Riigikogu committee wants to speed up reduction of packaging waste

Plastic packaging at an Estonian supermarket.
Plastic packaging at an Estonian supermarket. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Rigiikogu's European Union Affairs Committee (ELAK) has opted to speed up planned reductions in packaging waste generated in Estonia.

Liisa Pakosta (Eesti 200), committee chair, said that in addition to cutting out packaging for items which do not really need it, the plan is to reduce the volume of empty space within packed items.

Pakosta said: "In order for the market situation to equalize, in other words for producers to get into a more equal situation, we want a limit to be set on how much empty space can be found in a package."

"This maximum limit of empty packaging should be set at 40 percent, but in fact the goal should be even lower there too – to have less empty space around the packed items your buying," she went on.

Whereas up to now, the EU's target had been to reduce the generation of packaging waste by 15 percent by 2040, ELAK wants to do something of a "five years in four," and have this in place by 2035.

Estonia ranks fourth in Europe in terms of plastic waste generation per person, while a third of total waste produced in Estonia, reportedly consists of plastics.

Sigrid Soomlais, head of the environmental management department at the Ministry of the Environment, said that in addition to curbing the generation of waste, repeat use of packaging is also key.

She said: "Packaging could be reusable to as great an extent as possible, so that once have already produced packaging, it would remain in circulation for as long as possible."

Arvo Tuvikene, lead researcher at the Tartu-based University of the Life Sciences (Maaülikool), said limiting packaging waste helps to reduce risks of dangerous compounds contained in the waste ending up on our food table.

This happens, he said, when discarded packaging ends up one way or another in the food chain, both among land animals and fish, ultimately finding its way to the dinner table.

Pakosta stressed that the requirements apply only to larger companies and are aimed at making everyone's lives easier, for instance in having smaller shopping bags to take home from the store, or in knowing that a cup you drink out of at one of Estonia's many song festivals will be reused and not discarded immediately.

Arvo Tuvikene at the University of Life Sciences says business plays a role too, in considering how to cut down harmful materials in packaging, while the public can also be responsible in not, for instance discarding cigarette butts on the street – which can end up in the sea or another body of water, and which in any case deteriorate very slowly.

"Of course the state can make these decisions, where it is necessary to change the law, but people's behavior should also be changed a lot ," Tuvikene added.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots

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