Tallinn residents must dispose of bio-waste separately starting April

Recycling bins  (picture is illustrative).
Recycling bins (picture is illustrative). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

From April onwards, all Tallinn residents will be obliged to dispose of biodegradable household waste separately from mixed municipal waste. The requirement, which until now has only applied to cooperatives with ten or more apartments, will be extended to all private houses, apartment blocks, companies and other institutions in the Estonian capital.

The practice of disposal of different forms of household waste separately has not yet fully caught on in Estonia. In 2021, only 49.6 percent of the waste produced in capital city Tallinn was recycled.

However, starting this April, however, everyone in the capital, both at home and at work, will be required to start disposing of their bio-waste such as potato peelings, fish scraps and rotten apples, separately, rather than throwing them into the municipal waste bin with all the other garbage.  In practice, this means that households will need to find space for another bin and rethink the way they dispose of waste. Tallinn's housing associations will also have to install extra bio-waste containers in their courtyards.

"We all have to make changes in our own kitchens," said Lüüli Junti, head of the circular economy department at Tallinn's Strategy Center. "For two consecutive years, the city has provided a total of 64,000 household kitchen bio-waste collection container. If you haven't received one from the city yet, you can ask your local council. It can be fitted conveniently under, or next to, the sink," she said.

 Junti added, that it is simply a case of people ensuring bio-waste is not put into the same container as mixed municipal waste at home. It can then be disposed of in the separate bio-containers, which are located outside, usually in the vicinity of apartment buildings.

Those living in small apartment buildings or private houses could compost their bio-waste themselves. The compost bin should be closed at the top and bottom in order to prevent rodents and birds from getting to it.

Tallinn residents are obliged to divide their household waste into three separate containers according to type. One container is for mixed municipal waste, a second for bio-waste and the third for paper and cardboard. The city also encourages housing associations to collect waste packaging by themselves, as the requisite recycling containers are often located further away from people's homes.

"The thing people generate the most of, is packaging, but for convenience they often put it in with the mixed waste. If (waste is) sorted properly, then the number of mixed waste containers can be reduced and replaced by containers to dispose of packaging," said Junti.

To find out how people in Tallinn sort their household waste, ERR current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" took to the streets and asked them.  

"(I divide it into) four: the usual, organic stuff and cans, cardboard too," said Keijo, who lives in one of the capital's apartment buildings.

"I sort (my household waste) into five (separate bins): glass, household rubbish, paper, packaging and whatever is biodegradable," said Elve, who also lives in an apartment building.

"(I put it in) mixed waste only, It's all the same. I don't use any paper, and the only bio-waste (I produce) comes from the dog," said Tallinn resident Alex.

More than 300 people live in the 108-apartment complex on Kärber tänav in Tallinn's Lasnamäe district. In addition to bio-waste, there are also separate bins for residents to dispose of their paper and glass. The complex has three containers for household waste, which are emptied four times a week.

Sergei Kuznetsov, chair of the local cooperative, said that it takes time for people to get used to sorting their household waste correctly . "(Now,) they already know how to do it, let's put it that way," he said. "Though of course, in the beginning, not everyone knew exactly what to do," he added.

By 2025, 55 percent of waste produced should be recycled. Although the city of Tallinn has the right to fine those who don't correctly sort their waste, it currently prefers a softer approach, by simply providing them with further explanations.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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