Committee: Landfilling taking place under label of recycling

Recycling bins.
Recycling bins. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The state budget control select committee of the Estonian parliament said after a discussion on the topic of waste recycling on Monday that landfilling is taking place at Estonian landfills under the label of recycling.

The select committee discussed at its public sitting reports of the National Audit Office on the recycling of bio-waste included in municipal waste and waste recycling operations at landfills and supervision of landfilling. 

The chairman of the committee Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said the committee took note of the conclusion of the National Audit Office that supervision by the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate is unable to prevent abuses related to recycling at landfills and reduce the risk of fraud. Reinsalu said a significant risk exists that scheming with waste is taking place at landfills and under the label of recycling landfilling is actually taking place, for which pollution charges are not paid. 

The select committee stated that in permitting the recycling of waste, the Environmental Board must become convinced that such activity is necessary and is not aimed at evading the payment of pollution charges. 

The chairman of the select committee said, referring to the report of the National Audit Office, that in the authorizations issued to landfills recycling activities must be described in greater detail and clear and controllable requirements set for such activities. Supervision of waste recycling by the Environmental Board must offer a precise overview of what waste has been recycled at landfills and how. 

The committee also noted, based on the report of the National Audit Office, that the targets of the 2014 national waste management plan and of the extended plan for 2022 have not been met as far as bio-waste is concerned. The committee also took note of the opinion of the National Audit Office that the Ministry of the Environment has been unable to motivate municipalities to collect bio-waste separately and to subject it to recycling. As a result, bio-waste is collected separately as part of organized waste transportation only is slightly over half of the country's municipalities.

The committee found that existing and planned capabilities for the recycling of bio-waste are not sufficient to recycle the entire amount of bio-waste generated. Activities should be supported which enable to recycle bio-waste in the most effective way and whereby the taking into use of quality products made from such waste is ensured.

The committee took note of the proposals of the National Audit Office for how to achieve the relevant goal and considers it reasonable for the Ministry of the Environment to immediately consider applying relevant measures. The committee wishes to hold a follow-up discussion on the same topic next spring. 

Minister of the Environment Tonis Mölder (Center) and representatives from the Ministry of Rural Affairs, the Environment Agency and the Environmental Board, Tallinna Jäätmete Taaskasutuskeskus waste recycling center and the National Audit Office offered their clarifications to the parliamentary committee.   

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Editor: Helen Wright

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