Waste is produced in all areas of human activity, which is why waste has become an ordinary part of our existence. To ensure that our environment remains habitable and as clean as possible, it is necessary to prevent or limit waste generation and manage waste purposefully in accordance with the generally recognised waste hierarchy.
The main task of the Environment Agency’s waste unit is to gather, process and analyse state-level data about waste generated and handled across waste types, capacities as well as areas of activity and fields of production. The existence and reliability of such data is mainly of interest to the governing bodies of Estonia who need this information constantly for planning environmentally friendly waste handling, reporting to EU and notifying other international organisations and conventions. This information also enables us to position in terms of the development of waste handling among other states and to make necessary conclusions on how to further develop our municipal waste handling processes – for a cleaner environment on the one hand and a more sustainable economy on the other, i.e. using waste as a potential resource. Awareness-raising activities based on gathering and directing waste data to counties, local municipalities and thereby to citizens who are interested in this information or can use it in their work, are of equal importance.
Waste data is collected and processed in several information systems and registers administered by the Environment Agency. The primary system is the Waste Data Management System JATS, in which basic information on the production and handling of waste is collected and processed. This information gathered directly from entrepreneurs on the basis of waste reporting and checked by the Environmental Board is the foundation of waste data that allows to monitor the movement of waste flows through possible multiple steps from the producers or waste to the final waste handler. A user-friendly query system allows any interested person to retrieve consolidated information on the basis of a variety of markers. The movement of hazardous waste, which naturally needs special attention, can also be tracked through digital consignment notes for hazardous waste, which are currently collected in the Hazardous Waste Consignment Note Information System. The Environment Agency also administers a packaging register (PAKIS) and a register for products of concern (PROTO) which allow to determine how much of the waste produced during the use of related products manufactured in or imported to Estonia is recovered as a material or source of energy.