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Europe's new recycling model

Europe's new recycling model

A Soviet-era garbage dump in a swamp outside Riga was in the past an obstacle to Latvia's entry into the European Union. Now, it has become a model of resource use and waste management that the bloc's legislators want to promote.

For the Rigueses, the new symbol of the Getlini landfill is the yellow tomatoes grown with renewable energy generated from methane produced by waste.

Tomatoes are pollinated by bumblebees imported especially from Belgium, the seat of the EU, which in order for Latvia to join the bloc in 2004 imposed the requirement to reform the threat that the landfill with its invasion of rats posed to health.

In addition to harnessing methane, the modernized site, which handles about half of Latvia's garbage, seals other pollutants with a layer of mud and has transformed mountains of waste into slopes of grass where sheep graze. The next step is to reduce the need for landfills.

Latvians plan to open a recycling factory near the area in October, and have a 10-year target to reuse between 85 and 90 percent of the 300 tonnes of garbage deposited in the landfill each year.

Riga's efforts resonate in the European Parliament debate in Strasbourg this week on the use of resources.

Members of the assembly called for an ambitious European waste reduction strategy. The demands are expected to be confirmed with a vote on Wednesday.

"Europe is the region most dependent on resources. We will be the most affected if we don't do this right," said Sirpa Pietikainen, a member of the People's Party of Europe.

The European Commission, whose new administration took office in October, had planned to curb the "circular economy" rules put in place by the previous executive, but its members were furious at the idea.

Now it is promised to continue with the change from a linear economy to a circular one, or one based on reuse and renewable energy.

"I believe in this because it is a great business opportunity," said Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans. He added that the transition was inevitable.

The Commission says that the shift to a circular economy could save some 600 billion euros (666 billion dollars) in 10 years.

The Getlini landfill was created a decade ago for 21 million dollars invested by the Latvian and Swedish authorities and the World Bank.

It employs almost 100 people and generates annual income of almost 12 million euros, including the sale of electricity and more than 450 tons of tomatoes.

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Video: How does Europe Recycle Plastic? Facts u0026 Figures part 1 (May 2021).