National Audit Office assessed the state's activities in handling hazardous waste (except waste associated with oil shale) in interim storages and landfills

Toomas Mattson | 8/17/2006 | 12:00 AM

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TALLINN, 17 August 2006 - The state regulates the activities of private companies in handling hazardous waste primarily through legislation, waste handling licenses and permits, and inspection of the activities of waste handlers. As a result of the audit it became evident that most of the work planned for the establishment of a system of handling hazardous waste has been done or initiated. All in all the Ministry of the Environment and its divisions have performed their duties.

Each entrepreneur must take all the necessary measures to prevent environmental pollution, but the activities of the Ministry of the Environment and its divisions must ensure hedging the risks relating to waste handling. In that respect the National Audit Office identified several deficiencies. For instance, only in a few waste management facilities has the environmental impact of the activities performed therein been assessed. The licenses and waste permits often do not stipulate any environmental protection and monitoring rules, while the existing ones have frequently been formulated vaguely. Due to vague requirements the entrepreneurs are not released of the obligation to pay attention to prevention of environmental pollution, but they make assessment of the compliance of the activities of the companies with the requirements more complicated. Due to the absence of the environmental monitoring obligation no information is available about the status of the environment.

The employees of the Environmental Inspectorate as well as the employees of the county environmental services who issue the permits do not always have enough knowledge to tackle the problems of the technically complicated field. The Ministry of the Environment agreed with the National Audit Office that the supervision over the activities of hazardous waste handlers must be improved.

With the support of foreign aid and state budget funds the state has established modern hazardous waste handling centres in Tallinn and Vaivara. Through 1992-2005 the state spent EEK 151 million to that end. The centres are operated by a private company. They handle approximately 5% of the hazardous waste generated according to the Waste Register (excl. of the waste generated upon processing oil shale). The state’s direct financial income from these centres is insignificant. The Minister of the Environment reasons the preservation of the current procedure for use of the state-founded centres with the need to support the waste handler, because without state support the prices of handling waste could not be preserved at a level acceptable to the waste producers. The state does not currently support any other waste handlers. In its audit report the National Audit Office drew attention to the need to amend the operator agreements of the state-founded centres in such a manner that they would obligate the operator to accept all kinds of hazardous waste at a reasonable price and also made a recommendation to consider partial or full transfer of these centres. The National Audit Office finds that instead of being the owner of the centres the state has various other possibilities for supporting waste handling.

The Minister of the Environment replied that he does not agree with much of the data given in the audit report and/or the conclusions and recommendations made on the basis thereof (incl. regarding the state-founded centres) and considers them superficial and impractical. The Minister did not dispute any facts set out in the audit report. However, he challenged some positions and claims not stated in the audit report. The National Audit Office submitted the audit report along with the Minister’s reply to the Environment Committee of the Riigikogu and to the Riigikogu Select Committee on the Control of the State Budget.

Toomas Mattson
Communication Manager of National Audit Office
Telephone: 6400 777
Mob: 51 34900
E-mail: [email protected]


Additional information

According to the waste reporting system, 636,000 tons of hazardous waste was produced in Estonia through 2002-2004 (excl. of the waste arising from processing oil shale) of which 161,000 tons of waste was recovered. However, the official data about the production of hazardous waste and the quantities of handled waste are not exhaustive. The actual waste production is higher, because not all waste reaches competent handlers.

Almost all hazardous waste produced in Estonia can be handled here. In the case of absence of handling facilities the waste is shipped to other countries for handling. All hazardous waste is handled by private companies. By August of 2005 72 entrepreneurs held a license.

  • Posted: 8/17/2006 12:00 AM
  • Last Update: 9/18/2015 2:03 PM
  • Last Review: 9/18/2015 2:03 PM

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