Garbage Collapse as Christmas Present

Garbage Collapse as Christmas Present


The New Year public holidays once again "pleased" residents of a number of regions with a rubbish dump collapse in the most literal sense. Utilities cited plenty of reasons for why it had happened. Most often, they complained about abnormal frost. However, the result was the same – full garbage cans, stench, and rodents. The authorities had to promptly solve the issue but not everywhere it was successful.

During the New Year holidays, residents of Khanty-Mansiysk, Surgut, Yugorsk, Megion, Poikovsky and Gornopravdinsk, the municipalities in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area, could not reach Yugra-Ecology, a regional solid municipal waste operator to file a complain about the garbage piles.

According to Anton Pantin, a well-known social activist in the West-Siberian Yugra province, “a new year has started but the problems are still the same.” “Once again, just like in 2017, officials and utilities have drowned our “prosperous” city in garbage,” he said. “They make excuses, as usual, saying that cars cannot work in freezing temperatures and hydraulic mechanisms break down. However, the drivers themselves say that the company’s management doesn’t want to spend money. There are special arctic oils which make it possible to use the equipment even in the freezing temperatures below minus 50°C. Yes, they are expensive but the reputation costs much more valuable. It is not comparable with the negative consequences of lawlessness in the field of garbage recycling. At the same time, residents pay extremely high rates every month with no discounts or recalculations in connection with frost and Yugra-Ecology’s failure to fulfill its obligations. It should be said that in 2017, responding to residents' complaints, officials accused the residents themselves of these problems. They said that allegedly people stored garbage improperly, threw trash bags past the bins or refused to sort it.

This year, in order to avoid old mistakes, after the first wave of complaints, Natalya Komarova, the Governor of Khanty-Mansi Area, held a meeting where the operator's representative admitted that there had been problems with waste removal during the New Year vacations. He referred to the abnormally cold weather. According to him, cars could not get back to regular operations for several days because of the severe cold weather, as the hydraulic equipment installed on them was not adapted to work in freezing temperatures. This information was even reported earlier on the air of the Yugra state TV company. With a reference to the operator, its representatives said that the garbage would only be cleaned during the vacations in temperatures higher than minus 30 degrees. Allegedly, Yugra-Ecology had no resources to work at lower temperatures. Nevertheless, the company has already said additional garbage trucks will be brought in to eliminate the garbage collapse as soon as the temperature gets above minus 20°C.

As previously reported, these are not the only claims made against the operator in the region. At the end of last year environmental activists from the Green Front organization accused the company of violations at four landfills in the Oktyabrsky and Berezovo districts that were rented by the company. In particular, they said that Yugra-Ecology had no license for the landfills in the villages of Saranpaul and Berezovo and that it was not allowed to dispose of solid waste in Andra and Oktyabrskoye townships. The position of the activists was also supported by the experts of the regional department of the Federal Service for the Supervision Natural Resources Management (Rosprirodnadzor.) Based on the results of the inspection, the regional operator was issued an order to eliminate the violations.

A similar situation with removal or rather complete failure to remove waste occurred in Novosibirsk. Social networks were flooded with pictures of full bins and quotes from complaints by city residents. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that many garbage bins were burning and smoldering because of firecrackers thrown into them. The most difficult situation was in the Central, Kirov and Lenin districts of the city. Trying to explain the situation Larisa Anisimova, CEO of Ekologiya-Novosibirsk, as well as her colleagues from the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area, referred to the abnormal frosts that gripped the region during the first days of January. Sometimes freezing temperatures were down to minus 44°C.

"Severe frosts that hit the region just before the holidays caused disruption of waste removal schedules in the Central district of Novosibirsk. The hydraulic system of specialized equipment of three garbage trucks froze. Therefore, they had to be sent to repairs,” said Ecologiya-Novosibirsk. “Forced outage of cars led to failure of waste removal schedule in the Central district by about a day.” Although representatives of the operator reported that as soon as the frosts were over they took out twice as much waste. Nevertheless, people are still complaining about full bins.

The issue of cleaning residential yards after the New Year holidays is still acute in the Primorsky (Maritime) territory. A meeting was held on this occasion by Governor Oleg Kozhemyako. He read out residents' complaints about overfilled bins with specific addresses right from his own phone. The situation was most alarming in the Sovetsky District of Vladivostok. Anton Bibikov, the head of Primorsky Environmental Operator, insisted in his response report that “there had been no systematic failures of garbage disposal in the territory's municipalities since the beginning of the year.” The fleet of vehicles is increasing. During the year, with the aid of subsidies from the territory’s budget, more than 20 units of various specialized equipment were purchased. A number of auto-loaders, garbage trucks, bunker trucks, dump trucks and flatbed trucks purchased for the money of Ministry for Development are ready to get down to work. According to the operator, there were some issues with garbage disposal but they were promptly eliminated. It was caused by the lack of parking lots and the insufficient amount of equipment on the carriers. "In total, there are 2,450 container sites in the city. About 100 cars work daily to clean them," Bibikov said. He added that companies, which had reportedly committed violations of the terms of removal of solid waste, would be fined.

In Khabarovsk the problems with garbage disposal were even more serious. The garbage collection reform was suspended there, and the contract with TSK Fest, the regional operator for solid waste processing, was terminated. The firm belongs to Andrei Gavrilin. Therefore, garbage removal in Khabarovsk and the Lazo district will be handled by management companies. Khabarovsk residents who received bills for December were unpleasantly surprised by the fact that the cost of garbage disposal increased. The decision to suspend the implementation of garbage collection reform was made by Acting Governor Mikhail Degtyarev. “I fully support the idea of recycling and garbage processing,” he said. “But it is better to organize it properly but a little later. We need to suspend the implementation of the reform in the Khabarovsk territory, return to the system of rates and take a pause for work with investors. It will last maybe for six months or more. Now, we are just not ready. In January, people will receive the bills and will see nothing good in them."

He called for a review of the rates for the service and to deal with the definition of zones in the region where the work of regional garbage disposal operators would be expected.

If the Siberian and Far Eastern operators of MSW management are blaming the frost that allegedly caused the failure of garbage collection, how can those who work in Sevastopol [the largest city on Crimea and a major naval port on the Black Sea] explain a similar situation there? Sevastopol public pages are flooded with photos of overfilled garbage cans. For example, in the group named Blacklist of Sevastopol on VKontakte, an anonymous user posted a whole bunch of vivid "garbage" pictures and asked other users to share photos calling it "rubbish flash-mob." As Maxim Mishin, the head of the Lenin district of Sevastopol says, he has a video made on General Ostryakov Avenue which shows employees of a waste transport company dumping waste bags from full cans. Then workers empty them, and the dumped bags are still lying around. This is a typical situation which happens in absolutely all places of waste collection, says Mishin. He thinks that the problem of garbage disposal in Sevastopol might be solved only if the whole process was carried out by one organization that would be responsible for it. The Clean City company has been in charge of waste removal from Sevastopol for the fifth year running. As ForPost said, in 2018-2020, the company received more than 1 bln rubles ($ 13.6 mln) for the cleaning of city streets. For 2021, a contract estimated at 300 mln rubles ($4.07 mln) was signed.

According to Mishin, most of the complaints of residents of the Leninsky district over the garbage-related issue were connected with this company’s work. Earlier, one of the Sevastopol management firms even appealed to the city prosecutor's office with a request to inspect the activities of this organization.

On December 22, the Lenin Court of Sevastopol declared the overcharging for garbage disposal illegal and ordered the local operator to recalculate the fees billed to consumers. A demand to the "garbage" operator to recalculate the payment for waste collection in the period from January to June 2018 was claimed the subject of the lawsuit. At that time, the charges were not based on the volume of garbage removed but on weight. This fact is contrary to the requirements. At present, the operator must refund each consumer's overpayment. The trash carrier such as Clean City and the Department of Urban Economy of the Sevastopol government are the third parties in the lawsuit. The latter set rates at 371 rubles ($5.03) per m³ of garbage for 2020. Local media wrote that waste accumulation rate was overestimated and the rate could have been lowered due to the VAT.

Recall that the new garbage-related management system came into effect in Russia in January 2019. It is aimed at making the industry transparent, and waste management, more organized, as well as to prevent the formation of unauthorized dumps gradually involving the maximum amount of secondary resources in recycling. Targets of the reform have been outlined in the Environment national project initiated by Vladimir Putin. However, during all the two years of implementation of the garbage-related reform scandals in the Russian regions occured one after another. In most cases, the quality of service has not improved but prices have gone up.

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