locations was 76%.

The Circular Economy Agreement also includes the services of a circular economy manager who visits 150-170 K-stores annually. The manager trains the personnel in circular economy and helps the K-retailer to identify and plan waste management improvement activities, and makes sure the waste management is implemented according to the new waste act. This ensures that the waste management is done according to law and is cost-effective. Cost-effective waste management solutions improve, for example, plastic, paper and cardboard recycling, and reduce the amount of mixed waste.

In 2023, we started to implement the separate collection of plastic packaging generated in K-food stores, K-Rauta stores and Onninen stores. Thanks to improvements made to the separate collection of new plastic packaging fractions and clear plastic film, a total of 17% more plastic waste was collected in 2023 than in the previous year.

Customers can take household packaging waste to the Rinki eco take-back points at K-food stores. At the end of 2023, there were a total of 398 Rinki eco take-back points located by our stores, where our customers could sort cardboard, glass and metal. In addition, plastic was collected at 318 eco take-back points. In total, over 16,400 tonnes of waste was brought to the eco take-back points in 2023.

K-Rauta stores offer their customers the possibility to order the Helpposäkki skip bag or Helppolava skip service to their renovation site in cooperation with L&T. Helpposäkki skip bags are suitable for garden and renovation waste and other miscellaneous junk.

On the internal E-learning platform, Kesko provides a broad array of sustainability training. The circular economy trainging, for example, includes sorting of waste, recycling and basics of circular economy. The attendance of the courses is monitored by the circular economy steering group. In addition, the circular economy manager provides on site training for the store employees.

The Kesko head office in Helsinki is part of the WWF Green Office. This programme aims to for example increase the recycling rate at the office with different actions such as waste sorting guidance and campaigns for collecting special waste.

Targets have been set in our packaging and plastics policies to reduce the use of packaging and plastic and improve the recyclability of packaging:

  • Our target is to reduce the amount of plastic contained in packaging by 20% by the end of 2025 compared with the baseline in 2019.
  • We are aiming for all of our packaging to be recyclable or reusable by the end of 2025.

Our plastics reduction target is also part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s and the UN’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which aims to reduce the unnecessary consumption of plastic.

In 2023, we reduced plastic in the packaging of our own brand products by 29 tonnes. This corresponds to 27.6 million Pirkka recycled plastic bags. Compared with the 2019 baseline, we have reduced plastic in our own packaging by 11.7%. In 2023, we made changes to the packaging of a total of 93 own brand products in compliance with our packaging and plastics policies.

K Group is committed to the plastic bag agreement between the Finnish Commerce Federation and the Ministry of the Environment in 2016, which aims to reduce the consumption of plastic bags in Finland to no more than 40 plastic bags per person per year by the end of 2025 (in 2023 consumption was 64 bags per person per year).

Finnish Grocery Trade Association PTY and a number of member companies – including K Group – campaigned to reduce plastic bag consumption in May 2024 and will return to the issue in September.   



Together with our partners, we are seeking solutions to utilise production side streams and food waste. Examples of cooperation:

  • In a circular economy collaboration launched with Lassila & Tikanoja and Sinituote in spring 2024, the buckets used for storing cut-flowers that accumulate at K-stores will be used as a raw material in the manufacture of cleaning products.
  • We collaborate with Touchpoint and Rester to recycle workwear discarded by K Group.
  • In cooperation with Lassila & Tikanoja and Amerplast, we recycle plastic film used in transporting products to stores into packaging material used for Pirkka soft tissue.
  • Waste sweet peppers from Kesko’s central warehouse are used in Hyvis sweet pepper and lentil soup. The soup was selected as the winner of the Food and Beverage category in the Most Sustainable Product in Finland competition in 2024.
  • The biowaste generated at K Group locations covered by the centralised waste management agreement is taken to Gasum’s biogas plants for biogas production. Biogas is used as energy in the production of new Pirkka products, such as ice creams and Karelian pasties.
  • In cooperation with Olvi, we have launched the Olvi Iisalmi non-alcoholic orange long drink, which is flavoured with handmade orange distillate, made with surplus oranges from the K Group’s central warehouse and orange peels from K-stores’ orange juice machines.
  • In our circular economy cooperation with Berner, coffee grounds from Neste K service stations are used as raw material for Pirkka Kaffe plant soil and plant nutrients. Pirkka Kaffe plant soil was selected as the winner of the Sustainable Product category in the European Private Label Awards in 2024. 

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The Finnish Waste Act was updated in 2021. The goal is to reduce the amount of waste and increase reuse and recycling. Waste of different types and quality must be sorted and collected separately for recycling. Separately collected waste may no longer be taken to a landfill or incinerated.

Waste must be separated if a business provider produces:

  • more than biowaste other than garden or park waste 10 kg per week
  • plastic packaging waste 5 kg per week
  • paper and cardboard packaging waste 5 kg per week
  • glass packaging waste 2 kg per week
  • metal packaging waste and other small-sized metal waste in total 2 kg per week.

The Waste Act section 15a in Finland states that Waste that has been collected separately for preparing for re-use or recycling shall not be delivered for incineration or landfilling.

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