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Doing business in Estonia: Environmental rules

07 April 2012
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 07 April 2012

In Estonia, the Environmental Charges Act provides the basis for the right to apply charges to businesses for the exploitation and pollution of natural resources.


Legal requirements


Environmental Charges Act

The pollution charge may be replaced by environmental investment, if the polluter applies environmental protection measures which guarantee at least a 15% reduction of pollutants or waste within the next three years.

A number of EU rules and standards have also been established concerning the environment.

Ministry of the Environment

Environmental domains


The Earth's crust and forestry

Mineral resources extraction and exploitation is regulated by the Earth's Crust Act and the Mining Act. From the legal acts applicable to oil shale, the Ambient Air Protection Act and the Waste Act are also important, regulating the use of oil shale in combustion plants and in manufacturing oil. Extraction permits in a mineral deposit of national importance, transboundary water bodies, territorial and inland seas and in the exclusive economic zone of the Republic of Estonia are granted by the Ministry of the Environment. Extraction permits in a deposit of local importance are granted by the Environmental Board.

Earth's Crust Act

Mining Act

Ambient Air Protection Act

Waste Act

Ministry of the Environment

Environmental Board

The directing of forestry, forest surveys and management and compensating the damage caused to the environment is regulated by the

Forest Act

Waste management

From 1 January 2008 it is forbidden to deposit unsorted municipal waste in landfills, which means that waste must be collected separately. The requirement for sorting municipal waste is regulated by the Waste Act. Waste sorting is organised by local governments, which also provide relevant information to residents.

Waste Act

The grounds for conditioning waste handling are the principles of the environmental strategy: sustainable development, the prevention and avoidance of environmental damages, the integration of waste handling with other fields of life and with the exploitation of natural resources.

Principles of the environmental strategy

Chemicals and hazardous waste

An undertaking must hold a hazardous waste handling licence for handling hazardous waste (collection, transport, recovery and disposal); the licence is granted by the Environmental Board. The local government shall place collection containers for collecting hazardous waste from residents.

Procedure for classification of waste as hazardous waste

The organisation of handling chemicals and restriction of economic activity related to handling chemicals is regulated by the Chemicals Act, which specifies the main safety requirements for handling and the procedure for notification of chemicals.

Chemicals Act

Additional information on chemicals can be obtained from the chemical safety section of the Health Board:

Chemical safety


Water needs protection above all from the pollution generated by human activity. The Water Act regulates the protection of water bodies and aquifers and the protection of catchment areas of the water bodies (areas which feed water bodies) against pollution.

Water Act

Nature Protection Act

Public Water Supply and Sewerage Act

In case of special use of water a permit for special use of water is required and a fee for special use shall be paid, in order to compensate for the damages generated to the state of water or a water body when using it.

Granting permits for special use of water

Air and protection from noise

The Ambient Air Protection Act regulates activity which includes chemical or physical impact to the ambient air, damaging the ozone layer or generating factors causing climate change.

Ambient Air Protection Act

The requirements on noise in the ambient air are specified by the Ambient Air Protection Act and Public Health Act, pursuant to which standard noise levels, requirements specified for plans and the conditions for preparing strategic noise map have been established.

Public Health Act



The Environmental Inspectorate is a state authority in the area of government of the Ministry of the Environment, which coordinates and executes supervision in the field of exploitation of the natural environment and natural resources, applying the enforcement powers of the state in the cases provided for by the law. In Estonia, environmental supervision is carried out by several other authorities and institutions, such as the Land Board, the local governments, the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board, the Tax and Customs Board, etc, but the Environmental Inspectorate alone carries out supervision and conducts proceedings in the violations of law in all environmental protection areas.

Environmental Inspectorate

Land Board

Businesses are free to go beyond the minimum environmental legal requirements at their own initiative.

Administrative procedures

Permits and licences


An environmental charge is applied to the following activities related to the environmental exploitation:

  • regeneration cutting of forest stand;
  • extraction of mineral resources;
  • water abstraction;
  • fishing;
  • hunting;
  • emission of pollutants into ambient air, water bodies, groundwater or soil;
  • waste disposal by deposit in landfills or other activities which result in the release of waste into the environment.

The environmental charge must be paid by everyone who extracts natural resources, emits pollutants into the environment or disposes waste. Undertakings must apply for a permit for the named activity (e.g. mining, exploitation of water, etc).

Information on environmental permits

Instructions for applying for forest notification

Forest notification

Application for waste permit

Granting permits for special use of water

Forms and blanks

Ambient Air Protection - forms and blanks

Procedure for granting land valuation licences



The Environmental Permits Information System is an online document management system, the purpose of which is to guarantee the uniform proceeding of environmental permits, enabling to study and analyse the environmental exploitation taking place based on the existing environmental permits.

Environmental Permits Information System



The Environmental Investment Centre offers support and grants to companies, aimed at environmental protection investments and development of projects promoting sustainability and regeneration of the environment.

Environmental Investment Centre

Source: Your Europe

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