States throughout the Balkans are addressing illegal landfills and looking for ways to protect the environment.
By Klaudija Lutovska for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 23/07/12
Some 490, 000 tons of waste is taken annually to 54 municipal landfill sites in Macedonia. [Reuters]
Every year, Macedonians create 700,000 tonnes of waste. While the majority of it is taken to one of 54 municipal landfills throughout the nation, 30% – about 210,000 tonnes – is tossed over hillsides, into illegal landfills or left to scatter in the breeze, endangering wildlife and allowing dangerous toxins to seep into the groundwater.
The problem is far from isolated. Serbia has thousands of illegal dumps; Montenegro reports that only half of its waste stream ends up in licensed landfills, and Albania has undertaken campaigns to clean its trash-polluted landscapes.
Each state is addressing the problem separately, but together all agree that illegal disposal of solid waste is a problem throughout the Balkans.
Macedonia, which has been a candidate for accession to the EU since 2005, last month adopted changes and additions to a proposed waste management law that would enforce a penal policy and strengthen inspection.
The Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, together with eight planning regions and municipalities, is undertaking a project to eliminate illegal landfills and hotspots, Abdulakim Ademi, minister of environment in Macedonia, told SETimes.
Zoran Iliovski, president of the Association of Utility Service Providers, told Deutsche Welle that only the Skopje-based Drisla company meets EU requirements for landfills, with approved trash disposal and recycling mechanisms.
Drisla works on several projects for recycling plastic and iron and for the proper disposal of medical and municipal waste. Three public-private partnerships, in Germany, Austria and Italy, have expressed interest in working with Drisla in Macedonia with waste disposal, water filtration and handlings landfill gases, Goran Angelov, director of Drisla, told SETimes.
"By the end of the summer, we will sign an agreement with one company, and in October we'll find the location to build the factory. In 2013 and 2014 an investment of 40 to 50m euros in the landfill site is expected," Angelov said.
"We need a broad coalition of sectors for green Macedonia, NGOs, institutions and citizens," Ljiljana Popovska, green party Democratic Renewal of Macedonia member, said. [Facebook]
An Italian company will build a new plant in Drisla for incineration of medical waste. In early 2013 the first medical waste will be incinerated in the new furnace, added Angelov, producing electricity as a result of the process.
The landfill is about 80 hectares, out of which only 45 were used. Drisla has the capacity of 26 million cubic meters, as one of the largest landfills in the Balkans. Only Istanbul and Belgrade landfills are bigger.
Austrian company ASA International will build a regional landfill near Strumica and manage the waste from ten municipalities in southeast Macedonia.
Citizens are more vigilant after the adopted legislation on waste management in 2008, which follows the Swiss example, whereby, citizens' general culture and behaviour is changing through imposed penalties.
"Most of the population carries garbage to the landfills. In co-operation with municipal inspectors, we managed to track down the reckless ones on spot, and penalise them," Angelka Angelovska, municipal inspector, told SETimes.
The Clean Up Macedonia 2012 project, launched in April, also invites citizen participation. The action is part of the global initiative Purify the World, now in more than 85 countries, and coordinated in Macedonia by the NGO Let's do it Macedonia.
The global movement aims to initiate one-day clean up actions to gather large amounts of waste.
"The civil society took on a great role in this global campaign is to educate and mobilise the population, to initiate citizens to take part in the actions during the organised days, and clean up the garbage that is everywhere," Antonio Jovanovski, president of Let's do it Macedonia, said.
Serbia's first regional landfill opened last year as a part of the country's Strategy for Waste Management to meet the EU standards in the Morava River district, for the needs of two cities, seven municipalities, and 372,000 inhabitants.
The landfill is located on 15-acre area with a daily capacity of 250 tonnes, or an annual capacity of 90,000 tonnes.
Recycling is crucial to waste management. [Reuters]
This is one of the 14 projects implemented in the last six years in Serbia, with a total value of 65m euros from the EU through a support program and development of local self-government infrastructure.
About 70% of landfills in Serbia do not have the necessary permit and are not anticipated through planning. The number of illegal landfills is being rapidly reduced.
"The number of illegal landfills in Serbia decreased from 4,600 in 2009 to 1,600,"Oliver Dulic, Serbian minister of environment, told SETimes.
Although authorities announced the construction of seven regional landfills for municipal and sanitary waste, Montenegro has only one landfill for municipal waste, in Podgorica.
According to official government data, total annual waste in Montenegro is around 193,148 tons; half of which, only 96,574 tons, is collected. The rest ends up in the environment.
Ivana Vojinovic, deputy minister of Sustainable Development and Tourism, said that municipal waste and wastewater is a priority in the work of the ministry.
"This year we will start working on wastewater treatment in the Tivat and Kotor municipalities, and the operation of the sanitary landfill in Bar municipality is already underway. The situation will also be improved due to a number of adopted bills in Montenegro related to environment protection," Vojinovic told SETimes.
However, this is not the biggest problem for the country that declared itself "the first ecological state" two decades ago. Five hot spots still remain -- large plants that produce industrial and toxic waste directly end up in nature -- for which the solution has not been found yet.
SETimes correspondents Biljana Pekusic in Belgrade and Drazen Remikovc in Podgorica contributed to this report.