Surveys show that about half of the country’s population in Lithuania does not sort household waste. One of the most common reasons for this decision is that people are not sure where to throw waste as the system seems too complicated. In order to make this process as simple as possible for the population and to sort larger amounts of waste more correctly, on the initiative of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Lithuania, it is proposed to adapt the system developed and implemented by the Danes. Its basic principle is that both the packaging and the container to which the packaging must sorted are marked with the same symbol.
90 percent respondents agree
The project of adapting the possibilities of the Danish waste labeling (pictogram) system in Lithuania was initiated in February this year. In order to assess the suitability of the system for our market, waste sector experts were consulted, the system was presented to the Regional Waste Management Centers (RATC), and a survey of municipalities and residents was conducted. The Danish pictogram system, with identical symbols on both the packaging and the waste container, was welcomed by the majority (90%) of respondents to the survey, both professionals and residents.
“The main goal of this project is to ensure smooth communication of color pictograms between all participants in the waste sector: producers and importers, municipalities, waste managers and the public to facilitate waste sorting for the population, recycling and reuse as much as possible,” said Leva Ramanauskienė, the representative of the Ministry of Environment, and Chief Specialist of the Waste Policy Group.
Sorting waste should not be difficult
The waste labeling system, developed and implemented in Denmark five years ago, is based on identical symbols and pictograms for packaging and sorting containers. The same symbol on the empty package and the waste container will create a visual connection, making sorting simpler, more intuitive, and less knowledge-intensive.
“Sorting waste must be a simple task for the consumer. Currently, waste labeling varies from state to state, and sometimes even from municipality to municipality. All of this can confuse the population and ultimately lead to inefficient sorting. For these reasons, a unified waste labeling system has been created in Denmark, the aim of which is to direct the population to a suitable waste sorting site” said Lina Janušauskienė, Adviser to the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Lithuania, which initiated the project.
Lithuanian pictogram adaptations are being prepared
Each icon consists of 3 recognizable elements – a color, a symbol and the name of a specific waste category at the bottom. Based on surveys of specialists and Lithuanian residents, about 30 icons have been selected, which will be relevant for residents who sort daily and waste management companies. Lithuanian adaptations of these icons are currently being prepared, they will be sent to Denmark and Sweden for final approval, ensuring system coherence and global icon recognition.
Once the selected pictograms have been approved, a publicity campaign for the Danish labeling system will be carried out throughout Lithuania until the end of the year. A website will also be created later this year, where residents will be able to get acquainted with the icons any time they want. After receiving further funding for the project, the search for partners who will undertake the task to adapt the system in the Lithuanian market will proceed.
Danish icons are already in use in Sweden. In addition to Lithuania, also Finland, Norway, Iceland, Latvia and Estonia are exploring the possibility of introducing a Danish waste labeling system in their countries.
“It is believed that Lithuania, which is already exploring the possibilities to join the system and is preparing for it, together with other Baltic and Nordic countries, can become an example for other EU countries as well. After evaluating the results of the project, in the future, this pictogram system could be applied throughout Europe” said the representative of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Lithuania.
Business involvement is expected
Of course, for the system to work, it requires the involvement of businesses, producers and sellers, who should label the products with appropriate icons. In Denmark, for example, this system operates on a voluntary basis. However, as most stakeholders, both consumers and producers, waste recyclers and the municipalities themselves, saw the value of a common system and communication, by 2020 this system had already been implemented in 91 out of 98 municipalities and was, therefore, declared national.
According to Ramanauskienė, the use of the Danish waste labeling (pictogram) system in Lithuania would also be voluntary: “Pictograms can be used not only by waste managers, but also by producers and importers too, so that their products are properly sorted and managed according to the highest priorities of waste prevention and management, thus returning valuable raw materials to the economy and minimizing the amount of waste generated. One of the key indicators of the success of this project is the active and voluntary involvement of business, government institutions, the public, ensuring a visual connection between the packaging that has turned into waste and the waste container, providing clarity on the proper sorting of packaging waste”.
The Ministry of Environment welcomes this initiative “In our opinion, this system of labeling (pictograms) used to promote waste sorting would provide clarity to the population – the municipal waste sorting system would be more understandable and communicated in the same way in all municipalities, thus making information and education on proper waste sorting more convenient and efficient. We believe that this would encourage the Lithuanian population to properly sort waste, thus collecting clean raw material suitable for reuse and / or recycling.”
The icon project in Lithuania is implemented on the initiative of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Lithuania. The project is implemented by the public institution “Mes darom”, the project partner is the Ministry of Environment.