People in Estonia do not recycle enough, while some don't have the chance

Recycling bins.
Recycling bins. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Around a third of people in Estonia sort their household waste every day. This is not enough to achieve meaningful environmental impact as most people still chuck all of their garbage in the same bin. Many do not recycle for lack of the right containers close to home.

Even though there is more talk of waste sorting in society, many people have still not picked up the habit.

While Estonia has pledged to recycle 55 percent of household waste by 2025, Rainer Pesti, business development manager for waste handler Ragn-Sells, said that only around one-third of domestic waste is recycled. He added that people do not sort their trash because most buildings do not have nearby containers.

Pesti said that while plenty of people would like to and do sort packagings, it is often the case of having to drive around looking for the right container to put them in. "It will become convenient once the recycling containers are just outside your door," he remarked.

Today, every piece of packaging or paper thrown into the mixed waste container is burned, which system is not sustainable.

"At the end of the day, what we buy in the supermarket is nothing other than natural resources, and if it is all thrown in together burning is the only way to handle it is, which makes it impossible to give these materials a new life."

Estonia is looking at a waste fine stretching into millions of euros if it cannot keep its promise of upping recycling volumes. Pesti said that Estonia is among the back markers in Europe when it comes to the relative importance of recycled trash, while he believes the government has begun to realize that the current system cannot improve matters.

"We can see more pressure put on local governments and legislation for waste handling tenders to include the sorting obligation and collecting bio-waste, waste paper and packagings separately."


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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