"We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children," Jane Goodall, the famous British anthropologist, once uttered in one interview. This her thought is becoming more and more relevant over time – sustainability and friendliness to nature are becoming the goal unifying humanity.
The pursuit of greenness does not overtake business either – companies are increasingly concerned about their own business trace – waste, so ecology, environmental protection, responsible waste sorting and safe disposal have been at the top of priority list for some time for many manufacturers.
This is also confirmed by Vitoldas Sapožnikovas, the Director of Žalvaris, the largest hazardous and non-hazardous waste management facility in Lithuania. According to him, companies' attitude to the environment and the impact of business on nature are changing that determines higher requirements for waste management partners.
"Smart and progressive businesses are looking for sustainable solutions to organise their activities and implementing technologies that help reduce the impact of their activities to environmental protection. And these businesses are active – interested in processes that basically takes place outside their company territory – asking for information on how the waste generated in their activities has been disposed of, whether it has been recycled or perhaps used for energy production. This is gratifying, because such a changing approach encourages changes in the whole sector – both waste holders and waste management facilities," V. Sapožnikovas says.
The extent of waste and environmental pollution in Lithuania and the world is growing. In 2020, Žalvaris alone collected and recycled about 42 thous. tons of waste, which is even a third more than in 2019.
About 47% of the waste handled by Žalvaris is used for the production of electricity and heat, similar amount is recycled, later new products are made from it. And only a very small share of waste ends up in landfills. Among recyclable products – paper, cardboard, uncontaminated film, plastic packaging – they usually become new products of the same type. However, there is also waste that turns into new items for other purposes after recycling – for example, recycled tires can become the coating for children's playgrounds.
"Every day we collect and prepare for recycling hundreds of tons of various waste. Motor vehicle waste, end-of-life electronics, wires, cables, industrial waste are all sorted, prepared for recycling or recycled in-house. It should be noted that the management and recycling of such extremely hazardous waste as car filters or batteries also require special conditions that can be ensured by only one other waste management facility in our country," V. Sapožnikovas discloses.
Waste management in Lithuania is receiving more and more attention from institutions and society, but the stories when waste management emerges as non-management are not so rare. As a result, legal requirements for waste management are becoming stricter and pollution taxes for separate types of waste are also increasing.
The experience of industrial companies operating in different sectors in the field of waste management differs, but several tendencies are obvious: the perception of the responsibility of the waste holder is changing, environmental protection and circularity is becoming the priorities, and the importance of a reliable partnership is growing.
"Freda": "We have never calculated how much we would save if we didn't manage waste. Responsible manufacturing is a normal way of life"
Karolina Arūnienė, the Occupational Safety and Environmental Engineer of "Freda", the oldest furniture industry company in Lithuania, agrees that environmental protection is becoming one of the most important priorities of business activities. The company pays special attention to this field at all stages of production.
"Companies should be responsible not only because it has or does not have a tangible financial benefit. Sincerely investing resources in the environmental protection, long-term returns can be achieved for the entire environment around us. Responsible manufacturing is like a normal way of life for "Freda"," K. Arūnienė says.
Today, the largest share of waste in the company falls to industrial and chemical finishing materials. A significant part of the waste consists of wood, which has already been commenced to recycle and reuse according to the principles of the circular economy. "We are a large furniture manufacturing company, so the amount of waste generated is huge – it reaches tens of thousands of tons per year. However, we have never calculated how much we would save if we didn't manage waste. It's just out of the question," the specialist says.
According to K. Arūnienė, it is precisely due to the complex waste management process, which requires knowledge and competence, it is important responsibly to choose a partner to whom this part of the process can be entrusted.
The representative of "Freda" notes that the field of environmental protection in Lithuania is becoming more and more transparent and hopes that in the next 5-6 years it will become an integral part of every business. K. Arūnienė advises companies not to consider waste management as a formality – submission of reports and compliance with laws, but to pursue the highest possible environmental efficiency.
AB "ORLEN Lietuva": "It is an honour for every responsible company to apply high environmental standards in its activities"
AB "ORLEN Lietuva" also pays special attention to environmental protection. The company invests a lot of funds in the implementation of nature protection measures, closely cooperates with Lithuanian and international companies in developing ecological programs, has an international certificate of environmental management system, which certifies social responsibility of the company in this field. "It is an honour for every responsible company to apply high environmental standards in its activities and demonstrate the compliance with environmental requirements by its actual actions," Dorina Šemetienė, the Senior Engineer of the Ecology Department of AB "ORLEN Lietuva" is convinced.
The company's activities generate various waste each day, the list of which reaches 100 different waste names. These are commercial or household waste specific to each business entity: packaging, end-of-life electrical and electronic equipment, mixed municipal and biodegradable waste.
Specific waste of industrial activities include sludges containing oil products, soils and other sediments containing them. According to D. Šemetienė, a large amount of waste is generated during repair works or the annual stop of process equipment of the refinery for repair works. During that period, the main waste flows consist of spent catalysts, ash, coke, flux, sandblasting waste, scrap metal, construction and demolition waste.
"The amount of waste generated per year depends on the scope of repair works carried out or the scale of projects implemented. Waste and its management have been and continue to be an integral part of the oil refining process. It is constantly carried out in the company's facilities," the representative of AB "ORLEN Lietuva" says.
According to the specialist, waste management technologies are changing over the years: what used to end up in a landfill is now being recycled. "Today, the flow of generated waste in the company is lower than before, it is influenced by economical and efficient use of materials and higher quality, optimised business processes. New approach to waste and its management is also being developed by changes in legal regulations and stricter requirements," D. Šemetienė notes.
"Jupiter Bach Lietuva": "We pay a lot of attention to waste recycling and we are looking for solutions that would allow us to reuse it"
"Jupiter Bach Lietuva", a company that manufactures wind turbine housings, is also indifferent to environmental issues. Green energy is inseparable from the topic of sustainability, therefore, according to Edgars Naujokas, the Environmental Safety and Health Specialist of the company, friendliness to nature is one of the most important priorities of the company's activities.
"We always strive to be as sustainable as possible, we care about the environment. Therefore, although the company's production processes do not yet significantly reduce the amount of waste generated, we pay a lot of attention to its recycling, we are looking for modern, alternative solutions that would allow to turn certain waste into raw material and reuse it," E. Naujokas says.
Most waste of "Jupiter Bach Lietuva" consists of glass plastic, otherwise known as simply plastic – during its production, the glass fabric is saturated with a two-component resin, a hardener, which turns into fiberglass plastic when solidified. Another large share of the waste is glass cloth fragments, various films and paints, inks, etc. classified as hazardous waste.
"There is a really large amount of this waste per year: films alone – over half a hundred tons, and where there is paper, cardboard – here the amounts also reach several tens of tons. Not to mention household waste, although its scale is a bit smaller," E. Naujokas says.
The representative of "Jupiter Bach Lietuva" emphasises the importance of a reliable partnership in the field of waste management. Transparency and constant search for new and effective solutions are the priorities here. "Today, many companies strive to be greener, more responsible, want to use waste as a secondary raw material, but often do not know how to do it. Having a reliable partner, such an issue does not raises – it is not necessary to incinerate or bury all waste in landfills, in some cases it can be resurrected. And what solution to choose in a specific case – the professionals in their field know best," E. Naujokas is convinced.