New waste management law aims to clean up

Changes shift responsibility to those producing refuse amid hopes that more will be recycled.

(Source: Sme)

A new law on trash collection is shifting responsibility onto companies and importers as part of efforts to boost recycling in Slovakia, clean up illegal dump sites and bring waste management closer to European norms. 

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“It should bring more transparent and effective system into separate collection of waste,” said Silvia Nosálová, the marketing and communication director at ENVI-PAK, organisation responsible for waste separation and management.

The Environment Ministry hopes for more effective fight against illegal dumping sites, of which there are between 2,500 and 7,000 nationwide, depending on how they are counted. 

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“The law should bring Slovakia closer to the regulations and standards of the EU,” Environment Ministry spokeswoman Petra Stano Maťašovská said. 

Regulation of waste from the EU requires that Slovakia separate and recycle at least 50 percent of its waste by 2020. At present, just 6 percent of waste in Slovakia is recycled, which is one of the worst in the EU.

Separate waste collection

The biggest challenge is the process of waste separation and collection.

“Slovakia trails behind the rest of Europe in terms of waste recycling and the new law should change it,” Nosálová told The Slovak Spectator.

Legislation has clearly defined the obligations of the municipalities, collecting companies and organisations responsible for packaging waste recovery, but the biggest change the new law is the shift of direct responsibility over waste management to the producers.

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The main goal is to increase the amount of separated waste to 50 percent by 2020.

“The town or village is responsible for the separation of glass, plastic and metals but the costs will be covered by the producers,” Nosálová said.

Municipalities will make agreements with organisations responsible for packaging waste recovery (OZV – organizácia zodpovednosti výrobcov). Trash will be collected into separate containers – blue allocated for paper, yellow for plastic, tetra pack covers and foil, and green for glass.  

The law was approved by the European Commission in December 2014 and should save several million from the budget of the municipalities, which could be used for other projects.

“People will pay nothing for separated waste, the industry will take care of it for free,” said Environment Minister Peter Žiga back on March 17 as cited by the TASR newswire.

“Inhabitants of Bratislava should not feel any change during the collection of communal waste,” added Beata Humeniková, the spokeswoman for OLO, company responsible for waste collection in the capital.

However, they will be required to collect the waste carefully into separate containers.

“It should not be mixed with other types of waste, as in that case it cannot be collected by OLO,” she explained. In that case, the owner will have to provide separate collection, which will result in extra costs.

It should also strengthen the competences of police in dealing with the illegal dumping sites.

“If the damage exceeds €266, the police starts investigation under the Criminal Code,” said Maťašovská.

The fine for dumping waste at an illegal site increased from €160 to €1,500. Companies that fail to meet the regulations can be fined up to €350,000.

Broader responsibility

Michal Sebíň, the chair of the environmental section at the Association of Commerce and Tourism (ZOCR), said that the new law will increase recycling fees five fold.

“We cannot answer whether it will affect consumer prices,” he said at a press conference on June 30, but added that it is likely.

So far the recycling fees covered just part of the waste disposal costs and reached €7 million in 2015, which was the lowest in the EU. The Environment Ministry estimates that they will increase to €31 million.

“Businesses must control their suppliers, whether they fulfil the conditions ordered by the law,” Sebíň said.

In case they fail to do so, the responsibility for waste collection falls on the seller.

“It is important that all suppliers fulfil their duties and there is effective control by the state organs,” he added.

Thus far it is impossible to evaluate the effects of the law, although Michal Kaliňák from the Association of Towns and Villages (ZMOS) pointed out several complications connected with the collection of construction waste and separated collection of the green waste.

“This law was accompanied by particular expectations, therefore ZMOS is closely following its application,” Kaliňák told The Slovak Spectator.

The towns and villages are bid by the law to properly weigh the construction waste in order to allocate the costs.

“However, not all municipalities were capable of obtaining the measurement technology,” Kaliňák said, adding that the ministry prepared an alternative that would facilitate the allocation of the costs and pay the collectors.

The producers are rather sceptical about the new law.

“We see the new law as an inevitability which is necessary in order to improve the bad results of separate waste collection in Slovakia,” said Miroslav Jurkovič, the executive director at SLICPEN – Slovak Industrial Coalition on Packaging and the Environment. “Other alternatives would be more expensive for the producers.”

Jurkovič explained that the donations from Recycling Fund have significantly affected the development of the recycling market.

“The fund is trying to interfere the competition between particular organisations responsible for waste collection by offering one of them a significant donation,” he said. “It will increase the costs, but on the other hand, they get access to a service that secures responsible fulfilment of their duties, like in other countries.”

Another problem are the prices for waste collection, which can significantly affect their budgets. Jurkovič has doubts whether everybody will be able to meet the requirements.

“Moreover, some of the collectors are trying to abuse the situation,” he said. 

The process of implementation of the law is just beginning.

“Each producer should make sure, whether the particular OZV will be able to meet his obligations,” said Nosálová of ENVI-PAK. She also pointed out to a price war between the OZVs. “The price range is very volatile and generates unfair competition and under-pricing.”

ZMOS closely cooperates with the municipalities and analyses each phase of the law application.

“It means that if the application practice shows that it is impossible to reach the declared goals, we are open to amendments,” said Kaliňák.

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