RECYCLING - Making money out of Garbage

  • 2008-03-12
  • By Yuri Sogis

GOLD MINES? Smart people know there's money to be made from old rubbish. Smooth operators in the region are creating a sophisticated industry out of others' waste.

Environmentalism sounds great but there is the sticky  question of what to do with all the rubbish. It may not be the most glamourous of industries but it is one of vital importance and one which carries special significant in a region known for it's pristine forests and natural beauty. In this week's Industry Insider we look at the main players in recycling, those who want to preserve and those just doing business.

RIGA - The best way to recycle  a glass bottle in Tallinn is to leave it beside (but not in!) a public trash can. An enterprising local is sure to  pick it up within a few minutes and find some use for it. In downtown Riga meanwhile, getting rid of garbage is pretty difficult. You won't find any plastic containers neatly lining the alley, waiting to be emptied by garbage crews.  Rigans urbanites have to greet the vans personally. If they are late, a sad walk back upstairs to the apartment with the same load is guaranteed.

Outside of the city center the situation is a bit better. There you can dump the garbage to one of several containers pretty much any time. But of course you have got to hope and pray  that the garbage van shows up at all. Someone needs to find a better way to dispose of and recycle the Baltic's garbage.
The Riga city council begun  reforming the the waste disposal system this year. The city is being divided into five areas with a specific operating company assigned to every district. The thrust of the new concept is to make the garbage disposal operators directly responsible for the actually collected waste, while citizens will be encouraged to sort their household garbage just like it is done in Germany.

Private operators in Riga fear reform would harm competition. This is nothing new according toRiga vice-mayor Janis Dinevitch who asserts the viability of the new model.
 "In the past, there was no true competition in the garbage disposal business in Riga, because 75% of the garbage was collected by one firm (L&T)," he said.
Before 2009, 12 new dump facilities must be built in Latvia in accordance with the European regulations.
At the moment there is only one "Getlini" garbage dump facility outside of Riga and no one wants another huge dump built close to the city. Despite its unpopularity in some quarters  the Getlini facility is fully supported by EU standards.

The industry  in Lithuania is fairly fragmented. In this country 76 specialist firms operate. One of the oldest players in municipal solid waste re-processing is VSA which specializes in hosting garbage containers near housing developments, on industrial sites, and in public areas.  A strict sorting approach is applied by VSA to paper, plastic, and metal, with bulk and demolition waste management being two additional areas of expertise.
Another company making waves in the industry is UAB "Monmarkas" They have been in the game 7 years. Apart from traditional waste collection, sorting, and re-cycling, this company is keen on technological innovation and working within the Strategic Waste Management Plan of Lithuania. The company offers a complete cycle for packaging products: from wholesale trading in imported polymeric raw materials and packaging to re-cycling at the end of the cycle.

Lithuania also boasts specialized niche companies. "UAB EMP Recycling" was established in 1999 with focus on re-cycling electronic equipment, cable, and wire and catalyst waste with the idea to bring certain types of materials back to the manufacturing industry. In Lithuanian at least  it may be all rubbish but the players are sophisticated, highly competitive and have a certain cosmopolitan flair.

Estonia is attempting to develop an advanced recycling system similar to what you would find in Scandinavia. In November 2008, Tallinn will be hosting Environmental Projects and Technologies Exhibition dedicated to wastewater treatment, incinerator systems, liquid waste re-cycling, and specialized areas such as nationwide lamp, ballast, battery, and electronics re-cycling services. 24 countries are expected to attend the forum, including 16 EU nations, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Serbia, Moldova, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey.