On 3rd June, the “Circular Economy Initiatives in European Local Communities” conference took place in Plateliai, Lithuania, organised by Mažeikiai District Municipality.
Project partners from Mažeikiai District Municipality, Paide Town Government, Telšiai Center for Waste Management and Green Business Norway, presented updates, progress and their goals for the Circular Based Waste Management – CBWM project.
Guest speakers from the Parliament of Lithuania and the Institute of Environmental Protection, made presentations on sustainability and circular economy developments in Lithuania and representatives from Mažeikiai’s sister cities, Havirov (Czech Republic), Płock (Poland) and Saldus (Latvia), offered insights into their activities and priorities related to the Circular Economy.
Speakers and guests were welcome by the Mayor of Mažeikiai District Municipality, Mr. Vidmantas Macevičius.
Mr. Virgilijus Radvilas highlighted the main lessons learned so far in the project, which include the importance of educating the population on circular economy matters, particularly to children and young people in parallel to creating the appropriate infrastructure. Moreover, politicians must play an active role in setting goals and allocating funds to achieve the desired results in waste management.
Mažeikiai District Municipality’s feasibility study aims to analyse circular economy solutions for the reduction of the environmental impact of waste in Mažeikiai. The analysis of this study will help compile the appropriate documentation for the construction of a modern centre for the collection, sorting and reuse of large size household waste in Mažeikiai. Furthermore, it aims to support local students, education institutions, communities and volunteers that wish to participate in circular waste management activities locally.
The presentation also stressed the important role the study tours and webinars organised by the project so far have played in inspiring ideas to achieve these goals.
Ms. Maarit Nõmm from Paide Town Government presented Paide’s aims to raise awareness among the population, especially among children and youth. Practically, they are involving 5 schools in activities related to the project.
These activities include a photo competition, where children and youth have been invited to make observations on waste issues in their local communities through photography and cooperation with a university, where students have been invited to think and develop new sustainable materials. A green column in the local paper is also published every month dedicated to environmental issues.
Future activities will include pilot composting, a camp day and consumption of clothes in cooperation with Norwegian entity LOOP.
Mr. Vidimantas Domarkas, Director of the Telšiai Regional Waste Management Center stressed the importance of changing mindsets in the path towards a circular economy. Single use items in particular, are an environmental disaster and although we are used to for example walking around with single use cups, this ought to be an embarrassing act. To further stress the importance of his message, a plastic cup was thrown on the floor, which provoked an instant reaction of discomfort by the audience, highlighting the importance of awareness on the impact of single use cups on the environment.
CEO of Green Business Norway, Mr. Thor Sverre Minnesjord, responded with a demonstration of offering cash for the discarded cup, further emphasizing that by turning perspectives, waste can be play an important and profitable role in the economy. He further proceeded to present Norway’s Circular Economy Roadmap 2030 which has as main goals the minimisation of waste, increased recycling, extending the lifetime of products and creating a balance between reducing public fees, smart collection systems and recycling/upcycling.
Wishes and prayers were also expressed for CBWM project partners from Sumy City Council, Ukraine could not attend due to the war and was marked. Their absence was strongly felt and two chairs were reserved for Sumy partners.
Sustainability and circular economy developments in Lithuania
Mr. Kasparas Adomaitis, Member of the Parliament of Lithuania offered insights on the waste management sector and circular economy developments in Lithuania. Increases in landfilling tax established this year are expected to reduce landfilling of waste. Although population numbers are decreasing, generation of waste is on the rise. Incineration of waste will also be increased with incineration capacity to be increased to 600,000 tonnes, out of the 1,300,000 tonnes of municipal waste generated.
The opening of mechanical-biological treatment (MBT) plants around the country has helped increase recycling rates. MBTs combine sorting facilities with biological treatments such as composting and anaerobic digestion. A main priority for Lithuania in waste management is food waste collection at source, in order to obtain good quality material to make fertilisers. There are currently already good cases where food waste is collected successfully and is used for production of electricity from biogas and fertiliser. Still, efforts are needed to eliminate microplastics from composting and to create an efficient infrastructure for sorting and collecting food waste nationwide.
Mr. Adomaitis stressed the important role producers play in implementing a circular economy and offered a few examples where improvements can be made. In terms of packaging for example, Lithuania has a strong deposit scheme with more than 90% of beverage packaging collected. However, the rising rate of incineration and mixed packaging result in low recyclability rates for such materials. Producers can help by re-evaluating the materials used in packaging to be more recycling friendly.
When it comes to electrical and electronic appliances, Lithuania is the only country in the Baltic States that recycles fridges. This can be further extended to sorting and recycling of small electronic equipment. For furniture and household goods, there are a few successful reuse and sharing initiatives that can be built upon and improved for more efficient collection and operation.
Ms. Nino Inasaridze, Expert/Sustainability project manager at the Institute of Environmental Protection, reminded participants the meaning of sustainability: “To meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” and stressed that sustainability pays off. The presentation summarised the purpose and elements of the 17 Sustainable Development goals established by the United Nations and pointed out Lithuania’s position in meeting these goals at number 31 out of 165 with the strongest goal achieved being Life on Land. The main drivers for Lithuania’s progress in sustainability include its geographical position, political situation and its progressive business ecosystem.
Ms. Inasaridze further offered advice on creating truly sustainable businesses, another key component in a circular economy. Sustainability should be an integral part in a business strategy with initiatives incorporated into daily operations. Businesses that do so benefit from higher employee productivity and loyalty and being a preferred choice for customers. Businesses that invest in pollution reduction solutions can see returns as high as 88% since sustainable operations mean reduced cost of capital, improved efficiency, increased share value, and allows for higher pricing of products as customers are willing to pay more for a sustainable product.
Developing a company’s sustainable business strategy is a responsibility to be shared among different levels within a company including top managers, human resources managers and even marketing managers for dissemination of the company’s focus on sustainability.
Circular Economy priorities in partner cities
Havířov, is the youngest town of the Czech Republic, having been established in 1955. With a current population of around 74,000 people, it is the 11th largest town of the country.
There are 4 waste disposal facilities throughout the city openly available for all citizens so as to avoid illegal waste disposal. Citizens have access to all kinds of waste sorting bins within 100 metres from their residences.
The 4 centres are cooperating to open a ReUse centre in 2023, as a means to reduce local waste and to create the possibility for low-income citizens to obtain equipment. The centre will also offer education to the public on how to prevent waste production.
The CEVYKO project has been established to create a modern machine-controlled centre for use of local waste from Havířov and other towns in order to maximise sorting for material reuse as well as create energy. The project will include education of the public on waste recycling and reuse.
A system to accumulate rainwater is also being put in place in order to use rainwater for road and sewage cleaning as well as watering greenery.
At the centre of Poland lies Płock, a city of 120,000 people that is 20 years older than Cracow with a diverse industry including fuel, energy and chemical industries, food, machinery, clothing, shipbuilding and construction and assembly. Initiatives towards the circular economy include:
The Blue Bridge project, which aims to make use of treated sewage from the municipal wastewater treatment plant so as to reduce the amount of water taken from and sewage discharged into the Vistula River.
With the energy from the sun project, a 1MW photovoltaic farm was built on reclaimed landfill quarters – produced for the Płock Waste Management Enterprise plant.
With the Kobierniczek project, a soil conditioner was produced and introduced to the market in 2020 that can be used on all types of soils to enrich them with organic substance and nutrients.
Hotels for pollinators are being made from old furniture, wood, straw and ceramic elements at the grounds of the Płock Waste Management Enterprise. Near the hotels, there will be honey plants that have been planted in pots made by employees of the company from recycled materials.
Heart shaped containers have been placed all around the city of Płock for disposal of plastic screw caps. Funds from sale of the caps are sent to charities and more recently funds have been sent for help to Ukraine.
Across the border from Mažeikiai into Latvia is Saldus, a municipality of just under 30,000 inhabitants. Saldus aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030. In order to achieve this goal there must be proper use of district heating units. In addition, indoor monitoring systems will allow for efficient use, as well as motivation systems to encourage citizens to monitor energy use.
Under the iPlace project, Eco place is a platform established for people to discuss how they try to be sustainable and for Saldus municipality to better understand issues they face in implementing sustainable practices.
Following the conference, delegates visited Klaipėda Port, the 5th largest port in the Baltic sea serving 700m consumers in Europe and the Baltic region. It handles approximately 45m tonnes of cargo and has a capacity of 70m. When Lithuania joined the EU and NATO, construction, investments and trade increased so Klaipeda shifted from being mainly a transit port to 60% of cargo being domestic. At the same time, Russian cargo started to go only through Russian ports. As Lithuania is a small country, in order to grow, Klaipėda aims to be a transit port. It is also a cruise port, with 75 cruise ships expected to pass through this year.
In order to grow port capacity, dredging will be carried out to deepen the fairways from its current 15m depth to 17m and the port entrance will be widened. As part of its expansion plan, the port also needs more land space to house more terminals and infrastructure. The soil taken from the dredging activity will be treated and used to form new land which is will also house a marina for fishing and recreational purposes.
Klaipėda also aims to be a Green Port and to comply with the EU Green Deal, which imposes the industry to have 0 emissions. The Green Port concept, is a document completed early this year which outlines the policy and how activities and expansions will comply with the EU Green Deal.
The Green Port Concept includes a pollution reduction plan up to 2030 and a dissemination strategy to raise awareness on the environmental issues the port aims to address. The plan identifies 9 pollution reduction priorities, each with a number of mitigation measures.
An energy transition initiative will also see vessels entering the port being required to switch their engines off and operate with renewable energy produced onsite from shore wind farms and hydrogen.
Following the conclusion of the conference and visit, a meeting was held the following day with the Mayor of Mažeikiai to offer a further review of the Circular Based Waste Management project and its progress.
More photos from the conference can be found on the project facebook page here.
The Circular Based Waste Management project is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Regional Cooperation – www.eeagrants.org.