Waste management at EMU

 Waste management instructions are HERE 

Waste sorting guides, pictograms and maps are HERE.



Frequently asked questions (FAQ)


What can be done to decrease waste production?​

Waste avoidance helps save material. Avoid overpacking, choose unpacked fruit and vegetables or put them into your own reusable bag. When shopping, put things into your own textile, paper or plastic bag. As life without packaging is impossible – it protects the product during transportation, prolongs its shelf life, contains necessary information about the product – it is crucial to recycle once used packages.

  • Avoid using products with short lifecycle or disposable ones. For instance, choose reusable tableware and cutlery instead of disposable ones, rechargeable batteries instead of regular ones.
  • Give preference to high quality and durable products as they last longer and it is possible to repair them if damaged.  
  • Put a “No junk mail” sticker on your post-box.
  • When shopping, use a shopping list to avoid unnecessary purchases.
  • When buying food products with a longer shelf life, choose a larger package.
  • Try to minimise the number of printed documents, and if printing cannot be avoided, use both sides of the paper sheet.


Where should I start, if I decided to start sorting waste?

First, make sure you have basic knowledge about recycling: why is it necessary to sort waste, what types of waste can be sorted, what containers are used for each type of waste, and to what extent does the waste have to be cleaned.  


Waste is not merely garbage, but a resource. Recycling saves energy and natural resources like water, mineral resources, wood. Sorting helps us avoid waste disposal in landfills, water pollution, and its transmission into human organism via food chain. Waste sorting and recycling helps us save money – for example, the fee for emptying package or paper and cardboard containers is either lower or non-existent compared to emptying mixed waste ones. 

Where should I start and where to put waste?

The most important factor you have to understand is that waste sorting and recycling do not produce more waste, the amount of waste remain the same. If you used to put all waste produced in the kitchen into the same container, you do not have to look for additional space, it is sufficient to divide the existing container into several compartments. However, if there is enough room, you may start using separate smaller containers for each type of waste.

You may start with sorting regularly produced waste types, i.e. collect separately biodegradable waste, packages, paper and cardboard. An ordinary box is suitable for collecting used batteries, medicinal products, hazardous waste.

Old paper and package may be taken to public containers. Used regular and rechargeable batteries are commonly collected in places selling those. As a rule, containers are labelled with stickers with the information on the type of waste that can be placed into this container. Larger volumes of paper and cardboard or packaging material (glass, plastic, tetra-pak, metal), biodegradable kitchen and garden waste, hazardous waste (varnish, paint, mercury waste and residues, fluorescent lamps), electronic devices, bulky waste (old furniture, etc.) have to be taken to the local waste station.

How to sort waste?

You can find more detailed guidelines on sorting and recycling waste at the webpage of Estonian University of Life Sciences, at Green University Initiative section, as well as the ones of the local authorities and waste operators.

Packaging must be empty and clean (i.e. it must not contain any product residues or smell unpleasantly; if necessary, you should rinse the package before putting it into the container to avoid soiling other packages).

You should put packaging and paper/ cardboard into containers either loose or in a transparent plastic bag. Paper/ cardboard must not be too wet or soiled. You should press bulky/ large-size packaging together before putting it into the container to save space. If possible, you should try to place different materials separately, for example, cardboard case should be separated from plastic yoghurt cup as well as metal lid from a glass jar. However, you should put different packages into the same container, as they will be further sorted by waste managing company.  

Intresting facts

  • By reusing one aluminium can, you can save 90% of the energy that would be used to produce a new can.
  • 324 litres of water are necessary to manufacture 1 kg of paper. Thus, 10 litres of water are necessary to manufacture one A4 sheet of paper.
  • Recycling 1 tonne of paper saves 17 trees, 26 500 litres of water and 2 600 litres of oil. Paper can be recycled and reused 5–7 times.
  • Plastic recycling only takes one tenth of the amount of energy necessary to produce plastic from oil.
  • 2700 litres of water are necessary to manufacture one cotton t-shirt.
  • Estonians drink an average of 2 cups of coffee a day. One cup makes about 10 g of used coffee grounds, it makes about 7 kg per person per year, which is usually thrown away. Instead of it we could produce energy of it: 250 l of biogas could produce of 1 kg used coffee grounds or 500 kWh of electricity from 1 t of used coffee ground.


What is biowaste? Why is it necessary to separately collect it and how to do this properly?

Biowaste is generally defined as biodegradable waste, for instance, food waste, confectionary products, tea and coffee grounds, as well as grass, tree leaves, and wilted flowers. However, it is impossible to put all food waste into biowaste container: you cannot put liquids and liquid residues (e.g. yoghurt, soup, etc.) into the container as they may spoil waste transporting vehicle or leak out.

Biodegradable waste is collected into a separated container that is either regularly emptied by a waste operator or is composted on-site. Biowaste should be placed into the container loose or in a paper or compostable plastic bag. All alien waste (e.g. packaging) decelerate or ruin the process. To avoid spoiling of biowaste containers, waste operators regularly line their interior with compostable plastic bag.

There exist numerous reasons for separately collecting biowaste:

  • Collecting biowaste separately is required by a legal act – biodegradable waste must be handed over to the waste operator or composted on-site. In Tartu, it is required to separately collect biowaste in all apartment blocks with more than ten apartments and on non-residential land if the volume of produced biowaste exceeds 80 litres a week. In the European Union, a similar requirement will be ratified in 2024.
  • Organic matter degradation at a landfill leads to landfill gas production, bio gas, rich in methane. If not collected separately with specific reactors, it becomes greenhouse gas, causes atmosphere temperature increase and changes the climate.
  • Also biogas can be produce from biodegradable materials (animal manure, sewage sludge, food industry waste and other biowaste), which in turn can be used to produce both electricity and heat using a combined heat and power plant. For example, on the initiative of Paulig's Estonian office in 2019, almost 14 t of coffee grounds were collected from companies and individuals in three months, from which about 17 500 kWh of green bioenergy was produced. The energy was donated to the Haiba Children’s Home, and this amount covered their energy needs for 2 months. This amount would cover energy needs of a regular Estonian household for almost six years.
  • Biodegradable waste may get a “new life” by being composted. Compost adds fertilizing matter and organic carbon to the soil. Soil fixes carbon which reduces the amount of carbon in circulation. Compost enriches soil, maintains its nutrient and humus content, and enhances biodiversity.
  • Collecting biowaste separately from mixed waste allows to reduce unpleasant smell in mixed waste containers.

For more information.


What do the numbers inside three yellow arrows on plastic packaging mean?

On plastic packaging, the number combination inside three arrows shows what type of plastic the packaging is made of. Materials numbered 1–6 form 90% of consumer plastic used.

The majority of plastic collected in Estonia is then sorted, crushed, washed, flaked, and then sold to other countries. Some part of material is used to produce new packaging.  Packaging film and plastic from bottles and canisters is a popular commodity. Waste operator Ragn-Sells sorts and recycles approximately 30 types of plastic.

In the table below, easily recycled plastic is marked green, plastic that is slightly more complicated to recycle – yellow, and problematic plastic – red.


Symbol Type of plastic Usage
PET – polyethylene terephthalate Bottles, cans, microwave oven boxes, cooking bags
HDPE – high density polyethylene Plastic bags, packaging film, canisters, chemical tanks
PVC – polyvinyl chloride Bottles for certain carbonated beverages and household chemicals, boxes, thermos-shrinkable film
LDPE – low density polyethylene  Plastic bags and other packaging, agricultural film
PP – polypropylene Packaging film, bottle cases
PS – polystyrene Yoghurt cups; PS is widely used as polyfoam meant for manufacturing various food packaging, disposable tableware, and protective granules and wrappings for industrial products.
Other types of plastic and combinations of different plastics Certain plastic bottles, greenhouse plates, protective glasses, etc.


What waste can be put into packaging container?

Packaging is manufactured from any type of material and used to enclose, protect, handle, and transport a commodity throughout its entire life cycle – from raw material to the completed product, to be transported from the manufacturer to the consumer. All types of plastic packaging may be put into packaging containers (food, industrial products, and sanitary products packages), regardless of the type of plastic. You can also put plastic bags, food film, foil, polyfoam boxes, and bubble wrap into the packaging container.

Waste management operator will further sort all packaging according to the type of material it is made of.  

Interesting facts

  • Plastic waste pollutes the oceans. It is predicted that by 2050 the weight of plastic in the ocean is going to exceed the overall weight of fish. We must not let that happen!
  • The European Parliament decided to ban since 2021 the use of the following plastic products that pollute European coastal areas most: disposable single-use plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, and chopsticks) and plates, plastic straws, cotton buds, balloon stems, food boxes, polyfoam cups, and oxo-degradable plastic. All these together with the lost fishing gear form 70% of the entire marine litter.


What should I do with plastic, metal, glass, ceramic, wooden, and paper waste that is not packaging?

Intact, clean, old objects that are possible to use may be donated, handed over to recycling centres or taken to waste stations. Unusable, soiled, broken objects (e.g. ceramics, footwear, as well as very soiled packaging) must be put into municipal mixed waste container. There exist numerous public packaging and old paper containers in the city.


What can be done with electric and electronic waste?

At Estonian University of Life Sciences, it is only possible to give away purchased by and registered for university use old electronic devices. These are handed over to ICT department.

In general, it is possible to take old electronic devices to the shop selling those. It is also possible to take those devices to the waste station – to specify location, visit: www.kuhuviia.ee.

In Estonia, recycling of electronic waste operates based on the responsibility of the manufacturer – enterprises introducing these electronic devices to the market cover collection and recycling expenses. The expenses are indirectly included into the product price, and the customer covers them when purchasing the product and does not have to pay for changing the device into waste.

Returnable electronic waste must not contain any other waste and must be intact, because when certain parts of the refrigerator are disassembled, hazardous CFC particles may escape and damage ozone layer.

All collected electronic waste is then either recycled or reused.

Interesting facts​

  • Recycling and re-using one tonne of steel saves 75 % of energy that may be used to heat 5400 private households.

  • Approximately 910 litres of water is necessary to produce one mobile phone.


More information