Sorting of biological waste is mandatory in Latvia from this year. Although it may initially cause inconvenience to residents, it is important for us to ensure that the mountains of waste in landfills are reduced.
The problem is waste that cannot be recycled
“When studying the data on Latvian waste flows, it is difficult to understand exactly what this amount of household waste is that cannot be recycled. It is clear that textiles, which are not currently sorted, but will have to be sorted, as well as hygiene products, for example, children’s diapers, which cannot be burned, and then there is bio-waste. At the moment, one of the biggest concerns of our society is how to determine what exactly is non-recyclable waste and what to do with it. Burning is an option, but it must be carefully planned. If we start burning what could be recycled, for example biomass , then there is a risk that we will sort and recycle less, but in the hierarchy of waste management, recycling is above waste recovery,” says Zero Waste Latvia Anna Doškina, chairwoman of the board.
There are many things around us everyday that are still not recyclable. “There will always be waste that we cannot recycle for technological reasons or whose processing costs will be disproportionately expensive, so the question is whether we will continue to grow landfills, or whether we will try to recover waste, thereby also obtaining electricity and heat. EU regulations also encourage us to think about how to reduce waste first volume. It would be important to produce as little as possible packages from an alloy of different materials, because we cannot recycle them,” explains SIA Eco Baltic environment chairman of the board Jānis Aizbalts.
The amount of waste should be reduced
“We are used to seeing product packaging everywhere – on store shelves, in our homes, at work. However, when it comes to separate collection of used packaging, residents have doubts – how efficiently is it recycled, does it make sense to make an effort to collect it? It depends on our attitude towards waste , how efficiently we will be able to recycle and reduce their volume. Separate waste collection is not only an opportunity to positively influence the environment, but also a responsibility. Sorting waste allows you to significantly increase the percentage of recyclable materials and can make a significant contribution to reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Together with a culture of waste sorting, it is important to develop and maintain an understanding of reasonable consumption of goods – conscious choice of goods with more environmentally friendly packaging, rejection of redundant packaging materials and transition to alternative options that are more environmentally friendly. Recycling and waste recovery technologies are tools, but public behavior and changing the culture of consumption is the key to a sustainable future,” emphasizes SIA Green center project manager Žanna Lampicka.
Careful calculations are required
The goals set by the EU directives stipulate that in 2035, 65% of the generated household waste must be processed, while it is permissible to bury 10% of the generated household waste in landfills. The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development (VARAM) reports that the waste management state plan 2021-2028. 2018, during development, after evaluating the amount of domestic waste generated in Latvia and its management methods, it was concluded that as a result of waste preparation for processing and regeneration activities, around 200-220 thousand tons of non-recyclable, but high-energy-intensive materials, which can be prepared as an energy resource for energy production, are generated . In the current situation, when appropriate waste processing or regeneration facilities with relevant capacities are not available, this amount of energy resources is buried in landfills. “I think that waste recovery facilities will be necessary in any country, but the question is the size of the capacity. If the operator builds a facility, he does everything to ensure that the waste is brought to him and the business operates. There must be municipal or state institutions that accurately estimate , how much capacity will be needed in order not to build too big,” believes Jānis Aizbalts.
The capacity is different
In many places in Europe, waste recovery plants were built at a time when waste was not sorted efficiently enough and there was no deposit system, so the old facilities are closed. “There has never been such capacity in Latvia. In Lithuania, they exist, but it is forbidden by law to import waste for regeneration there, and currently the capacity is too large. There is one facility in Estonia, and its capacity is completely occupied by Estonia’s own waste. In general, the EU has about a lot, but in many places it is forbidden to import waste, so these capacities are not used, and if they are usable, would it really make sense to transport waste from Latvia to Italy or Spain?” Jānis Aizbalts describes the situation.
Latvia is one of the EU countries where waste incineration is currently not widely used. Co-incineration of fuel obtained from waste (NAIK) is carried out by SIA SCHWENK Latvia in a cement factory. “25 thousand tons of waste are burned there annually. The company does not accept waste that does not meet quality standards and that cannot be used for cement production, so the waste is imported from abroad,” Anna Doshkina knows how to say.
Also this year, discussions continue in the community about the creation of a new waste recovery plant in Ropaži. According to the information provided by VARAM, the NAIK regeneration equipment projects are currently in the implementation stage – the construction of a regeneration plant in Ventspils, the planned regeneration capacity is 15.5 thousand tons per year, and the NAIK co-incineration wood chip boiler house in Jelgava – the predicted NAIK regeneration capacity is estimated at 20-30 thousand tons per year. According to forecasts of generated and managed domestic waste streams, the annual volume of produced NAIK is at least 150 thousand tons of material, which can be mainly produced by processing unsorted domestic waste stream.