Today, 29 May 2008, the Estonian government approved the national waste action plan for 2008-2013, which is designed to drastically reduce the amount of waste being used for landfill and the danger associated with waste produced as well as to increase recycling.
The key aspects of the waste action plan for the next five years are the sorting of waste where it occurs and collection of different types; the development of waste collection points and stations; and the reduction of the amount of waste produced and the danger it presents, including the recycling of waste for energy production, i.e. the incineration of waste according to requirements. One significant difference between this action plan and the last is that it now features waste action plans on a county by county basis.
“Specific targets have been set in the Packaging Act for the recycling of packaging in order to reduce waste, and specific restrictions have been put in place in the Waste Act with regarding to landfill from household waste,” explained Peeter Eek, Director of the Waste Department of the Ministry of the Environment. “A range of activities have been included in the waste action plan in order to achieve these goals, and implementing them will depend largely on local governments.” Eek added by way of example that it is the role of local governments to develop waste collection points and stations.
In order to have achieved a comprehensive, national waste management system by 2013, local governments will have to work together more closely in the production of documents related to the organisation of waste treatment and in the development of the collection of different types of waste.
One of the major problems highlighted in the waste action plan is that up to 20% of Estonian residents remain outside of the waste collection system, which in turn promotes dumping. The acuteness of the problem was underscored this spring by the results of the “Let’s Do It 2008” campaign to clean up the country. “People’s environmental awareness will need to have increased to such an extent over the next five years that less household waste is being produced and recycling is more common,” said Eek. “At the same time, illegal waste treatment must be reduced, and that is something we can only gain control over by implementing organised waste transport, by improving the efficiency of the collection of different sorts of waste and with effective surveillance.”
The options for the treatment of different kinds of household waste were analysed as part of the waste action plan, and it was revealed that the most effective measures in achieving the aims of the action plan are the sorting of recyclable waste and the incineration of remaining mixed waste. A start has been made on a household waste incineration plant project, but launching such plants will take time. In Tallinn (i.e. the area covered by the Tallinn waste incineration plant) it is realistic that this will be achieved by 2011. Consequently, the separate collection of biodegradable waste must be made more effective if the requirements established in the Waste Act are to be met.
The waste action plan foresees that by 2010 there will be 6 or 7 waste treatment centres operating in Estonia (one part of which could still be landfill of ordinary waste) and between 3 and 5 waste disposal sites for industrial and dangerous waste. 10 ordinary waste disposal sites remain to be closed by 2009. Regeneration (covering et al) of the disposal sites which have already been closed down will continue until 2013.
Production of the national waste action plan was led by the Ministry of the Environment. Representatives from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication and the Ministry of the Interior, the Estonian Waste Management Association, local government associations and the Estonian Council of Environmental NGOs were also involved in the process.