Joint Baltic Sea Region Strategy for Municipal Waste Management

The Baltic Sea Region has been officially designated on as one of the European regions of the future. The region is characterized by a strong dynamic and diversity in terms of economic development, infrastructure, institutional set-up, cultural aspects and traditions of governance. Although most of the countries in the region have to adhere to common EU rules, and in spite of good international and interregional contacts and communication, little effective cooperation or coordination has taken place to adequately address common challenges, in the area of waste management and municipal waste in particular.

With increasing economic prosperity and growing private consumption, there is an increasing amount of waste being generated. Despite good prospects for development, there are still significant economic differences and infrastructure capacities across the region. The region also lacks a common vision and a shared strategy for how to address solid waste management problems and best take advantage of international collaboration in using countries’ experiences, best practices, sharing capacities and/or infrastructures.

Part of the problem is due to the fact that there are many diverging visions and strategic priorities, which, in turn, restrict effective utilisation of regional capacities and financial resources to help them climb up the waste management hierarchy. In order to facilitate more sustainable waste management solutions, there is an apparent need for a common vision. In this context, the elaboration of a joint waste management strategy for the Baltic Sea Region is being proposed.

This strategy document is an attempt to address this need and was developed as one of the outcomes of transnational project “RECO Baltic 21 Tech – Towards Sustainable Waste Management in the Baltic Sea Region” (RB21T), which is partly funded by the EU Baltic Sea Region Programme 2007–2013.

The strategy is not intended to replace national waste management plans but act as a complement to them, providing useful input and recommendations which may help countries in implementing waste management plans.

The Strategy contains a set of recommendations for strategic action, including the needs to ensure timely compliance with the EU acquis targets and requirements by providing adequate policy and financial support to key players; create conditions for more competitive higher-hierarchy solutions by combining strict and well-enforced regulations with economic incentives and informational instruments; facilitate cross-municipal cooperation and optimise the engagement of the private sector in competitive waste management by means of tendering and public-private partnerships, among other things.

It is perceived that this strategy document provides a unique opportunity to initiate one of the first regional high-level collaboration programmes in the field of waste management in the BSR, and series as an example of concerned regional integration to other European regions.