Estonia planning national real-time waste management monitoring system

Rubbish piled beside a full container.
Rubbish piled beside a full container. Source: Maanteeamet

Plans to digitize Estonia's waste management system to make it fully traceable in real-time are being drawn up by the Ministry of Environment.

Estonia is planning to be the first country with a fully digital real-time monitoring system for waste management which will also help assess people's garbage sorting behavior.

The new system will help reduce people's fears that their carefully sorted garbage is not being taken to the right place. The data will help create new business models of waste management and for companies to better plan their own activities.

As data will be received in real-time it will be possible to quickly see where problems occur and then fix them. The new system will also be more transparent for the public.

Undersecretary of the Ministry of the Environment Kaupo Heinma outlined the plans to ERR.

"When a garbage truck arrives, the movement of waste will be automatically sent to the system, similar to a courier's movement with a parcel - what went where and when. Similar to how the Marine Traffic app can track the movement of ships and Flight Radar the flights of aircraft. The aim is to digitize the waste movement as a whole," he said.

He said the sector must be onboard with the idea and said the will seems to be there at the moment.

Estonia's goal is to recycle 55 percent of municipal waste by 2025 and Heinma hopes the waste management system will be digitized by then. The first step is to add GPS trackers to garbage trucks to see exactly where garbage is taken and how much.

It is assumed funding will come from the European Union and €110 million is earmarked to be spent on the circular economy and its digitization in the 2021-2027 budget period. Money to be used for up to three years after the end of the period.

"I would like to do as much as possible as soon as possible. We will not only make changes to the law with new, stricter requirements, but we will also make a turnaround in green management," Heinma said.

The plans will also clearly define what should be done by national and local governments. People's recycling habits could also be monitored and they could be penalized or incentivized to do more.

"These solutions exist individually in other countries. But Estonia can make this big change because Estonia is so small. It would add a lot to the transparency of waste management and show that it is not a dark place where no one knows what is going on," Heinma said.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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