Management of hazardous waste requires decisive intervention

Toomas Mattson | 6/11/2015 | 8:15 AM

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TALLINN, 11 June 2015 – According to the National Audit Office, the Ministry of the Environment has to pay more attention to the management of hazardous waste, as the activities of the Ministry’s agencies in controlling managers of hazardous waste have not been effective and the state’s reports on hazardous waste contain a number of inadequacies. Nor has the state provided for the final disposal of hazardous waste, as the Vaivara hazardous waste management centre has not been administered effectively and its operations were suspended in the autumn of 2012. 

The state has been incapable of managing the hazardous waste collection centre as the facility has not been able to manage waste in compliance with requirements. Only the Tartu waste management centre has complied with the requirements for hazardous waste management over the years. The Vaivara and Tallinn centres have only been used to one-third of their capacities as their capacities have been over-dimensioned and the equipment has proved to be inappropriate. As early as in 2006 the National Audit Office recommended the state to consider transferring the waste management centres, referring to the need to focus on the general organisation of hazardous waste management. The state sold the Tallinn and Tartu waste management centres by the beginning of 2015. The Vaivara centre, which is still owned by the state and is the only landfill for hazardous waste in Estonia, has been disused since the autumn of 2012. It still lacks leachate treatment equipment, which has resulted in pollution of the surrounding environment.

According to official statistics, Estonia produced 264,000 tonnes of hazardous waste in 2013 (not counting oil shale waste). 70% of the managed hazardous waste was recycled. However, the data may be unreliable as the state’s waste accounts did not reflect the situation or status of hazardous waste management accurately for the period 2007-2013. For example, recycling has been overestimated the state’s 2013 report by one-fifth, and the amount of unmanaged hazardous waste at the end of the year has been doubled.

The material errors and discrepancies in the waste reports point to deficiencies in the control exercised by the state. The Environmental Board and Environmental Inspectorate have not been able to guarantee a thorough check of the data presented in waste reports. One of the reasons for this has been the poor performance of the information systems that handle hazardous waste data. This makes it difficult to identify errors and discrepancies in the reports and jeopardises the reliability of the official data on hazardous waste.

Background information

The National Audit Office inspected whether the state has organised the proper management of hazardous and radioactive waste and thus prevented harm to the environment and human health. Special attention was paid to the state’s collection centres for hazardous waste, which the state has to operate prudently, and the correctness of waste reports.

Since the 1990s, the state has invested nearly 10 million euros in hazardous waste collection centres and 30 million in the interim storage for managing radioactive waste. The state established the Vaivara, Tallinn and Tartu collection centres for hazardous waste in 1999-2006.

Toomas Mattson
Head of the Communication Service of the National Audit Office
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  • Posted: 6/11/2015 8:15 AM
  • Last Update: 6/11/2015 10:41 AM
  • Last Review: 6/11/2015 10:41 AM

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