Free refuse collection would cost millions

PHOTO: Mihkel Maripuu

Assessments by leading waste handlers Ragn Sells and Eesti Keskkonnateenused put the cost of free waste collection promised by the election coalition of Edgar Savisaar and Urmas Sõõrumaa in Tallinn in the same ballpark as that of the capital’s free public transport.

“I believe that back in 2015 free waste management would have cost around €10-12 million, while today’s price formation suggests a cost of €12-15 million,” said CEO of Ragn Sells Rain Vääna.

“Looking at regions, the total cost of refuse collection in the Pirita and Lasnamäe boroughs would be €3-4 million.”

Vääna said that free refuse collection in Tallinn has been talked about in the past, while an adjustment has always been added later, making only the collection of bio-waste or waste paper free, while people would still have to pay for urban waste.

“It is a known fact that the cost of refuse collection falls below €5 a month per household in Tallinn. In other words, it is among the smallest expenses households have,” Vääna said.

“If the city wanted to do something for the people, it could consider compensating people for electricity or heating expenses as these form a notable part of total costs. I propose Tallinn consider offering everyone free internet; this would help boost feelings of satisfaction and contribute to an even more attractive business environment, bringing in new foreign investors.”

Head of Eesti Keskkonnateenused Argo Luude said that a sharp spike in quantities of urban waste would constitute a bigger problem than cost. “I believe free refuse collection could result in an up to tenfold increase in municipal waste as a lot of small companies that surrender construction waste or packaging would order refuse collection to board members’ homes,” Luude, running for the city council in the ranks of the Conservative People’s Party (EKRE), said.

Tallinn currently produces nearly 100,000 tons of mixed municipal waste annually. Conditioning a ton of waste in a waste incineration plant or landfill currently costs nearly €50, while its transport costs another €75. This would put the price of free waste collection for the entire city at €12.5 million.

“In a situation where free collection would reduce recycling, the volume of waste would quickly grow to 130,000 tons, where it was a few years ago,” Luude explained.

That would take the annual expense to over €16 million that would rival the cost of free public transport estimated at around €14-17 million.

Election coalitions Savisaar’s Coalition and Active Tallinn announced on Monday that they will meet local elections in October with a common election list. The united election coalition promises, among other things, to introduce free waste collection.

One of the leaders of Active Tallinn, Urmas Sõõrumaa, said on Monday that he believes Savisaar’s next grand idea of free refuse collection can work.