The more we are dumping waste in the nature, the more we are distancing from the EU


Instead of coming closer to the EU standards, year by year, North Macedonia is falling behind the EU member countries more and more in regard of waste management. Statistical data shows that Macedonian citizens and companies are continuously increasing the scope of created communal waste which in turn is inadequately managed from the moment the waste is thrown. Instead of re-use and selection, the waste ends thrown in nature, in substandard municipality landfills that do not meet European criteria for waste depositing or, at illegal landfills near rivers in close proximity to planted agricultural products, in the nearest park, in mountain valleys. Simply put, everyone is throwing waste wherever he or she pleases.

The data provided by the State Statistical Office show that the quantities of created communal waste per capita have been growing unstoppably through the years. If in 2019, one citizen of Macedonia on average has been producing 351 kg communal waste annually, last year, this number climbed to 452 kg produced communal waste per household. If translated into tons, these are tens of tons, and compared to several years, these are hundreds of thousands of tons of produced communal waste in the country. By way of contrast, the percentage of non-selected, mixed communal waste that was collected throughout the years has been moving above 80% of the total quantity of collected waste in the municipalities.

“It can be concluded that the process of waste selection is an expensive endeavor that requires financial assets,” stated ADKOM, the Association of providers of communal services, where public communal enterprises nationwide are its members.

Drisla landfill in Skopje; Photo credit: Bojan Blaževski

As explained through the numbers, ADKOM claimed for Meta.mk that each of the Macedonian regions would need over 30 million EUR in order to build a modern landfill, the acquisition of new specialized communal vehicles and different containers for waste selection. In this calculation what wasn’t included are the ongoing expenditures that will show up at the public communal enterprises, such as fuel costs for more trucks that will have to collect various types of selected waste, an additional number of employees that will be needed for proper functioning, the necessary equipment for mechanical-biological waste treatment and other items for which additional assets will be necessary.

Measures that can increase the percentage of selected waste

ADKOM reminds that at some of the municipalities, the height of the costs for waste depositing for citizens and companies hasn’t increased for more than 15 years. Simply put, the waste selection will have to be paid by someone and the regulations in developed countries show that it will have to be paid by those that are creating the waste.

“The source of financing the processes of waste selection have to be sought at the EU ‘s funds where the experiences have been positive so far,” stressed ADKOM, which also stated that the country will also have to be included in acquiring additional assets.

The Association for sustainable development and protection of the living environment Go Greem stressed that a sustainable financial model will have to be implemented in Macedonia in order for the current situation where the percentage of waste selection depends on the current prices of waste materials on the stock market.

Special containers for waste selection; Photo credit: Bojan Blaževski

They are presenting several concrete measures that should be undertaken, starting from informal waste collectors, which at the moment are subjects that are selecting the biggest quantities of thrown waste, to become part of the organized waste collecting system. Go Green has managed to achieve the registration of a new profession in the country – waste collector and operator, to prepare an educational program, that was approved and implemented for the first time by the Center for Adult Education. Still, it is necessary that these people should be hired as it was done in the developed countries or in public communal enterprises or private companies that will be building a public-private partnership with the municipalities.

“According to the analyses and the available data, 80% of the collected waste from packaging is collected by the informal sector. The plastic waste that has ended with the recyclers is even 90% of the informal sector,” informs Go Green.

As for the companies, Go Green explained that we should differentiate between the final owner – recycler and collector – waste transporter.

“The companies that are collecting waste are those that need subsidies since when it comes to plastic or paper, the price of the waste that should be taken from a certain location will have a lesser value from the costs that will be made from its transportation,” said Go Green, adding there should be an intervention in the height of the compensation that such companies will receive.

We also have positive examples of waste selecting

The Go Green association, as part of the We are growing together project, with the support from the Macedonian government, is already working on a project of primary waste selection in 50 buildings, where cans for selecting plastic and paper were placed, in its collecting the informal waste collectors were engaged.

“During the first phase, 400 buildings or 15,000 households will be included and will be serviced by at least 5 previously informal waste collectors. In the next 6 months, the number of buildings is expected to grow including the number of persons engaged in the process. The people will be trained by Go Green with an issued certificate and will be hired full time with health and pension insurance,” explained Go Green the contribution that its association will make in the process of formalization of the waste collectors and its selection.

Another positive example is the Association of Local Government Units of the Republic of Macedonia (ZELS) that last year in cooperation with theGerman Agency for International Cooperation has become a partner in the implementation of the regional project “Glass packaging management in the Western Balkans.” In our country, the following municipalities took part in this project: Gevgelija, Bitola, Ilinden, Tetovo, Shtip, and the City of Skopje, who received an appropriate infrastructure (containers for glass recycling) that were placed in these urban areas.

Apart from the creation of appropriate infrastructure, this project will be used to measure the quantities of collected glass in these municipalities i.e. it should be increased by 20% from the present quantities, about which a media campaign will be implemented with the goal of increasing the people’s awareness.

On a municipality level, for several years, the Prilep’s local self-government has been the leading municipality regarding communal waste selection. Out of the total 28,000 to 31,000 tons of waste that are being created in a single year in Prilep, the Public communal enterprise Komunalec, annually, is able to select and sell between 1,200 and 13,000 tons of selected waste materials.

Fines, fines, fines…

After last year’s criticism issued by the European Commission in the Report of Macedonia’s advancement in 2020, in November last year, in November last year, the Macedonian government submitted to the Parliament the text of the new set of laws related to waste management. Accidentally or not, the adoption of these laws has been blocked by the MPs for several months, for which these days there was a reaction by the Economic Chamber.

At the moment, the selection and waste treatment is a regulated matter with laws adopted in 2010 and 2011. The Economic Chamber complained that the companies -producers that are throwing over 38% of the total waste from packaging on the Macedonian market do not pay nor finance a single system for selection and recycling i.e. waste expenses have only companies that are throwing 60% of the waste and are diligently paying for its selection and recycling.

“The avoidance of adopting the new laws and the evaluation of the work of collecting operators according to the old ones can mean a significant financial burden for us and for the industry as well, for food and beverages producers that through collective operators will have to pay the unjust and unfounded financial measures. This way, directly or indirectly, will be fined around 1500 companies that more than 10 years have been obeying the laws on waste management,” stressed the president of the Association for management of special waste streams at the Economic Chamber, Filip Ivanovski.

They warn that the current laws that were adopted 10 years ago didn’t plan projections for the period 2021-2030. This means that this year there is no obligatory regulation for the companies which can influence the decrease of activities for waste selection and recycling. They complain about unequal treatment of all companies and the potential financial measures that will have to be paid by collective waste operators. The recyclers are complaining again that strict fines are missing including current warnings in order to raise awareness for companies and citizens that aren’t selecting the waste.

The waste flat glass mustn’t be put into specialized glass container; Photo credit: Bojan Blaževski

The AKRON DOO company that is treating waste glass in Macedonia, for Meta.mk it stated that in the country there around 30 larger or smaller companies that are regularly separating the glass from the other waste, and the same quantities are included in their recycling process. Still, there are companies that are importing at least 1000 tons of flat glass manually, out of which 100 tons of waste glass are being created, and they don’t invest the minimum attention in order to create conditions for waste selection.

It is necessary that the current legislation that states the waste glass mustn’t be thrown into a communal waste container, to be implemented and that certainly mustn’t be thrown into a channel, valley, or field i.e. any kind of illegal landfill. Despite this, there are large companies that are working with hundreds even thousands of tons of flat glass, that aren’t depositing its waste glass for recycling,” complains AKRON DOO company.

They call upon the State Environmental Inspectorate to visit these companies and for a star at least to warn them that they should be selecting the created waste and then start with fines.

About the countless problems that the whole process of waste selection in the country is facing, Meta.mk has tried on three occasions to contact the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, but despite the promise that they will answer our questions, up until the publication of this article, we received no reply.

The EU is far ahead of us in the waste selection and treatment

When the problems with the waste management are put under the carpet, and in reality, the quantities of created waste in the country had been growing throughout the years, then the European standards for waste selection and treatment are becoming more distant, at moments, they are creating impressions that North Macedonia will never be able to meet these standards.

According to Eurostat data, in 2019, in the EU member countries by an average of 502 kg of communal waste was produced per capita annually. Despite the fact that the Europeans are creating more waste than our citizens, the European societies are managing to recycle or decompose at least 48% of the communal waste.

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