New waste sorting system in Vilnius from 2024: what should residents know?
From 1 January 2024, Vilnius residents will have to sort not only plastic, paper, metal and glass packaging and secondary raw materials, but also food waste. Residents of the capital will be asked to collect it at home in separate containers with orange bags, which will then be disposed of in mixed municipal waste containers. This will allow the waste to be identified by Vilnius’ mechanical-biological treatment (MBT) facilities, separated from the general waste stream and recycled much more efficiently.
The new process will be introduced in phases
The transition to sorting food waste in Vilnius will take place in several phases. In the first phase, from January next year, sorted food waste in orange bags will have to be placed in common mixed waste containers. At the Vilnius MBT, they will be separated from other waste and turned into compost, while the bags will be recycled. In the future, separate food waste containers will be used to collect food waste.
“These changes will affect a large proportion of households in Vilnius, so we are introducing them gradually, understanding that it will take time to get used to them and form new habits. By phasing in the changes, we will avoid a significant increase in waste collection and management costs that would be caused by servicing additional food waste containers. We will move to using these containers in the future when the critical mass of food waste sorting population is reached,” says Adomas Bužinskas, Director of the Vilnius City Municipal Administration.
According to him, the food waste management model chosen in Vilnius has proven successful not only in Scandinavian countries, but also in Lithuania – during the pilot project, the residents of Ukmergė started successfully sorting their food waste in this way.
Sorting facilities to be made available to residents of Vilnius
To make the transition to the new food waste sorting system as easy as possible, it is planned to provide the residents of Vilnius with separate food waste sorting facilities from December this year: orange disposable bags made of at least 90% recycled material and with a durable 7 litre capacity. The orange bags can be conveniently placed in the containers to separate food waste at home and then disposed of with the bag in mixed municipal waste containers.
The bags and containers will be available for collection from December at Vilnius City Hall, the capital’s municipalities and Vilnius bulky waste collection points. The exact locations of the food waste distribution points and other relevant information can be found on the website www.atliekuetiketas.lt.
EU-wide share of change
Lithuanian municipalities will be required by Lithuanian law to separate food waste from 2024, a change driven by an EU directive and иуштп implemented by all European Union (EU) member states. Separating food waste from the overall waste stream allows to increase the overall recycling efficiency, conserve natural resources, reduce food waste and exploit the recycling potential of food waste.
“Separation of food waste is important from an environmental, economic and social perspective. Separate collection and management of food waste unlocks its potential and saves resources. Food waste is a natural fertiliser, a raw material and can be used to produce energy from biogas or compost. In addition, by separating food waste from other waste, it does not contaminate the mixed municipal waste that enters the stream, which increases the potential for efficient recycling of the remaining waste,” says Tomas Vaitkevičius, Director of the Vilnius County Waste Management Centre (WMCVAC).
He hopes that the city’s citizens will quickly adapt to the new waste sorting system and appreciate its many benefits. At the same time, he hopes that encouraging people to separate their food waste will further raise the awareness of the city’s citizens about the problem of food waste and that the amount of food waste will start to decrease in the long term.
What do Vilnius residents need to know?
Where can I collect the orange bags and containers (buckets)? From December 2024 (the exact date will be announced separately), it is planned to distribute them additionally in places frequented by the public, such as car parks of major shopping centres in Vilnius. A map showing the exact locations of the distribution points can be found at www.atliekuetiketas.lt. We invite the city’s citizens to show solidarity and look after their relatives, neighbours and friends who are unable to collect food waste containers and bags themselves.
What to put in the orange bags: Food that is not fit for consumption (make sure to unwrap it), peelings, leftovers, tea and coffee grounds, tea bags, houseplants and their parts, paper towels and napkins, food supplements that are not fit for consumption (make sure to unwrap them), and any other organic, biodegradable waste.
What to do with a full orange bag: After collecting the food waste, the full orange bag should be tied tightly with a double knot (to prevent leakage) and disposed of in a mixed municipal waste container.
Will the new system cost the city extra? From 1 January 2024, there will be a slight increase in the cost of waste management in Vilnius. However, this increase will not only be due to the new food waste management regime, but also to the overall rising costs of waste management in Vilnius. There will be no additional costs for residents for food waste collection.
For more information on the new waste separation system in Vilnius: www.atliekuetiketas.lt