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Programme: EC warns – Latvia does not recycle enough waste

Due to insufficient volumes of recycled waste, European Commission’s Environment Directorate in Latvia has commenced an inspection procedure as part of an early-warning system, as reported by De Facto programme of LTV.

Because of this, it is likely Latvia may experience a more rapid climb of natural resource tax for waste storage to help liven up the recycling industry. If the problem is not fixed by 2020, the directorate will commence a violation procedure.

Currently only 27% of household waste is recycled. This volume now has to be doubled by 2020.

The programme notes that tens of millions provided by EU funds had been invested in the past to build new landfills. It is already clear – some of them were built too large, because the goal was to store as less waste as possible. Once that was done, money was diverted to the construction of recycling facilities, where waste is sorted shortly after collection.

In parallel to those processes, Europe’s directive has been active for a whole decade, inviting measures to ensure sorting of waste on site. If all residents sorted their waste, it would ensure better and faster recycling.

It is now necessary to search for new and more efficient methods for waste management to ensure that the volume of recycled waste can be doubled in a couple of years. If nothing is done – Latvia risks receiving serious sanctions. The EC directorate has commenced an inspection in Latvia for now.

«The European Commission wants to study the measures and steps Latvia has undertaken to ensure the aforementioned goal becomes reachable by 2020. It is a process that has been initiated because the term stated in the directive has come. If specific requirements are not met, it could mean sanctions,» said Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s deputy state secretary Alda Ozola.

The inspection was launched at the end of 2016. The final report and recommendations may come at the beginning of next year. The risk of failing to reach the established goal has been confirmed in 12 EU member states – Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Malta, Croatia, and Spain.

Experts have worked with Latvia for nearly a year. Recommendations should be ready in several months. It is already clear, however, that natural resource tax will be increased more rapidly than in previous years. This also means that residents will have to pay more for waste management.

Ozola told De Facto: «They propose different measures, including raising natural resource tax for waste storage in landfills to reduce the desire to store waste. Instead, the government hopes to encourage doing something else with this resource. It is also proposed ensuring stricter supervision of the production responsibility systems.»

It is the production responsibility systems that have received the largest amount of attention from environmentalists and the media in recent months. The trader is relieved of natural resource tax if they sign a contract with a company that oversees production responsibility systems. Those companies have to collect and recycle a specific amount of waste. Two weeks ago, De Facto reported suspicions that behind appropriately put together documents may hide uncollected and non-recycled volumes of waste.

The system was being supervised by the Environmental Protection Fund from 2010 until 2016. Inspections primarily focused on comparing documents. ‘Documents were inspected and data was checked with independent sources. Documents detailed the flow and volumes of moved cargoes, which can be traced. This is especially important if waste was carried to third countries. We requested information from abroad, and we were provided,’ says Latvian Environmental Protection Fund director Jānis Rudzītis.

In the past seven years, the Environmental Protection Fund compiled a total of 65 violation reports. Only one business, however, was applied with a fine – EUR 234,670. Waste recycling facilities were inspected once a year. Whenever it was necessary to inspect companies, the State Environment Service was asked.

«Indirect signals about developments in the industry had been received from the ministry as well. The supervision model was changed as a result to have a single institution take charge – the State Environment Service,» said Ozola.

De Facto explains that the service had planned to finish inspections of all systems by October. However, inspections still have not finished – the process continues for two of the largest members of the system. In September, the State Environment Service halted the function of three companies and applied fines to them worth more than EUR 35 million.

Atis Treijs, head of the Waste Management office of State Environment Service’s Environmental Resources Management Department, believes the weakest part of this system is proof of regeneration.

Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry has plans for a number of activities to help reach the waste recycling goal and avoid sanctions from the European Commission. Municipalities will have to have at least one waste-sorting plant per 500 residents. The ministry has also returned to the idea of establishing of packaging deposit system.


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