Garbage disaster in Ukraine: How to get rid of waste thanks to the EU experience

In Ukraine, more than 90% of household waste is buried in landfills and only 3.2% is recycled, which does not coincide with European standards. For example, in EU countries, waste management includes garbage prevention, reuse, recycling and expanded producer responsibility. In 2021, Ukraine generated more than 10 million tons of household waste, and an average of 300 kg of garbage per person, which can lead to a large-scale environmental catastrophe.

Read more about European practices and Ukrainian realities in the field of waste management in the article eco-politics.

In addition to household waste, waste generated during the war is also a threat, because many enterprises were damaged, logistics ties were disrupted, residential buildings, infrastructure facilities, enterprises, cars were destroyed, and electronic and electrical appliances, hazardous waste, and household chemicals are located under the rubble.

Although the final volumes of waste from destruction in Ukraine are still unknown, experts note that they are colossal. So in the Kiev region alone, more than 4,000 private and multi-storey residential buildings were destroyed.

The waste situation can be improved by the waste reform, within the framework of the law “on Waste Management”, which the Verkhovna Rada adopted on June 20, 2022.

How the EU “fights” garbage

The European Union has complex, highly complex practices that cover infrastructure, management, financial and socio-cultural components.

The system is based on the hierarchy of waste management, which has the structures of an inverted pyramid, the priority of which is to prevent their formation.

Currently, the EU already has three basic principles of a circular economy, namely::

Reduce (reduce resource usage and benefit from renewable materials);
Reuse (efficient and reusable products);
Recycle (recovery of food and waste for further use).

They are the basis of a circular economy in the EU, and their implementation in Ukraine will encourage the creation of new jobs and attract significant investment and European technologies in these areas.

Each of the EU countries has its own programs to prevent the formation of garbage, aimed at households, municipalities, agriculture, and the extractive industry. Most of them relate to food waste, packaging, batteries, etc.

The UK is implementing a transition to biodegradable packaging materials, which involves all major retail chains. In Belgium, there are reuse centers that collect, sort, repair and re-sell used items, in particular clothing and household appliances.

The next position in the waste management hierarchy is reuse. Products and components that have not become waste are used again for the same purpose for which they were created, in particular auto parts, furniture, home appliances, computers, clothing, etc. To collect all these items, special centers are created, where they are updated and given new life. For example, in Hungary, they practice reusing building materials and exchanging them between construction companies.

In the Scandinavian countries, almost half of the waste is recycled (recycling waste into other products), in Germany – two – thirds, in France-more than 40%, and this figure is planned to increase.

In Sweden, there are” recycling centers “that accept bulk and hazardous waste and about 6 thousand” recycling stations ” specializing in packaging processing.

In Germany, 68% of paper, 94% of glass and 45% of steel are produced by recycling materials. Recycling plastic bottles alone saves so much energy that it is equivalent to Berlin’s 130-day needs.

A necessary component of recycling is garbage sorting. Residents divide their waste into fractions: glass, paper, metal, plastic, and organic composting materials.

In Italy, the “home composting” program is being implemented, within the framework of which households are provided with special equipment, and the quality is controlled by eco-volunteers. This project also allows you to save on garbage collection.

Other waste ends up in incinerators that operate on the “waste – to-energy” principle, providing millions of people with heat and light.

So in the Scandinavian countries, almost 60% of garbage is burned, and Sweden annually imports 1.5 million tons of garbage, because local raw materials are not enough.

Only a small part of the waste is subject to disposal in specially equipped places. EU policy is aimed at minimizing this share, as well as closing landfills at a certain stage and further restoring the ecosystem.

Thus, in Sweden, only 0.4% of waste is subject to disposal, in Finland – 1%, in Denmark – 0.9%.

An important element of the Integrated Waste Management System in the EU is extended producer responsibility (RVs), which transfers responsibility for its collection and disposal to producers, importers and distributors of goods

In Austria, RVV covers not only packaging, but also used cars, batteries and electrical equipment waste, which ensures the collection and processing of 90% of packages and the operation of 1,200 recycling centers.

Manufacturers can either set up their own collection of packaging waste on their own, or sign a contract with a company that will take care of it. Such companies cooperate with municipalities using their infrastructure (garbage containers, municipal waste collection centers, sorting stations).

Violators will face tough fines, which allows the waste management system to function effectively. For example, in Germany, you will have to pay €120 for a discarded cigarette butt and €25 thousand for illegal disposal of construction debris.

In addition, the waste sorting and recycling infrastructure is being actively developed, because the system will not be able to function if there are not enough incinerators, sorting stations and separate garbage collection points.

The situation with waste in Ukraine is similar to the experience of Poland in 1998, when about 98% went to landfills. Currently, recycling and incineration cover 58% of the total amount of garbage.

As part of the Green course, a circular economy and an approach to resource reuse and recovery are no less important for achieving the 2050 climate neutrality goal than decarbonization and renewable energy.

To finance the Green Deal activities, the EU will mobilize at least €1 trillion in investment over 10 years (25% of all EU funding).

What will 2207-1D change

The framework bill will create the basis for the introduction of RVV, because Ukraine is the only country in Europe where this practice is absent.

RVs are planned to be installed for packaging waste, batteries and accumulators, electrical and electronic equipment, tires, lubricants, used vehicles, etc.

The bill also unblocks the licensing system, because Ukraine has not issued permits for waste operations since 2014.

The law will introduce waste management planning at the national, regional and local levels, because it is the local government that is the customer and controller of the waste management process. In addition, a “blockchain” for waste will be created to track Who and how much generates, transports, processes and buries garbage.

Also, this system will eventually save Ukraine from spontaneous landfills, because ownerless garbage will not exist and it will be possible to trace all the chains from formation to recycling. In 2021, 22.6 thousand such landfills were found.

The information system will strengthen control over hazardous waste generated in the country or imported from abroad.

Today, there is not a single waste disposal facility in Ukraine that meets European requirements for waste disposal, and out of 6,000 existing landfills and landfills, only 26 landfills have degassing equipment, and only two have filtrate treatment plants. Most landfills are operated overtime with numerous violations of environmental legislation.

The draft law creates conditions for the closure and reclamation of hazardous landfills and landfills and provides for the possibility of attracting international funding.

Framework Bill No. 2207-1-D takes into account EU directives that helped Europe get rid of the very problems that Ukraine currently faces in the field of waste.

Also, the effectiveness of the garbage reform will affect the likely membership of Ukraine in the EU.

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