Initiatives are under way in Croatia, Romania, Serbia and BiH to reduce waste in landfills.
By Kruno Kartus for Southeast European Times in Osijek -- 18/02/13
Much of the region's waste ends up in landfills. [Kruno Kartus/SETimes]
Citizens of the Balkans produce an average of 1 kilogram of waste each per day, most of which goes unrecycled and ends up in landfills.
While governments across the region have not established integrated systems of waste management, they are working to implement recycling programmes and are researching ways to use waste for energy production or biowaste composting.
Under the requirements of the EU's Directive on Waste, Croatia, which enters the EU later this year, must perform separate collection of 14 types of waste by January 1st 2015. The current law in Croatia only partially meets this provision.
Mirela Holy, a member of the Croatian parliament and former minister of environmental protection, prepared new waste act early last year, but it has not yet been approved.
"The set deadlines can be met if we bring the relevant legislation," Holy told SETimes.
Marijan Galovic, a waste management expert formerly with the Zagreb environmental NGO Green Action, said Croatia has to meet specific EU objectives. The country must recycle 50 percent of its waste by 2020 and reduce the disposal of biodegradable waste to 25 percent of total volume.
Galovic told SETimes that Croatia is doing better with waste management than some EU countries, such as Romania and Bulgaria, but it must achieve better results.
"What is commendable is the fact that we started the rehabilitation of old landfills and we launched a series of regulations [for] the management of special waste categories like automobiles, electrical and electronic equipment or packaging for drinks and beverages," he said.
According to the UN Development Programme, only 4 percent of Croatia's biodegradable waste is currently composted.
"The amount of bio waste disposed of in landfills must be reduced by the end of 2013. No more excuses," Mihael Zmajlović, minister of environmental protection, told the media in January. "This can be achieved by separate collection and processing, such as composting or pretreatment of mixed municipal waste prior to disposal."
Galovic said the country has not developed a national strategy, obligating municipalities to establish waste sorting systems that will meet the demanding European objectives.
Efforts are under way in several countries to increase recycling. [Gabriel Petrescu/SETimes]
In Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), just 5 percent of waste is recycled. According to the Statistic Agency of BiH, around 67 percent of the population makes use of public municipal waste services, while the rest, settled in rural areas, do not have any waste management. Last year BiH deposited 1.4 million tonnes of waste in landfills.
"Recycling facilities for final disposal of some of the less attractive wastes are not built because there are no economically viable systems for their collection," Mia Barbaric, press officer at the Federation of BiH Ministry of Environment and Tourism, told SETimes.
Serbia recycles 15 percent of its waste, but the amount is poised to increase. Laws on waste management and packaging were passed in 2009, followed by a strategy on waste management for 2010-2019.
Dejan Lekic, assistant director in Serbia's Agency for Environmental Protection, said about 1.6 million tonnes of Serbia's waste ends up in landfills annually. Half of it is biodegradable, and 20 to 25 percent is packaging waste, both of which are easy to recycle.
"The most common waste in Serbia is bio waste, such as grass, flowers, as well as food waste, dead animals. Biodegradable waste accounts for 50 percent of communal waste. After this, it is cardboard, paper, plastic bags, textile, diapers and metals," Lekic told SETimes.
Serbian municipalities use 164 landfills, but many of them do not meet EU sanitary and technical standards. The country also has more than 3,000 illegal landfills.
"Around 40 percent of generated communal waste ends up on the wild landfills. Although we had several cleaning actions, illegal landfills are recreated very quickly," Lekic said.
While it is challenging to make changes, efforts are under way to do so.
Romania faces an EU deadline this year to create a nationwide collection and sorting system that will result in recycling of 55 percent of waste. The country has adopted the Green Point system, under which, manufacturers mark packaging with with a symbol certifying that they contribute to the cost of recovering and recycling reusable materials.
Eco-Rom Ambalaje oversees the Green Point programme in Romania, co-ordinating the efforts of more than 900 companies that produce 661,000 tonnes of packages. Eco-Rom Ambalaje said it recovers approximately 240,000 tonnes of packaging per year.
Serbia's waste management strategy envisions the transformation of most existing landfills into stations for collection of recyclable waste, while some landfills will be closed and regional landfills will be opened instead.
"It is planned to build 26 regional centers for communal waste management ... regional landfills, plants for separation of recyclable waste, plants for biological waste treatment and transfer centers in each region," Lekic said.
In BiH, a $26 million dollar World Bank loan is funding the construction of 16 regional waste management centres. The project has improved landfills in Sarajevo and Banja Luka and created new facilities in Zenica and Bijeljina. About 150 illegal dumps in BiH have been closed.
Miodrag Dakic, director of the Environmental Protection Centre in Banja Luka, said improving waste management decreases pollution and creates economic opportunity.
"Financially and environmentally it is justifiable to take those resources from waste rather than use them from the wild or artificially. Also, this is a potential to create new jobs in the waste management industry," Dakic said.
SETimes correspondents Katica Đurović in Belgrade, Ana Lovaković in Sarajevo and Gabriel Petrescu in Bucharest contributed to this story.