President Valdas Adamkus Prize Awarded to Algirdas Reipas for Modernising Waste Management

Algirdas Reipas

On International Mother Earth Day, the winner of the Environmental Prize of Valdas Adamkus Presidential Library-Museum and Dana Gedvila Fund was announced.

This year, the winner is Algirdas Reipas, the former long-standing director of the Alytus Region Waste Management Centre. He received the prize for his merits and contribution to the development and modernisation of the waste management system in Lithuania, and for creating an exemplary and modern waste management system in the Alytus region. The award ceremony will take place on 5 June, World Environment Day, in the Botanical Garden of Vytautas Magnus University (VMU). The winner will receive 5,000 euros and a sculpture by Kęstutis Dovydaitis.

Reipas is the former director of the first regional waste management centre in Lithuania and one of the pioneers of the country’s regional waste management system. Drawing on environmental ideas and best practices from Western European countries, he and his colleagues developed a modern regional waste management system in the region, regarded as one of the most advanced not only in Lithuania but also in Europe.

Through the efforts of Reipas and his colleagues, 71 landfills were removed in the region, including 22 illegal ones. Additionally, approximately 100 illegal dumpsites were cleared. The Alytus region was the first in Lithuania to introduce modern waste sorting systems, and in 2018, a separate food waste collection system.

The Alytus region has achieved the targets set by the European Commission well ahead of the legal deadlines. For example, in 2023, very little waste was disposed of in the region, with only about 5% of municipal waste being disposed of. In other words, the European Commission’s target for 2030 was actually met. Through Algirdas Reipas’ efforts, the region has also developed an item reuse system called Mainukas and a textile reuse system called TikoTiks.

I am overjoyed to have received the highest and most honourable award in the field of environmental protection. The Valdas Adamkus Prize and this recognition honour all the people with whom I have had the opportunity to work, dream, and develop the waste management system in Lithuania. This Prize also honours all the Lithuanian people who sort, compost, share items, teach each other about sustainability, and believe in the possibility of a dignified life,

says the laureate.

Algirdas Reipas led the Alytus Region Waste Management Centre for over 20 years. He retired this year, having served the maximum number of terms allowed by law.

While commending the achievements of Algirdas Reipas and the waste management centre he headed, which have significantly contributed to preserving our natural environment, the Prize Committee also wishes to draw public attention to one of the most important challenges of our civilisation – the issue of waste management. Additionally, the Committee wants to express its respect for the integrity of those working within this system, encourage the public to pay more attention to waste management, and inspire young people to pursue a career in this field and realise their environmental aspirations.

This year, the founders of the Prize and the Committee received 13 nominations. The environmental achievements of all the nominees were outstanding, leading to intense and lengthy discussions in selecting the Prize winner. In addition to Algirdas Reipas, the public activist Lina Paškevičiūtė (Environmental Coalition), Žymantas Morkvėnas (Baltic Environmental Forum), lawyer Saulius Dambrauskas, and Vytautas Magnus University professor Algimantas Paulauskas received special attention from the Committee.

The winner of the Prize was elected by a committee made up of professionals from different fields: Prof. Birutė Galdikas (distinguished Lithuanian Canadian anthropologist and ecologist, VMU Honorary Doctor), Dr. Nerijus Jurkonis (Director of VMU Botanical Garden and teacher at VMU Department of Environmental Sciences), Dr. Visvaldas Varžinskas (Director of KTU Centre for Packaging Innovations and Research), Donatas Puslys (journalist and Head of Media and Democracy Programme at Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis), member of the European Commission Virginijus Sinkevičius (European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries), and Arūnas Antanaitis (Head of the Valdas Adamkus Presidential Library-Museum).

Gabrielius Gedvila, who lives in the USA, a long-time friend of Valdas Adamkus and head of his election headquarters when Adamkus ran for the Board of Trustees of the Sanitary District of Chicago in 1968, is convinced that environmental protection was, is, and will remain a global issue requiring special attention; therefore, in order to give meaning and attention to environmental achievements in Lithuania as well as to honour the memory of his late wife, he set up a 100,000 dollar fund, which will be allocated for the President Valdas Adamkus – his friend, a well-known environmentalist and the President of Lithuania – Prize.

The Prize of the Presidential Library and Dana Gedvila Fund has been awarded since 2021 for laudable and noteworthy achievements and efforts to protect and restore the natural environment in Lithuania and its neighbouring countries, and to ensure the sustainability of resources. The Prize will continue to welcome submissions of research and inventions, civic activities, individuals and organizations that draw attention to nature protection and encourage action, as well as political decisions or business initiatives that encourage more sustainable development and a cleaner future through the invention or adoption of the most advanced solutions.

In 2021, Mindaugas Survila, the director of the documentary film Sengirė, was the first winner of the renewed President Valdas Adamkus Prize. In 2022, the second winner of the Prize was Giedrius Bučas – the founder of the social initiative “Creative Corner 360°” (Kūrybos kampas 360), change leader, social activist, social entrepreneur, and initiator of the sustainable hike around the country “For a Clean Lithuania!” (Už švarią Lietuvą!) in 2020. Last year, the winner of the Prize was the scientist Prof. Tatjana Paulauskienė. She was awarded for developing innovative and environmentally friendly technologies for cleaning oil pollutants from water, for her ecological education of the public, and for her achievements and leadership in the field of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.

Photo: Algirdas Reipas, the former long-standing director of the Alytus Region Waste Management Centre

Martynas Gedvila
Martynas Gedvila, Marketing and Communication Department, Vytautas Magnus University

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