Learning until the end: The CBWM project closing event

On 22nd August, the closing event for the Circular Based Waste Management project was held in Paide, Estonia.

In a cosy setting at the Wabalinn Community Centre and café, the event offered an overview, results and impressions from the project by partners, while at the same time offering an opportunity to learn about circular practices in Estonia from restoration of buildings through to the Circular Economy strategy of Tallinn.

The event began with a welcome speech by the Fund Operator, who joined online and offered congratulations on the project’s achievements and good wishes for future endeavours.

Project partners then proceeded to have a discussion where they all shared their impressions, experiences, lessons learned and hopes for the future after the conclusion of the project, with partners from Sumy, Ukraine joining online.

The project proved to be very educational for project partners who felt their knowledge on the topic of waste management within a circular economy and the current situation across Europe was vastly broadened. All partners agreed the project has been just the beginning towards implementing circular practices in their respective municipalities and most importantly through the activities that have taken place within the project, that local youth have been influenced to adopt circular practices.

In Paide for example, parents have reported to have had to reorganise how they dispose of and separate waste following requests by their children. Buying habits have also been affected, with adults and youth now taking time to think whether they truly need something before they buy it.

Memories were also shared from the beginning of the project, how it was incepted and how the project idea and team were formed with the aim of having a common theme while allowing each partner to focus on specific outcomes. A unique aspect of the project has been that despite the difference in needs by each partner, common activities were held and partners worked together harmoniously. The difficult circumstances created by the pandemic under which the project begun, and the creativity and flexibility partners demonstrated to adapt accordingly were highlighted, as well as the challenges faced by project partners from Sumy following the war in Ukraine.

Partners from Sumy shared updates on the progress of purchasing a shredder for construction waste and expressed their appreciation for the support received by the Fund and Fund Operator.

The Director of the Telšiai Centre for Waste Management commented that companies like theirs is the last step in the life cycle of items. The idea of a waste management centre has been so far to dispose of items but now with the project, the ideas of reuse, secondary use and treatment have been learned so this is possibly a new beginning for the business.

Within the project, a study on compost treatment has been made by the Telšiai Centre for Waste Management and a feasibility study for the collection of large household items and ReUse centre by Mažeikiai District Municipality. These studies have prepared both partners for the investments to come.

For Mažeikiai District Municipality the project has offered a huge opportunity for different people from different departments of the municipality to learn on the topic of circular economy. During the project the municipality has also worked closely with schools and youngsters. A group of teachers was invited to visit Norway in a study tour to learn about best practices and it is expected this will already make a difference in the upcoming school year.

Big things take time to happen and with this project the seeds have been planted towards circular practices by the partners locally. Partners also shared memories from moments, activities within the project and sites visited that were most impactful to them.

The discussion was followed by presentation of a video created to summarise the project. Brief video interviews were collected of project partners, members of the public and municipal officials participating in activities organised within the project. These were merged into a video that aims to give an overview of the ambitions, hopes for the future and impact of the project.

The video can be viewed below:

The Wabbalinn Community Centre and Café

The reason behind choosing Wabalinn Community Centre and café was meaningful: The centre is the base for an NGO which started in 2004 that offers information, lectures and workshops on sustainable renovation. Activities aim to teach house owners about old buildings and how to renovate them by themselves. Workshops are also given and old building materials such as logs, doors and windows are collected.

The building itself is from 1760 and was rebuilt in 1849 as a family home and store. When it was bought to become a community centre and café the look and interior of the rooms were restored to how they were over 100 years ago.

The name Wabalinn translates to Free Town but the W also refers to the old name of Paide, Weissenstein, meaning limestone. The word free (Waba) in Estonian also means volunteers, so the name refers to volunteers that want to do something for their town.

The building now houses the café which was opened this summer during the town’s Opinion Festival. It houses lectures on history and restoration of old buildings.

Hiring professionals to renovate an old building can be very costly. Some types of renovation require to be done by licensed professionals, but others can be made by anyone and more affordably especially if one learns how to reuse materials.

At the community centres of Paide workshops are also offered to unemployed people who learn about traditional building techniques, materials and restoration. Lessons are also held in schools, high schools and vocational schools. A programme of 30 hours has been delivered in local high schools, comprising of lectures and workshops that teach about the history of local architecture, how to recognise which part of a building is original, which period it belongs to and how it was restored. Practical skills are further taught on restoration. Students are also given a form where they have to find an old building and do a report on it with recommendations on how to restore it.

Following the presentation, participants toured Paide’s restored historical buildings, including the municipality, the Wittenstein Activity Museum and Paide Order Castle. The Wittenstein Activity Museum offers a glimpse of life in the 19th century with displays of a pharmacy, craftsmen’s chambers and food and beer chamber of the time.

KONN community centre

The KONN community centre aims to popularise the ideas of recycling, reusing and repurposing. The building has been offered by the municipality at no cost and renovations have been done without funding and with the help of volunteers. Old building materials have been used such as steps, wood and doors. Paying of utility bills has been made possible through funding of projects.

Everything contained in the centre has been donated, from the carpets and furniture through to the lighting fixtures. This is meant to demonstrate that old things people want to throw away are still reusable.

There are five rooms being rented for different purposes, one of which is for a workshop dedicated to restoring old furniture. A Green Festival is held every year with music and bands playing and people are invited to give seminars and workshops on circular topics. The centre also lends dishes and kitchenware for people to use at events, so they do not buy disposable ones. People can also rent a room and use tools available for restoration work.

A retro apartment within the building houses items and furniture from Soviet times, all donated, showcasing how people lived at that time.

Circular Economy Department of Tallinn

From Paide, the group moved to Tallinn in a visit to the Circular Economy Department to learn about the city’s circular strategy. Tallinn has received the European Capital Award for 2023.

The city’s strategic documents have been put in place to guide its waste management regulations with the most important ones being Tallinn 2035 Development Strategy and Tallinn waste plan 2022-2026 which contains a separate chapter on circular economy. The department’s communication plan has set specific activities for each month that revolve around circular practices.

The initiatives that have received the best feedback so far are the city’s public drinking water taps which are open from May to September and available in over 30 location across the city, as well as the deposit stations for glass, plastic and metal packaging. The city has imposed mandatory collection of biowaste for all households and companies which is collected to produce compost and biogas.

As from June 1st, city authorities such as schools and the municipality are only allowed to use reusable vessels and cutlery for food and drinks. From January, this rule will apply in the whole of Estonia.

By 2026, Tallinn aims to have 3 circular economy centres built, which will transform waste centres into places that will have rooms for reuse and repair and will offer workshops.

Further circular initiatives are being formed through public and private partnerships. One such initiative is that in cooperation with Filaret, where collection points for cigarette butts have been placed around the city so that these can be turned into filament for 3D printing.

With Ringo Eco, containers have been placed around the city for the collection of reusable packaging and 119 restaurants and cafes have joined the initiative. Through iBiot, sensors that monitor the status of waste containers have helped save an estimated of 20% of total costs associated with waste collection.

While planning to establish the Circular Strategy, visits were paid to other countries to learn about best practices to incorporate. One place visited was Resirkula in Norway, which has also been visited by Circular Based Waste Management project partners.

A big part of the process is changing the mindsets of people while trying to point out the opportunities in initiatives. Adjustments to plans also need to be made while listening to citizens. Eventually this process will be transforming waste management centres into circular economy centres.

Further photos from the study tour can be found on the project’s 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 –eeagrants.org.

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