Estonia rethinks its waste management

  • 2002-05-09
  • Kairi Kurm

A new solid waste dump intended to meet the needs of half the Estonian population for at least 40 years is to be built and to begin operating outside Tallinn by the end of this year.

The result of a radical rethink of waste management in Estonia the Joelahtme dump will have a capacity of 4.5 million tons.

The project is being financed by the city of Tallinn and the European Union's Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-accession Fund.

Existing dumps around the city, including the Paaskula dump will be closed as soon as Joelahtme opens for business.

Spanning 66-hectares Joel-ahtme will comprise 15 sub-dumps to be opened one by one. Construc-tion has already begun.

"I think it will be the last waste dump built in Tallinn - in the future we will start developing other means of waste management.," said Aadu Voru, manager of surveying firm Dali and Partners.

The new dump could last 50 years if ways of reducing the amount of rubbish disposed can be found, he said. After that it will be sealed, plowed over and turned into a recreational area, as happens in Western Europe and North America.

The cost of the whole project will be around 900 million kroons ($52 million), with the first phase costing 150 million kroons.

The most expensive part will be preparing the base of the dump, said Jaan Soots, member of the board at the dump's operating company Tallinna Prugila.

Tallinna Prugila is 35 percent municipally owned with the rest belonging to Germany's SKP Recycling, a subsidiary of the Europe-wide waste management company Cleanaway.

The company expects an annual turnover of 70 million kroons and to make an annual profit of 8 percent.

Although Joelahtme will become the only dump in the Tallinn area it is not sure to make a stable income, warned Soots.

Currently Estonians are not obliged by law to make use of licensed waste collection services. Those living in private homes therefore make their own arrangements, often creating an unsightly mess or endangering wildlife.

High costs at a new dump at Vaatsa have prompted people there to use cheaper sites which do not meet environmental standards, or to dump waste on whatever patch of ground lies to hand, said Soots.

"We see what is happening in Vaatsa - they are happy if they receive a couple of loads a day. I hope the Estonian legislature will be improved in the near future and we will not have to face situations where a new dump loses clients in an unfair competition to cheaper ones," said Soots.

The price of dumping at Joelahtme has yet to be confirmed but could be 400 kroons per ton of waste, or twice the cost of dumping at Paaskula, Soots added.

The average cost of waste management in Europe is 100 euros ($90.3) per ton.

In the last two years the number of waste dumps in Estonia has fallen from 350 to 50. All old-style dumps are to be closed by 2009 when the country will be served by 20 facilities which meet EU standards, said Peeter Eek, director the Environment Ministry's waste department director.

"We've enjoyed inexpensive waste management so far," said Eek.

"Some waste is even taken from Tallinn to dumps in small cities which offer cheaper services, but inexpensive waste management halts the development of recycling systems."

Apartment blocks are currently the main clientele of the waste collection system, while 80,000 private house owners in Tallinn in addition to 100,000 people living at summer cottages are getting rid of their dump by alternative ways, Eek added.

Forthcoming legislative amen-dments will make it obligatory to use licensed waste collection services in future, he said.