It was expected that the reform of the garbage recycling system in Russia would as a minimum resolve the bulk of garbage utilization problems. But the on the power of tradition, “prompt” work of bureaucracy and economic reality cast overwhelming doubts over its implementation. Experts of the Accounting Chamber believe this country will not have space anymore for dumping garbage in a mere six years’ time.
The Accounting Chamber has published a report titled “The Monitoring of Implementation of the Steps in the Format of Ecology National Project.” It features results of expert analyses that cover, among over things, the timeliness of financing of measures envisioned by the project, the attaining of objectives and control points and the quality of management. The document says the ecological situation in Russia is unsatisfactory.
A new reform for municipal solid waste (MSW) recycling started in Russia on January 1, 2019. Along with it, analysis of the plan of action in the format of the Comprehensive System of MSW Handling has shown that the essential measures aimed at forming the complex system of MSW treatment were not taken account of. The system was supposed to include the setting up the conditions for a secondary recycling of the industrial and consumption waste, the dumping of which is banned. Today, there exists a possibility of a failure to meet the targets for creating an efficient system of MSW handling, experts of the Accounting Chamber believe.
“The amounts of municipal waste are increasing in the proportions that will leave all the fill-lands overfilled in 6 years’ time. In some of Russia’s constituent territories this will happen much earlier,” the Auditing Chamber experts say. In some regions the MSW handling operators who are expected to collect, transport, recycle, utilize, decontaminate, and bury the waste have not got down to work yet. In the meantime, the capacity still available at the fill-lands will be exhausted in 10 regions between 2020 and 2024.
Very slow adoption of documents essential for the earlier publicized garbage recycling reform is one of the stumbling blocks. The Accounting Chamber says that 13 documents out of a package of 97 regulatory acts, essential for solution of the problem, were not adopted by November 1, 2019. Their adoption either missed the deadlines or took place later than scheduled, in the wake of which practical steps under the program had to be rescheduled.
e meantime, unending growth of garbage accumulations is the result of extremely high level of consumption of mineral resources owing to the orientation of industries at resource exports. And let us recall that the bulk of waste (86.6 percent of the solid waste in Russia in 2016) appears in the process of mineral extraction.
The strategy of Ecological Safety says more than 30 bln tonnes of industrial and consumption waste have been accumulated. Inspections exposed 340 sites of accumulated damage to the environment that have become the sources of potential risks for the health and life of 17 mln people. The industries and the consumption sector leave about 4 bln tonnes of waste a year. Of that amount, 55 mln to 60 mln tones consist of municipal solid waste.
Given the amounts of waste that are not embraced by the secondary economic circulation and in view of the fact of their placement for storage on fill-lands and at dumping sites, fertile agricultural lands are crossed out of the farming processes. About 15,000 authorized storage sites occupy the total area of 4 mln hectares, and it increases annually by 300,000 to 400,000 hectares. The authorities do not specify steps or targets that would stimulate separate waste collection. In addition, the measures for setting up waste recycling and utilization facilities and the upgrading of utilization rates to 36 percent of the accumulated waste by 2024 are clearly insufficient in some regions. In seven out of ten regions of Russia – the Kamchatka, Primorsky and Altai territories, the Chukotka autonomous area, the republic of Mordovia, as well as the Leningrad and Moscow regions – the remaining capacity of fill-lands will be exhausted shortly. And the critical situation at waste dumps will not change.
Even if we attain the indicator marked as “the share of municipal waste aimed for utilization” in a total volume of accumulated municipal solid waste,” which the federal project has specified for the aforesaid regions in the range of 0 percent to 36 percent, the tendency of further waste accumulation and burial will remain unabated.
Alexey Krichevsky, an expert at Academy of Financial Management and Investment, acknowledges the truly depressing character of the situation. Dumping sites cover an area of over 4 mln ha, which is equivalent of the combined territory of the Netherlands and Switzerland, and their size increases by 10% annually. The system of garbage recycling needs more than rehabilitation. It should be created since the current volumes of garbage – 400 kg per person – divided by the number people living in Russia looks really menacing. Beyond any doubt the state is taking some measures. For instance, officials have made public several times the plan to overhaul more than 200 waste recycling and waste burning plants but for the time being these plants remain only on paper. As for the landfill sites, they are not to be mentioned – the Russians still remember perfectly well the case of a site near Volokolamsk, Moscow region, and Shiyes station in Arkhangelsk region where garbage only from Moscow City only and Moscow region was to be taken. Besides, there is no clear information on how many tonnes of waste have been disposed of in the woodlands.
Krichevsky also says that another problem is the image of a dust-bin bag, has taken firm roots in people’s minds. People don’t have clear realization that waste is to be separated. This transformation doesn’t take place overnight but some of its fruits like the number of containers for separate collection of waste are already there. People begin to fill the containers gradually. But in spite of that, the problem of garbage recycling will be on the agenda until a network of processing plants is built. Annually, the Russians dispose of about 9 tonnes of waste paper, 2 mln tonnes of plastic and 0.5 mln tonnes of glass. These are the wastes that can and must be reprocessed. Japan is building an island of garbage. It will house participants in the 2020 Olympic games. Switzerland banned construction of fill-land sites more than 20 years ago. They transform a half of garbage into energy and issue fines to residents for non-separated waste. A similar example can be seen in Sweden. A waste recycling plant that is operating in Stockholm turns garbage into raw materials and energy for keeping houses warm, for boiling water, etc. The companies manufacturing sportswear produce outfits for popular football teams from recyclable materials, most typically of reprocessed plastic and they are actively moving forward.
The prospects for solution of these problems depend on how fast the plans for setting up a network of waste burning and waste recycling plants are translated into life. Alexei Krichevsky says both short-term and long-term prospects are hinged on this. It is also important to promote the idea of separated waste collection more actively and to ensure state control over dumping sites. Russia has more than 15,000 of them, if you take the legal ones only.
Secondary engagement of waste in circulation is the only correct strategy for decreasing its amounts in Russia, believes Larisa Ponomarenko, first deputy director general of Kapital Invest group of companies. For this purpose, assimilation of the methods of separated waste collection is necessary, she told wek.ru.
Government resolution №354 makes it possible to bill the garbage collection services to residents proceeding from the number and volume of containers. This helps reduce considerably the relevant article of expenditures. But regional operators selected for handling the MSW are in no hurry to introduce separated waste collection, although the duties for placing containers for different types of waste in specialized areas have been delegated to them, Ponomarenko says. Besides, there is a need to boost the ecological culture of the people. This should be done beginning from the level of childcare centers and schools. Children will stimulate their parents toward caring for nature. Decisions on scalding garbage hoppers should be taken by residents of multi-apartment blocks, should the majority of apartment owners there be prepared for changing over to the separated collection of MSW. “Only by taking joint efforts will we be able to resolve an ecological problem as crucial as this one,” believes Ponomarenko.
Discussions of waste storage go on and on for more than one year, says Ilya Zharsky, the managing partner of Veta expert group. Soon enough Russia will not have any free spaces for the placement of storage and sorting facilities. And this is a very logical conclusion. The problem is to ensure that the measures taken could influence effectively the new parameters of garbage handling. The case in hand is a garbage recycling system reform and the stage by stage introduction of new measures for collecting, sorting, utilization, and recycling of garbage.
At this moment, the regional authorities are making steps for unbiased assessment of the operational and closed landfills in line with the national project and the reform. Most typically, the sorting and secondary recycling of garbage. On the one hand, if such landfills fully run out of space, it is important to decide then what should be done with the previously stored garbage and how to reclaim the territory. If you simply dig garbage into the earth, subsurface waters will be damaged. And if garbage is sorted, then new areas will be needed for recycling the garbage that arrives. Also, the necessary numbers of specialist are to be hired.
At present the regions use different ways to resolve the problem, analysts say. And in most cases, garbage is sorted along the following pattern: all waste is separated into large-size household and plastic one. Large-size garbage is sorted and then delivered to special factories for crushing and separating plastic from the rest of the mass. Then it is granulated and consigned for storage. The main household waste is also sorted. It is noteworthy that metals are extracted from waste with the aid of a magnet while other waste is pressed into briquettes depending on its type.
More or less large-size garbage then goes to the picking belt where aluminum is separated from paper, plastic, glass, and polyethylene. Even liquids that pass through multistage reprocessing and partly return to the ecosystem through drainage are also extracted from garbage. The elements that are separated from waste are quite suitable for secondary utilization and if the issue of garbage recycling is viewed professionally, it may so happen that Russian regions will even earn some money on it. They can put out produce for definite sections of consumers. As for the burning and depositing of non-sorted garbage, then even the burning of briquettes is quite a logical step after they get shaped. But Zharsky warns that ashes left by blazing garbage are a slow poison for ecology. And that is why the manufacturing facilities should have spaces specialized casings for storing ashes. The expert also agrees that a number of countries, which are much smaller in terms of territory, have already resolved the garbage problem. The main issue for Russia is informing of the people and promotion of data on technologically correct methods of sorting. Simultaneously, it is important that people not only learn how to handle garbage. The executives who monitor these problems in our country shouldn’t turn the reform or national projects into an extra instrument for profiteering. Instead, they should take an aim at a tangible quality change of the patterns for handling waste.