Eesti Energia plans to end importing waste

Iru plant.
Iru plant. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Estonia's biggest oil shale to energy Eesti Energia incinerates both domestic and imported waste from the Iru power plant. The company's goal is to stop the import of waste from next year, however and to resolve issues concerning waste deposited in Estonia.

Almost 250,000 tons of mixed municipal waste is incinerated annually at the Iru power plant's waste unit, just east of Tallinn, which is used to produce heating for the capital.

Veiko Räime, Chairman of the Management Board at Eesti Energia's renewables subsidiary Enefit Green said that the Iru plant will not be threatened with being left without raw waste if imports are halted, as Estonia is seeing an upward trend in recycling and waste generation.

"Last year, the share of imported waste stood at 14 percent, or about 40,000 tonnes; this year it has decreased two-fold. We don't see imported waste as reaching reaching Iru by 2022," Räim said.  "Everything has been replaced by domestic waste, mainly from Tallinn," he went on.

Three years ago, the European Council decided that Member States should raise the reuse and recycling of municipal waste to 55 percent, by 2025.

Katrin Kaar, the chief specialist of the Environmental Bureau's waste bureau, said that the necessity of import in Estonia depends on the success of garbage recycling, however - in other words if recycling grows, Iru still might not get enough raw material from domestic sources alone.

"If we had the ideal level of mixed municipal waste recycling in Estonia, Iru power plant would probably run out of raw material. Based on how much refuse we generate in the country, we will most likely lack domestic waste for these incineration volumes," Kaar said.

Waste is imported to Estonia mainly from neighboring countries, in order to keep the carbon footprint of pollution on delivery as small as possible.

Kaar said that waste is imported to Estonia that does not have the capacity to handle waste in the country of origin.  For example, lead batteries are imported into the plant at Sillamäe, the handling capacity for which only Estonia has from among the neighboring countries.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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