The problem related to the disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW) is most acute for the inhabitants of the Arkhangelsk region. Everyone remembers that the project to build a landfill in Shiyes was closed after long protest actions. The environmental safety fight lasted for almost two years.
Waste recycling reform: no to garbage dumps!
The Public Chamber of the Arkhangelsk region recently held a forum titled “The MSW reform: from waste to conscious consumption.” The event gathered about 20 participants, including officials, deputies of regional and municipal parliaments, business people as well as leaders of environmental public movements.
According to the moderator of the meeting, Alexei Tropin, chairman of the Arkhangelsk Region Public Chamber Commission on Housing and Utility Services, Construction, Ecology, Nature Management, and Environmental Protection, a platform of this kind was needed due to high public interest in ecology. Thus, according to the results of surveys conducted by the Public Chamber, only 43.1% of the local population understands the essence of the reform.
The situation with the regional operator and the conflicts with market participants have worsened the local residents’ attitude toward the reform. People openly say that they have not noticed any significant changes other than the increase in the fee for garbage collection or spontaneous landfills.
The Arkhangelsk region generates 500,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste annually. This is not imported waste. A large portion of it was sent to legal landfills but still larger amounts went to illegal dump sites. There were more than 600 of them, and it would take more than a billion rubles to clean them.
Due to unorganized and uncontrolled waste disposal, some 300 dumps appeared in forests, and municipalities also have many illegal dumps. Something has to be done about it.
There are three main landfills for Arkhangelsk, Novodvinsk, and Severodvinsk that produce the bulk of the waste. One of them has been closed, and two are already filled to the limit. If no urgent measures are taken, there will be nowhere to take waste in two or three years.
In September, the government of the Arkhangelsk region announced the approval of the updated waste management plan for the region.
Prior to the approval, it offered ordinary citizens, enterprises, representatives of public organizations, and municipalities to join public discussions of the document.
More than 120 amendments have been made to the proposed document on production and consumption waste management. The recommendations ranged from relocating container sites and the so-called “reloading stations” to introducing a separate waste collection system.
Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry of the Arkhangelsk region Igor Muraev suggested “making a general cleanup and never littering again,” to prevent further increase in the number of dumps or unprocessed waste.
He reminded that almost 100% of the waste produced in the Arkhangelsk region is buried now and some of it goes to unauthorized landfills. The reforms are expected to cut the number of legal dumps from 21 to 7 and optimize the transport flows. It is planned that the recycling rate after sorting will reach at least 50-70%.
“I would like to point out that the new waste disposal plan does not provide import of garbage from other Russian regions. On the contrary, sorted useful fractions will be sent to glass, plastic, cellulose plants elsewhere in the country. They may also stay in the Arkhangelsk region if such factories appear here and if businessmen accept these fractions,” said Muraev.
What will change?
The new plan calls for increasing the number of container sites from 6,500 to 9,800. The document does not envision the use of incinerator or production of refuse-derived fuel (RDF).
It was decided to re-equip the temporary accumulation sites for transshipment and sorting of MSW. The plan is to set up waste transshipment stations to transport it to the supporting facilities for MSW handling.
According to the adopted document, 14 waste disposal facilities are to be decommissioned by 2024 and prepared for reclamation and three new facilities are to be set up for sorting, composting, and landfilling of solid waste. The authorities assure that the sorting process will segregate waste by type and extract recyclable fractions from it.
The region is introducing the so-called two-container system where tenants have to put everything that can be recycled into the blue container and non-recyclable fractions polluted with organics into green ones.
The explanation of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry says that municipalities can introduce a multi-container system if they wish, i.e. recyclable waste can also be sorted into different containers (plastic, metal, glass, and paper), as is done in Europe and some Asian countries.
The experience of the Kotlas-based Save Hedgehog movement and the Kenozersky National Park in introducing separate waste collection is of great interest. The former actively involves residents of a large industrial center in environmental activities. The latter has organized separate waste collection and, most importantly, the removal of recyclables from remote areas. These are private projects with people working for the sake of keeping their land clean, not for profit. Such activities truly deserve high rewards.
What waste-sorting complexes are expected in the region
The most acute issue, especially after the story with Shiyes, is the choice of location for the so-called “anchor sites” for waste collection and recycling.
According to the project, waste sorting complexes and waste landfills will be constructed on the land plots 30 km away from Arkhangelsk and in Nyandom by 2024, as well as the waste sorting complex in Koryazhma.
The annual capacity is set at 160,000 tonnes of waste for the first facility, 35,000 tonnes for the second 70,000 tonnes for the third. Their proposed location can be changed by the decision of the executive authorities of the Arkhangelsk region.
“In any case, the construction project of each “anchor” will be submitted for public hearings. Even if the site meets all the requirements but the public is against it, we will continue to look for another option. Implementation of the project will be also preceded by state environmental expert examination with the participation of the central office of the Russian Federal State Agency for Health and Consumer Rights (Rosprirodnadzor), review of cost estimates etc,” said Muraev.
Garbage reloading and waste sorting stations will be built in hard-to-reach territories for further transportation of solid waste to the three aforementioned anchor locations and recycling enterprises.
“We support the survey announced by environmentalists addressing the possible locations of waste disposal facilities, and we will study and reasonably comment on each such proposal. Someday the Arkhangelsk region’s recycling rate will reach 100%. In the meantime, let’s sort the waste at least,” the minister said.
The regional authorities are planning to put into operation processing facilities by 2025 that will enable them to sort over 96% of the MSW generated in the Arkhangelsk region. Let's hope that these are not empty promises but a really serious approach to such an important problem as cleaning up one's region from garbage and protecting it from environmental disasters.