Waste managers prepare for mandatory bio-waste sorting next year

In Latvia, as elsewhere in the European Union (EU), it will be mandatory for all municipalities to ensure the sorting of biodegradable waste from next year. LSM.lv contacted Latvia's leading waste management companies to find out what is being done and how Latvian residents will be encouraged to sort the waste.

Currently, surplus food, garden, and other types of bio-waste can be placed in brown containers – where they are available – without packaging. As of the next year, special biodegradable bags will also be allowed. 

Megija Grabe, representative of the company Lautus Vide, said this waste management company has not yet provided precise information on how and where these biodegradable bags will be available to residents. The company plans to inform customers over time.

However, the company has introduced a common waste sorting guide detailing the types of waste that may or may not be placed in the containers concerned.

The waste management company “Eco Baltia Vide”, following the example of other countries and merging several representatives of the industry, implemented a pilot project in Rīga last year, in which special sorting kits – containers and biodegradable bags – were issued to residents of apartment buildings.

'The objective of the project is to facilitate the sorting process and to increase the volume and quality of the material sorted. Currently, we are testing a similar solution by offering biodegradable bags for our customers to use in our households as a separate service,” said Jānis Aizbalts, board chairman of Eco Baltia Vide.

Meanwhile, one of Latvia's leading municipal waste management companies CleanR, in cooperation with CleanLiving and several municipalities, has engaged in the project “BIO cycle”, during which small bio-sorting containers and biodegradable bags are distributed free of charge to residents of several municipalities, thus motivating more active sorting of waste. Within the pilot project, it is also planned to evaluate involvement.

The North Vidzeme waste manager “ZAAO” has also been involved in this project, and biodegradable bags and small containers have been issued to the pilot project participants in Cēsis.

Some Latvian waste managers refused to comment. Information on when, how, and whether the bags will be is likely to come next month, toward the end of the year.

Overall, there is growing interest in sorting biowaste in the country, as evidenced by the growing presence of brown waste bins in the backyards of houses, said Liene Rumpane, head of CleanR's municipal waste management department. But generally, organic waste is sorted by few and inappropriate content also ends up in containers.

“Even in Rīga and Pierīga, where bio-waste is sorted more actively compared to the rest of Latvia, the filling of brown containers is mostly not more than 50%, except in cases where there are really active sorters living in the house,” Rumpane said.

People's interest in sorting waste is low because it is currently voluntary, said Jānis Aizbalts, Chairman of the Board of Eco Baltia Vide. Next year – although it is mandatory for local governments to ensure the sorting of biodegradable waste, the installation of containers will be an initiative of residents and house managers themselves.

“Introducing changes to the binding regulations of local governments and making the sorting of bio-waste mandatory for all Latvian residents would increase the sorting rate. Until this is done, waste managers are looking for other ways to engage residents in sorting activities,” said Aizbalts.

“The organic waste exit tariff is currently 20% cheaper than the municipal waste exit charge and will become even more profitable from 2024, which is 40% cheaper,” Rumpane added.

Given that this waste makes up over a third of the total municipal waste mass, by separating it from other waste, people will save on housing utility bills.

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