Waste Management Becomes Problem for Russia’s Moscow Region

Waste management is one of the growing environmental problems of Russia’s Moscow Region, as local authorities look to lessons from the European Union’s expertise in an effort to eliminate huge waste dumps inherited from the Soviet era, New Europe reports.

“In Russia, nobody paid serious attention to waste management or waste disposal and this why it’s a challenge for us and we have to find the best possible way to do it,” Andrey Vikharev, the acting head of the Istra District in the Moscow Region, told the news outlet.

“Certainly we’re lagging behind Europe in this regard but for us, it’s kind of advantage because we can get the experience that Europe has accumulated already and get the technologies that have proved to be most efficient,” he said.

Vikharev noted that unlike Europe, Russia has vast areas of land. “Fortunately or unfortunately Russia is a very big country. This is why nobody cared about waste because we have such huge areas for landfills or garbage polygons,” Vikharev said, adding that now Russia plans to rehabilitate these areas.

Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has estimated that around 60 million metric tons of MSW (Municipal solid waste) is generated each year, amounting to more than 400 kg per capita. The volume of waste does not as such constitute the problem as the apparent inability of local governments, individuals and waste disposal firms to keep up with the task of managing waste and protecting the environment.

Since 2016, Russia’s producers and importers have been obliged to recycle 10-30% of the waste they generate. When introducing this requirement, the federal authorities also gave businesses a choice in how to fulfill it. They could build their own recycling facilities, or hire a third party to recycle the waste.

Last year, a new option to pay an ‘environmental fee’ was introduced. In return for paying the fee, companies’ waste would be collected by a state operator. The rate was set at $40 per metric ton (mt) of paper and $58 per mt of plastic.

In 2017, the federal government was expecting to collect up to $150 million in ecological fees. The belief was that most businesses would prefer to pay the fee rather than organize their own waste collection and recycling. However, the state collected only $23 million last year.