Since the very beginning, waste and hazardous waste were the key topics for many events. The BEF has followed the work of the Ministries of Environment of the three Baltic States, which started from zero: building up a legislative framework for waste handling, creating institutions and defining responsibilities, developing waste management strategies, setting targets for single waste streams and, at the same time, defining measures for the continuous improvement of the system.
In the period of 1995-1998, the key issues were outdated pesticides, which had to be collected from all over the countries, identified, stored as well as treated and landfilled. In trilateral workshops, the experts looked for solutions and best practices to deal with the problem in the most environmentally friendly way.
Since signing the Basel Convention, issues of transboundary hazardous waste shipments have been discussed regularly. In co-operation with the Secretariat of the Convention, several events including training for the state authorities have been organised just for the Baltic States. The main goal has been to provide tools and knowledge on how to supervise hazardous waste transport in the region.
Due to involvement of many actors as well as the complexity of waste streams, the waste sector is highly complicated. Besides, by opening local markets to western consumer goods, totally new waste streams have been created in the Baltic States. For those no management experience existed (e.g., packaging, end-of-life vehicles or electronic scrap). Furthermore, a new waste management system had to be organised, and large-scale investments were required to upgrade or build environmentally sound landfills. Last but not least, availability of reliable data on the composition of waste streams and their generation rates is a challenge that not only the new EU Member States are faced with. All of those issues have been addressed by the BEF workshops and meetings.
To guarantee more successful implementation and avoid over-capacities for treatment and disposal in the region, the ministry experts have stressed the needed for co-ordinated approaches (legal and practical implementation) between the Baltic States. Therefore, a working group of the key ministerial experts has been meeting bi-annually to discuss waste management planning and policy issues.