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The sale of the biodegradable plastic bags in North Macedonia in just four months – from the 1st of December 2021 to the end of March 2022 brought MKD44.7 million, or over €720,000, to the state’s coffers, says the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning (MEPP) for Meta.mk. The calculations and the payments by the retailers from the plastic bag sales are made every three months and the data for the second quarter are yet to be published.

According to the ministry’s estimates, the sales volumes of plastic bags in the supermarkets in the first four months of 2022 were reduced eight times in comparison with the period before December 2021.

“The idea and the proposal of the MEPP are purchasing containers for waste selection for plastics and cans with this money, so that it will be re-invested into the environment protection, primarily as a support to the waste selection systems in the municipalities and for the citizens. For this purpose, MEPP will prepare an Investment Program for the funds collected on that basis, which will be submitted to the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia for adoption, after completing the procedure for the rebalancing of the state budget“, explains the ministry.

The municipalities ought to inform about the future locations for collection of the selected waste
Besides the purchase of the waste selection containers with the money from the plastic bags sales, the ministry will also work with the municipalities, which should sign contracts with the collective operators in order to ensure the collection of the selected waste.

“In order to place the containers, the municipalities should, according to the contracts with the collective operators, also inform us about the locations from where the selected waste collection implemented”, the Ministry of Environment informs.

With the financial assets acquired with the plastic bags sales, waste selection containers should be put in all municipalities, and the distribution will be made according to a certain methodology and the number of the residents in the municipalities.

With the amendments to the waste management laws that were adopted by the Macedonian parliament last year, the plastic bags were banned for use as of the 1st of December 2021. In the shops the customers can now buy a biodegradable plastic bag for a price of 15 denars or go shopping with a canvas bag for multiple use.

Alternatively, some stores in the past have provided free biodegradable bags without handles or paper bags. Some retailers also sell paper bags, while vegetables and fruits can be bought in plastic bags at Skopje markets, despite being banned.

No funds from the sale of the bags for fencing off the arsenic in Lojane
The Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning explains for Meta.mk that the money collected with the sale of the biodegradable bags so far, will not be used for erecting a fence and information boards around the scattered piles of arsenic and other waste mineral raw materials in Lojane, which are 100 meters or less from the primary school.

“In the meantime, we do not have a legal right to create a new program, or to redistribute and use the money while the budget rebalance is in the Parliament,” says MEPP, explaining why these funds cannot be used in Lojane.

The tailings – about 15,000 tons of arsenic sulfide – are located in the former mine “Lojane”, and at an another location near the village of Tabanovce, additional quantities of this extremely hazardous waste are stored. In addition to the State Environmental Inspectorate (SEI) requesting a solution to the arsenic problem, at the beginning of this year, the State Inspectorate for Technical Inspection (SITI) was also involved with the inspection supervision.

SITI first identified irregularities and instructed the former concessionaire – Turkish company Kaltun Madencilik A.Ş to fence off the Lojane dump, set up warning information board and put danger warnings about the use of the water from the tailings dump.

However, at the end of May this year, SITI informed that the company had not acted upon the executive and final decision of the state inspector, so a procedure for settlement with the concessionaire is currently underway. The concessionaire can get a hefty fine.

Meta.mk and Portalb.MK wrote about the dangers of the scattered arsenic and other mineral resources in Lojane and Tabanovce in December last year. In all the past period, people, animals and the entire environment in Lojane and Tabanovce have been facing the consequences of the scattered arsenic in both locations, and eight years to deal with the danger that directly threatens their health went into thin air. Although it was chosen to exploit arsenic, the concessionaire did not clear the site from the dangerous mineral resources.

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