Burner of hazardous waste eyeing new incineration plant

  • 2020-09-13
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – After the discontinuation of the production of cement clinker at the cement plant of Kunda on Estonia's north coast that used to be the biggest incinerator of hazardous waste in Estonia, the incineration plant of Epler & Lorenz in Tartu is the sole hazardous waste incinerating facility in the whole country. 

The owners of the plant wish to build a brand new facility next to the existing one that would be the biggest such facility in Estonia, capable of burning up to 15,000 tons of hazardous waste per year, Postimees reported.

In total some 400,000 tons of hazardous waste, meaning waste which due to its harmful impact may pose a danger to people's health, property or the environment, was created in Estonia in 2018, according to the Estonian Environment Agency. On top of that comes 10.5 million tons of waste generated by the oil shale industry.

According to the Estonian Circular Economy Industries Association (ECEIA), 122,000 tons of that waste is incinerable waste, Postimees said.

As at the beginning of September, there were 79 companies in Estonia handling hazardous waste and registered handling locations numbered 214. After the closure of the incinerator in Kunda that had a capacity of burning 11,000 tons of wastes per year, and which burned waste for the generation of energy, the only companies actually handling hazardous waste in Estonia are the state-owned landfill of Vaivara in northeastern Estonia, where hazardous waste is landfilled, and the Epler & Lorenz plant in Tartu, which burns hazardous waste, Margit Ruutelmann, manager of the ECEIA, said.

The two facilities are capable of accepting 2,000 tons of waste per year combined. The rest of the hazardous waste either has to be dispatched to Scandinavia or landfilled, which is the worst option for the environment.

The best option, according to Ruutelmann, is recycling, while incineration is the medium option.  

Janis Lorenz , board member of Epler & Lorenz, told Postimees that the problem of insufficient capacities in the handling of hazardous waste needs to be solved. 

"The question is, what shall we do next. Hospital waste definitely has to be incinerated. Then there is paint waste, lubricant waste, medicines," Lorenz said, adding the the amounts of waste created were growing and much of it was landfilled.

The planned plant would cost 15 million euros to build and it would do the same as the existing plant, while being more efficient and significantly more environment friendly, according to Lorentz.