Public Services and Monitoring Expert of the DESPRO Swiss-Ukrainian Decentralisation Support Project in Ukraine Mr. Viacheslav Sorokovsky speaks about the National Waste Management Strategy and whether fines will be imposed on communities for dealing improperly with the "rubbish" problem.

" /> What has the State Changed in Waste Management Rules? - Interview with Mr. Vyacheslav Sorokovsky

What has the State Changed in Waste Management Rules? - Interview with Mr. Vyacheslav Sorokovsky

Public Services and Monitoring Expert of the DESPRO Swiss-Ukrainian Decentralisation Support Project in Ukraine Mr. Viacheslav Sorokovsky speaks about the National Waste Management Strategy and whether fines will be imposed on communities for dealing improperly with the "rubbish" problem. 


Last year, they finally began to take some effort to deal with the problem that has been tormenting communities for a long time: the Government approved the National Waste Management Strategy and the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine made some amendments to the waste management laws. However, free construction of certain legislative amendments resulted in numerous rumours. Several television channels said that this year fines will be imposed on those communities where there are no arrangements for separate waste collection in place, as well as on individuals not separating waste. Experts also pushed the panic button telling about international experience in pursuance of which the state imposes huge fines on communities for not properly dealing with waste. We asked Public Services and Monitoring Expert of the DESPRO Swiss-Ukrainian Decentralisation Support Project in Ukraine Mr. Viacheslav Sorokovsky to tell about changes introduced by the National Strategy. 

Some mass media persuade us that as of 1 January this year fines for mixed waste collection will be imposed on communities. Is this true? 

- This provision is not exactly as it is presented by some mass media and even some experts. The Law of Ukraine "On Waste" expressly sets out as follows: "Starting from 1 January, no burial of unprocessed or non-recycled waste shall be allowed". Also, the law defines the meaning of the terms "processing" and "recycling": "It means any operations taken to the change physical, chemical or biological properties of waste with the aim of its pre-treatment for environmentally safe storage, transportation, disposal or removal". That is, it refers to any processing of waste prior to its burial: composting, incineration (with the subsequent burial of slag), compacting (pressing), etc. You will agree that this has almost nothing to do with the separate collection. However, the separate waste collection for which local self-government bodies are responsible was mentioned for the first time in the law on waste management yet in 2012. Nevertheless, there are no sanctions on communities as the entities for any improper dealing with waste, and such sanctions may not be imposed in accordance with the law. At the most, the state has the right to impose a fine on the head of community, for instance. 

Then, what has changed by the provision regarding the "burial of unprocessed or non-recycled waste"? 

- That's the thing, very little has changed. As a matter of fact, it would be sufficient to make some very simple manipulations with the rubbish (for instance, press it by bulldozers - that is made on each landfill) so that is has "changed its properties". It would be better if that provision is read as follows: "No burial of waste shall be allowed, which waste is subject to processing". It would make communities looking for ways of waste reclamation. Pursuant to the existing provision, any conditional action directed at waste would be sufficient. And what is more, even if communities understand that wording in statesmanlike way and want to process all types of waste, without exception, they will find that there are no capacities available. Hence, the adopted provision only creates a ground for abuse... 

Is it true that the state will impose fines directly on households not ensuring separate waste collection? 

- No, that's not true. If we speak about separate waste collection, then even according to the European standards, the reclamation of valuable resource components (glass, plastic, metal, and paper) from accumulated rubbish would be sufficient if it is carried out at the level of 50%. It means that notwithstanding how well the rubbish is sorted by people, it is anyway possible for valuable components to find their way to the residual waste. And European standards set out such "fallibility" at the level of 50%. How may fines be imposed under such standards? 

Does the National Strategy loose in any way the "waste noose" in which Ukraine has found itself? 

- The National Waste Management Strategy as approved by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine in November last year has only laid the foundation for the establishment of a waste management system. The implementation of the Strategy will be carried out in three stages. At the first one, it is required to develop legal framework through the operationalisation of identified objectives. At the second and third stages, to start the implementation of the strategy. The strategy also fixes intentions of Ukraine to increase the volumes of waste processing, establish safe landfills for solid waste storage, and monitor the situation so that no rubbish is stored illegally. Provided that all that is implemented, approximately 800 waste processing enterprises will appear in Ukraine by 2030, and 5 thousand settlements will construct 250 solid waste collection centres. 

Is it actually possible? 

- Following the strategy, the Government has to develop the National Waste Management Plan. Also, regional Waste Management Plans should be developed in each Oblast. In this connection, Oblast State Administrations have to break down the region into clusters, each of which will subsequently establish its own full-fledged system of waste collection and disposal. In one cluster, there should live 150,000 to 400,000 residents. Later, such plans will become the basis for the allocation of respective funds in the budget. It means that only those facilities complying with the regional plans will be able to claim funds to be allocated in the state and Oblast budgets. 

And how are the public funds intended "for the solution of rubbish problem" allocated at present? 

- At the national level, those are funds of the State Fund for Regional Development or funds of the government grant for infrastructure. However, I think the problem lies in the lack of proper control of how such funds are spent, as well as respective project monitoring by experts. It may be said that, in practice, there is no assessment whether any procured infrastructure facilities meet the needs of a waste management system. Under such circumstances, it often happens that communities purchase new rubbish-removal trucks for their own funds, but have no idea where the waste will be taken to. Nevertheless, it is not clear whether the purchased truck meets the future waste collection system to be established in the community. Maybe, it would be better, for instance, to purchase two small lorries to take waste to a reloading station in another community. And there, that waste would be taken to the landfill by a large rubbish-removal truck. 

What is not taken into account in the National Strategy? 

- Unfortunately, the National Strategy fails to pay sufficient attention to institutional matters. That is, it fails to expressly set out who is responsible for which matter, as well as their set of powers and functions. Currently, the carrier is responsible for any situation that may arise in connection with the waste, also it gets major financial receipts. Instead, the entire waste management system should be controlled by the bodies of local self-government. It is so arranged in neighbouring Poland. At the same time, Polish communities may not have their own landfill... Nevertheless, the body of local self-government knows without fail where to, how much, in what form the waste is taken, and the price of it. And in this country, the mayor of a large Oblast centre is not ashamed to say, "It's none of my business to know where the waste collected in my place is taken to because the city has a contract with a carrier!" And the carrier, for instance, may not care whether or not that waste contaminates the ground nearby the city, whether or not the landfill is overfilled, etc. 

Should the sorting, recycling, and burial of waste be within the competence of local authorities? 

- The law on housing and utilities that would become effective on 10 June, unfortunately, has just preserved the old system. In accordance with it, the carrier shall collect funds from the residents, then it has, in theory, to arrange for the sorting, recycling, and disposal of waste for that money. Well, is it logically to make the bodies of local self-government arranging for separate waste collection under such conditions? For what funds and why should they do it? Everything should be within the system and funded from a single tariff. That is what the state should compel to. One more thing. The change in the state policy in the area of utility services should follow the decentralisation. Because it turns out that the state, on the one hand, demands that communities apply civilised approach to the waste management and, on the other hand, allows that funds remain at the disposal of carriers. 

What should the local authorities do under existing conditions? Will they be able, at least, to begin establishing a full-fledged European-style waste management system?

- At least, some steps in that direction can be done still now. Before the regional plans become effective, I would recommend that communities focus on covering the residents with the waste removing service, as well as the gradual introduction of separate waste collection. That is the first and necessary step prior to the establishment of a proper European-style system. Since in any conditions and under any schemes, the engagement of the largest possible number of subscribers to the waste management system will be mandatory. At present, the level of coverage of residents by the collection service is very low. Though, the rubbish is taken to the existing landfills that are far from being ideal. Their turn would come. Also, proper planning and active cooperation with other communities is required; understanding is needed how to engage new territories to the waste collection system. And, eventually, awareness-building and communications work is required to be aimed at people not wishing to live differently. 

Should it be the Verkhovna Rada that imposes the obligation to establish full-fledged waste management systems? 

- Not only it. For instance, the State Construction Standards applicable to the construction of landfills are not developed by the Verkhovna Rada. We cooperate in this context not only with the Parliament, but with the Cabinet of Ministers as well. At the same time, we are aware that the approval of any document by one or another ministry or agency is a somewhat political process, quest for a compromise. Very often, different ministries have different visions of the same matter and get involved in conflicts with each other because of it. However, now the window of opportunities is being opened: the state has begun to resolve the "waste problem". And the adoption of the National Strategy is the first step to it. 

If we go back to the matter of fines: hasn't the time come to impose significant sanctions for improper waste management? 

- No, the time hasn't come yet! Firstly, when financial leverages are concerned, it would be better not to confine to fines. For instance, in neighbouring Poland those households that collect waste separately pay less for its disposal than those collecting it together. Its tracking is another question, however there are available effective mechanisms used for these purposes. And regarding fines... We have the situation when, on the one hand, the amalgamated territorial communities receive greater capacity and more responsibility, however, on the other hand, the ATCs will not be able to promptly resolve the waste problem. Moreover, so far non-capable and non-amalgamated communities have no funds to resolve the waste problem, hence it looks like it would be unfair to impose fines on them. So, does it follow that fines should be imposed on the ATCs only? I think it is a wrong thing to do and it may deter other communities from amalgamation. Until all communities have not become capable, it would be better not to impose any fines on them. The state should not focus on fines but on the introduction of European approaches to solid waste management. 

Author: Dmytro Syniak 

Source: Decentralisation.