State aims to make package recycling more convenient for the public

Public recycling dumpsters.
Public recycling dumpsters. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The Estonian state is redesigning packaging waste disposal processes, since the current system has done little to nothing to encourage recycling.

This pertains to packaging recycling, rather than bio-waste; in the latter case the state, local government, business and the public are somewhat ahead of the curve.

As an EU member state, Estonia has pledged to increase its share of recycled waste to 55 percent by next year year. 

This target is currently only half-fulfilled, ERR reports, while failure to fully meet targets by next year could result in a fine of several million euros.

Sigrid Soomlais, head of the environmental management department at the new Ministry of Climate, said that part of the problem is that recycling bins are located too far from people's residences, in many cases.

"It's really the case that, since at present collection is mainly carried out via publicly-placed containers, it is often inconveniently and remotely located for people, while these containers can often be found full when you reach them," Soomlais said.

While sorting waste is now mandatory in Estonia, the public often discard their waste unsorted, while many, or most, apartment buildings still lack recycling dumpsters, and municipalities tend to disperse theirs in a variety of locations.

Kristiina Dreimann, board member at TVO, a private association of recyclers, says she also thinks that the current packaging collection system needs to be changed, primarily by making recycling easier, as well as raising awareness.

Sigrid Soomlais meanwhile said that the overall intention is to make recycling containers more conveniently located, while the number of public collection points will necessarily fall as a result.

Discussions are currently underway as to how the system should most wisely be altered, she said, adding that the possibility is there that the state will make the collection of packaging mandatory, at the point of origin, ie. where it is first disposed of.

Differing solutions are likely to apply to urban and suburban areas, versus more rural locations, she added.

Kristiina Dreimann noted that the current oversight system, where producer responsibility organizations ensure collection is being correctly handled, will need to be replaced by another method, ideally with one carrier should deal with waste collection.

This would lead to efficiency gains, tighter logistics and lower costs, and would be easier for a municipality to monitor, he argued.

As with the collection of bio-waste, the state plans to hand out support in respect of packaging sorting as well. 

The Climate Ministry says it will be submitting proposals for overhauling the current packaging recycling system early on in the fall.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mirjam Mäekivi

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