From child to elder – a quarter ton of mixed waste per person in the Vilnius region annually

Residents of the Vilnius region last year disposed of a total of 218,600 tons of various wastes in mixed waste containers – all of which was subsequently sorted and processed at the Vilnius Mechanical and Biological Treatment (MBT) plant. This equates to 267 kg – or just over a quarter ton – of mixed waste per person annually. The Vilnius region contributes 31% of all mixed household waste in Lithuania.

The amount of mixed waste in the Vilnius region decreased by 0.6% or 1,320 tons over the year – in 2021, residents disposed of 220,000 tons of various wastes in mixed waste containers. On a per capita basis, from child to elder, each person discarded 271 kg. Over the year, the average amount of mixed waste per resident decreased by 4 kg.

Sorted waste is decreasing, but still quite significant

19% of household waste consisted of plastic, including plastic packaging, 14% was paper and cardboard, and 6% each were glass (including glass packaging), textiles, and food waste. 17% of the waste comprised items that should not be in household containers at all – such as furniture, car parts, tyres, construction, and similar waste, which should be taken to special collection sites.

“Since 2016, we have been sorting the household waste that residents dispose of in mixed municipal waste containers and continuously assessing the composition of waste through special studies. We observe a decrease in the disposal of plastic, glass, and paper packaging, which residents now sort directly into special containers, so these do not reach us,” explains Algirdas Blazgys, director of UAB Energesman, which manages the Vilnius region’s mechanical and biological waste treatment plant.

According to him, although the trend is declining, a significant amount of reusable waste – about 55% – still ends up in mixed containers. This waste can be separated and either recycled or prepared for further use. A considerable amount of non-household waste, remaining after renovations or car repairs, is also disposed of in household mixed waste containers because residents are either unaware of where to take it or the acceptance of such waste incurs additional costs, leading to its frequent placement in mixed waste containers.

Recycling and incineration

The majority of mixed household waste is either recycled or utilised. Last year, 59% of the waste was prepared and delivered for incineration. The plant produced 130,000 tons of solid recovered fuel for electricity and heat production, which was supplied to cogeneration plants in Vilnius, Kaunas, and Klaipeda.

Additionally, 12,500 tons – or 6% of all waste – of secondary raw materials, such as glass, plastic, paper, cardboard, and metal packaging, were selected for recycling. More than 30,000 tons – or 14% – of waste was treated biologically, resulting in the production of 3,800 tons of technical compost.

Waste sorted out for recycling and unsuitable for incineration was taken to the Kazokiškės landfill. This accounted for about one-fifth – or 19% – of all household waste delivered.

This year, the Vilnius Mechanical Biological Treatment plant plans to complete the certification procedures for solid recovered fuel according to the ISO standard. This will allow for the preparation of more fuel suitable for incineration.

Moreover, a EUR 1.5 million investment is planned for new equipment that will enable up to 98% of glass to be separated from the mixed municipal waste stream. This will result in an additional 5,000 tons of glass suitable for recycling annually, thereby reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill. Last year, the company selected 4,200 tons of glass for secondary recycling.

“We continuously improve processes and invest in new equipment whenever possible to sort and provide for the recycling or reuse of as much waste as possible, thereby reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills. We still have room for improvement, but additional investments, the capacity of packaging recycling companies to accept the waste, and addressing certain regulatory gaps are needed,” says the director.

Lower costs for the Vilnius region

The sorting and processing of one ton of delivered waste at the plant last year cost EUR 37.74 excluding VAT (EUR 45.67 per ton including VAT). This rate has been in effect since March 1, 2022. Previously, the rate was EUR 31.60 excluding VAT per ton of waste. The rate was indexed due to rising energy costs and the increased minimum monthly wage for employees sorting and managing the waste.

Nine mechanical and biological treatment plants operate in Lithuania – one in each county. Although waste management fees are calculated differently in each region, waste sorting and management are cheapest in the Vilnius region. For example, in the Klaipeda region, mechanical waste treatment at the plant costs EUR 99.00 excluding VAT, and in Marijampole, it costs EUR 93.32 excluding VAT per ton.

Currently, the Vilnius region’s mechanical and biological treatment plant employs 117 workers. Waste is accepted and processed daily from 7 am to 11 pm.

Every day, 150 waste trucks deliver household waste from across the Vilnius region, which includes eight municipalities: Vilnius city and the districts of Vilnius, Trakai, Elektrenai, Ukmerge, Svencionys, Salcininkai, and Sirvintos. According to the State Data Agency, the Vilnius region had a population of 818,000 in 2022, compared to 811,000 permanent residents in 2021.