Latvia Tightens Waste Oil Collection Regs


Latvia Tightens Waste Oil Collection Regs
Traffic on streets in Riga, Latvia. Riga is the country's capital and largest city. © Emvat Mosakovskis

Latvia’s national agency for waste management recently unveiled a campaign to improve handling of waste oil and to strengthen regulation of its collection and recycling, spelling out specific requirements for motor oil producers and distributors, as well as service stations that perform motor oil changes.

Latvia consumes about 15,000 tons of finished lubricants annually and generates similar amount of waste oil, while 46% of this or about 6,900 tons, is collected and further processed, according to Latvijas Zalais Punkts, national agency for management of different types of waste. 

It conducted a survey that found 71% of Latvia’s motorists don’t know what the service stations do with the changed motor oil.

“The Latvian market consumes 15,000 tons of lubricants annually, including motor oils, and about 46% of them is collected and processed,” Kaspars Zakulis, head of Zalais Punkts, said in an Oct. 7 news release.

“The remaining part of this hazardous waste ends up in unknown locations and is not uncontrolled. Meanwhile, numerous online adds are increasingly offering for sale used motor oils as fuel. Hence, we are seeing both a formation of grey market and creation of significant risks regarding the environmental pollution and its impact on the human health,” Zakulis said.

Latvia’s regulation stipulates that motor oil producers and distributors are responsible to collect used oil in the amount of at least 45% of the volume of the products they supplied on the market.

“This is a great challenge for the manufacturers and distributors, because the prime locations where the motor oils is changed are the car service stations and car garages, and they bear little responsibility,” he said.

Zalais Punkts proposed a bill where the service stations will have much higher responsibility regarding handling of the waste oil and other waste that is generated during the car service and maintenance. The agency proposes that Latvia’s service stations collect used oils in the amount of at least 50% of the volume purchased for service and maintenance.

“Only some car garages exercise responsible approach toward waste oil recycling – they store it with appropriate markings and hand it to licensed recycling specialists,” Atis Treijs, head of Latvis’s State Environmental Service said.

In 2022, the agency conducted inspections throughout Latvia and found that of about 179 inspected sites, 44% of them accumulated on their sites hazardous waste, including used oils.  At seven sites they found traces of burning used oil.

“A host of harmful substances enter the atmosphere during the incineration of used oils,” Treijs said. “There are so many risks that people are not aware of, but that doesn’t mean that we can ignore the problem.”

The state environmental service said that 46 percent of the generated used oil in Latvia is processed. However, the agency is concerned that the remaining part ends up not safely processed in special equipment by incineration at a particularly high temperature but instead is used as heating fuel in furnaces where it is burned incompletely, leaving high emissions of carbon dioxide and other toxic elements. Or it is simply discarded in the environment.

Together with other two groups – Eco Osta and Inter Cars Latvija – Zalais Punkts is conducting a campaign for a nation-wide free of charge collection of used oils.

The campaign started Oct. 1 and continues through Oct. 31. During this period, “anyone interested such as car repair shops, farms, factories and other companies or individuals who generate used waste oils is invited to hand over these hazardous substances.”

The three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – do not have operational base oil rerefineries where the used oil is regenerated and returned back to the market as new base oil product.

In May, Kazakh Hill Group announced plans to build a rerefinery in the port city of Klaipeda, Lithuania. The project’s designed capacity is to process 60,000 metric tons per year of used oils and to make 48,000 t/y of API Group II base oils and auxiliary products.