Today it is almost impossible not to come into contact with waste on a daily basis. Any consumption assumes the producing of waste on some level. To keep our environment decent and save natural resources, the producing of waste must be avoided as much as possible and the existing waste must be collected and managed in an environmentally friendly way.Estonia’s goal in the area of waste is to recycle, as much as possible, the materials left over from consumption, i.e. waste. However, the most important thing is to avoid the producing of waste. Waste must be recycled and reused as new materials. The environmental risk coming from waste should also be decreased.
The Government’s new waste management plan for 2014–2020 mainly focuses on modern product design, clean resource-saving production and the recycling of already produced materials. Frugality, innovation, comfort and effectiveness – all four keywords that best capture the mood in the area of waste for the next seven years.
The effect on the environment should be minimised
Waste management is based on the hierarchy of waste management, i.e. the principle of minimising the effect of waste management on the environment as much as possible. The highest ranking solutions in the hierarchy should be given priority. The best solution is considered to be avoiding the producing of waste, whereas recycling is considered a lower priority solution. Methods of recycling include reuse, recycling of materials and energy production. Landfill disposal is considered to be the last solution in the hierarchy.
Recovery as a method of recycling is on the rise
In recent years, recovery of waste has escalated increasingly. Extended producers' responsibility and recycling organisations have been founded, who have, in turn, established networks for collecting and recovering electronic equipment waste as well as battery and accumulator waste, old tires and packaging. In addition, the number of collection and demolition sites for end-of-life vehicles complying with environmental requirements has also increased.
The amounts being landfilled are decreasing thanks to the obligation to collect waste separately and the limits to landfilling bio-waste; the gradual increase of the pollution tax as well as the intensive developing of new recovery methods such as mechanical-biological treatment and waste fuel production, mass incineration and biofuel production have also had a positive effect on the amounts of waste being landfilled.
In addition to recovering, actions supporting the avoidance/reduction of waste production are becoming increasingly important, gapping the connection between economic growth and waste production.
Estonia continuously produces a large amount of waste including hazardous waste from the oil shale industry. New and better solutions for reducing and recycling waste are also being explored in this area.
One of the largest tasks Estonia must tackle is reducing the amount of oil shale waste. In 2007–2011, more than 85% of waste was industrial waste and 79% of the total amount of waste generated was related to oil shale extraction and the power industry. A large proportion of industrial waste also comes from the wood and cement industry, this is mainly sent to recycling.
New methods for reusing and recycling waste, such as producing building materials from old tires rubber mats and plastic waste, are continuously being developed. Biogas is produced from manure, slurry, landfill gas, sludge and bio-waste. The recycling of waste rock has also significantly increased – in 2010 and 2011 around 70% of waste rock was recycled in comparison to the previous 20%. For Estonia, the most important task is to find ways to increase the recycling of oil shale waste.
The state, enterprisers and citizens must all contribute to reach the goals set for recycling. Together, a cleaner environment and economy in using natural resources can be reached.