The urgent and extremely complex problem of waste accumulation in Russia was the focus of discussions at the “Challenges Facing Ecology. Reforming the Waste Treatment Industry: Regulation, Experience, Problems and Solutions” session at the Third Yalta International Economic Forum.
According to the data Sergey Ivanov, Special Presidential Representative for Environmental Protection, Ecology and Transport, cited at the session, Russia has accumulated 60 billion tonnes of household waste and is home to more than 60,000 known illegal landfills alone. While the country has been accumulating waste for a while, Sergey Ivanov said the situation has deteriorated over the past few decades because of an almost total lack of waste treatment practices.
“I have to say that the Soviet Union recycled up to 50% of its paper compared to just 7% today”, the Special Presidential Representative said.
As a matter of fact, the waste treatment business in our country is criminalized, Sergey Ivanov noted. Waste is taken to illegal dumps instead of specialized plants or landfills. That is why garbage trucks should be equipped with GLONASS trackers, according to Mr Ivanov. The Special Presidential Representative also believes it is necessary to combine the GLONASS with the Platon (truck toll) system.
“Of course the Platon and the GLONASS must be merged. I follow a very basic principle: Why put two sensors in a truck if only one is enough, which operates as a Platon transponder and a navigator at once, so that the operator could see if the truck is going to the nearest forest or to a licensed landfill”, Mr Ivanov said.
The recently introduced environmental levy on companies that do not recycle their own packaging has brought some RUB 1 billion into the state coffers this year alone. This amount is going to increase, and the money will be funnelled directly into Russia’s regions. Sergey Ivanov noted that the environmental levy must be exclusively spent on environmental protection.
Studies have shown that the public is ready for waste sorting, the Special Presidential Representative said. It is essential to make sure that the sorting-to-treatment chain works efficiently rather that end up dumping all waste indiscriminately into the same landfill. In that case people will lose interest in waste sorting, according to Mr Ivanov.
Russia now has 81 territorial waste treatment arrangements, Russia’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister Sergey Donskoy told at the session. “27 pilot regions have signed up for the ‘Clean Country’ priority project, and they are expected to transition to the new system this year”, Mr Donskoy said. The minister noted that the task of doubling waste sorting in Russia by 2020 had been set.
Entrepreneurs and business people presented existing waste deep treatment plants, such as the one in Kostroma where just one fifth of all input waste is burned or buried. Entrepreneurs from Finland, a country with strong environmentalist credentials, presented their proposals on waste sorting and treatment.
Session participants discussed waste removal, treatment and burying fees and sources of investment in the construction of solid domestic waste burning and recycling plants. They pointed out imperfections in federal and regional laws in that area, and the need for changes to be made to laws and regulations to rule out an irresponsible attitude towards waste treatment and recycling.