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De Facto: glass collected in Latvia is not used to produce bottles – it gets buried under roads

Unlike Estonia and Lithuania, where glass bottles are recycled to produce new bottles and jars, glass in Latvia is ground into sand and used as a construction material. According to accessible documents, large volumes of glass are recycled in such a way, as reported by De Facto programme of LTV.

State Environment Service has commenced an inspection to determine if recycling does take place.
 

The programme notes that Latvijas Zaļais punkts and Zaļā josta are two of the largest glass-collecting companies. Last year, Zaļā josta handed over all of its collected glass bottles and jars to be ground into construction material. Zaļais punkts handed over half of its collected bottles and jars for recycling, the remaining ones were ground into construction sand and buried under roads.
 

Both organizations mention in their educational materials that it is possible to recycle glass and use it for production of new bottles and jars endlessly. Glass does not lose quality after repeated recycles. However, if glass is converted into construction material, this is where its life ends.
 

De Facto also notes that both organizations claim glass packages can be dirty. Recycling plants do not accept dirty materials. Another argument is that transportation to Estonia or Lithuania is expensive and economically unviable.
 

«It is more economical to reduce dirty glass into sand and use as construction materials,» says Zaļā josta manager Jānis Lapsa.
 

Latvijas Zaļais punkts director Kaspars Zakulis mentions that glass collected from recycling bins close to apartment houses is usually the dirtiest. Recycling such glass is not cost-effective for recycling plants.
 

Estonian Krynicki Glass Recycling counters this claim. This recycling company makes sure to wash glass bottles and jars before sending them to recycling plants. Maits Jarviks, the head of the company, says they accept dirty glass, and even dirty glass from Latvia. «Glass is a very valuable material, and it becomes more valuable by the year. It is much cheaper to produce bottles from old glass than produce new ones from sand,» he explains.
 

If that is true, then why are old bottles ground into sand and buried in roads or concrete? One version is that waste management companies categorically deny that actual volumes of collected paper and glass materials do not match official data. Conversion of glass into construction materials may be the easiest way to hide tracks, De Facto notes.
 

Waste management companies have a duty to recycle packaging materials. Producers and traders pay Latvijas Zaļais punkts and Zaļā josta to recycle packaging materials. In return, producers and traders receive a discount from the state natural resources tax. If packaging materials are not recycled, someone should be fined.
 

LTV programme also emphasizes that several smaller recycling companies have been fined this year around EUR 30 million for failure to secure promised recycling activities.
 

The State Environment Service has only just begun inspections at Latvijas Zaļais punkts and Zaļā josta.
 

Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s deputy state secretary for matters of environmental protection Alda Ozola allows that actual volumes and numbers stated in documents do not always match: «Papers can state one thing, whereas actual flow of materials may be much lower or even non-existent.» Unfortunately, it is hard for the State Environment Service to control the flow at the institution’s current capacity.

BNN

30-10-2017
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