Modern world produces unbelievable amount of various production, and the major part of it is absolutely useless and of short service. Every Ukrainian creates 200-250 kg of solid waste annually, and a resident of a big city - 330-380 kg. Last year the Financial Times called Kyiv the dirtiest city in the world. Rating drafters calculated that annually one Kyiv resident produces ten times more waste than his weight. In total, Ukrainians produce about 12 million tons of solid waste every year and the amount of waste keep growing with every passing year. ForUm has decided to find out why despite such daunting figures Ukrainians do not hurry to sort and recycle waste.

Almost in all countries of Europe there are strict rules on waste sorting for its further processing. The biggest success has been achieved in Switzerland, Germany and Sweden, where people preliminary sort more than 80% of waste by themselves. In Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Austria, France, Italy, UA and Japan up to 50% of sorted solid waste is used as secondary raw materials, while in Ukraine it is only 5%, director of the state enterprise "Ukrecoresources" Dmytro Radionov told ForUm.

There are several reasons for this, according to him. First of all, there is no proper sorting system in Ukraine. Secondly, there is not enough capacity for processing and recycling of waste. "There are only four waste burning plants in Ukraine - in Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv and Sevastopol,  but only Kyiv plant functions, while capacity requirements on recycling of solid waste, including burning, makes more than ten million tons annually," Radionov says.

Moreover, our country does not have enough capacities for recycling of certain types of solid waste, like used combined packages and edible wastes, while recycling of such waste as glass, plastic, metals, paper and batteries has its own nuances.

Ignoring losses

Waste paper has the saddest story to tell. Recycling enterprises have difficulties with finding suppliers of waste paper and had to import it from abroad.

According to Dmytro Radionov, average amount of imported waste paper in Ukraine makes about 200 thousand tons per year. At the same time, Ukrainian population just dump paper waste, while modern technologies of paper recycling enable to provide considerable saving of forest and energy resources.

Not everybody knows that one ton of recycled waste paper makes about 25 thousand school exercise books, every 60 kg of waste paper save one tree. Moreover, paper production requires high water and energy consumption, while recycling of one ton of waste paper enables to save 1000 kWh of energy and 200 cu meters of water. In the majority of European countries, wrapping paper, sanitary paper and newspapers are made from recycled waste paper and secondary raw materials. Every year Europeans save more than 1.5 million hectares of forest thanks to sorting and recycling of more than 50 million tons of recovered materials. At the same time Ukrainians do not hurry to deliver waste  - too much trouble and low compensation. In Kyiv, for example, one kilo of waste paper costs maximum 1.70 hryvnias. 

The situation with recycling of batteries is also confusing. Everybody knows that because of heavy metals batteries cannot be disposed with other waste. Thus, one AA battery can contaminate about 400 liters of water or 20 sq m of soil. However, it is not clear what we should do with them. In Europe, for example, there are special utilization services engaged into recycling of batteries. In Ukraine, however, battery collecting centers are a rarity. In Kyiv there are only two centers, and it is still unclear where batteries go after. According to the official version, batteries are delivered to Lviv state plant "Argentum", where they get milled, and metals get dissolved in the reactor for further use in production sector. However, recycling of batteries is not the primary activity of the plant, and because of lack of materials the line works only once or twice per week. In fact, batteries get stored in a warehouse until there is sufficient number to switch on the line.

The problem of utilization of oil waste also remain unsolved. Thus, one liter of engine oil disposed in the soil contaminates 100-1000 tons of ground waters. The majority of Ukrainians simply discharge oil waste in water basins or leave it in landfills. There are also certain enterprises which buy oil waste to use it as fuel, which is bad for ecology. However, it is more profitable for industrial enterprises to sell oil waste than to pay for its recycling, and the majority of servicing stations do exactly this. At the same time it is strictly forbidden to use oil waste as fuel, because it produces huge amount of hazardous substances in the atmosphere while burning. However, there is a safe way to burn oil waste, which includes use of special safe systems, but unfortunately not all enterprises use them.

Working on enthusiasm

Waste processing enterprises, in turn say that the recycling system in Ukraine will work if the mentality of people changes.  Specialist on waste recovery of "ABE-Lviv" company Andriy Slonski told ForUm that Ukrainians recycling enterprises process only three groups of waste: PET bottles, glass and paper. In some cities the system of waste sorting has been working for some time already. However, even if people willingly put plastic bottles in special containers, departments for paper and glass are not so lucky and get stuffed with all the rest.

"Ukrainians are not civilized enough to sort waste properly. Collecting centers for waster paper and glass are also a problem. Homeless people simply take paper and glass from garbage containers and deliver the waste themselves."

Moreover, the specialist told us some really unexpected things. For example, processing plants recycle PET bottles to make not only new plastic products, but also a special film, used for road construction. Thus, throwing a plastic bottle in the proper department you help to repair a part of a road. And who would have thought that those useless plastic bags from supermarkets are used to produce roof tiles. However, according to Slonski, recycling business is not profitable in Ukraine.

"For the moment, selling garbage is absolutely unprofitable. One container, for example costs 2700 hryvnias. I have 365 containers, but there are also expenses for gasoline, vehicle, press-machines for garbage, workers' salaries... For this business to be profitable, the cost of garbage must be really high or people should sort all garbage themselves. Now, one ton of the most expensive pressed white transparent bottle costs only 4000 hryvnias. however, we continuer working in this direction, for the future so to say. There is certain use from our activity. At least less garbage ends up in landfills. We hope it will become profitable in the future, but for the moment we work on enthusiasm only."

According to Slonksi, the majority of businessmen do no want to get involved into recycling business. Firstly, recycling enterprises must get licenses for every type of waste. Secondly, such enterprises do not bring immediate profit. And thirdly, recycling enterprises must undergo regular sanitary and ecological inspections, which it is not to everyone's liking.

A matter of conscience

Millions of solid waste annually end up on six thousand landfills in Ukraine. Some of these landfills are overloaded and do not meet the norms of ecological safety. At the same time, even if the country does not have a functioning system of waste sorting, every citizen can help his city not to drown in garbage. What we have to do is to learn to treat garbage properly.

1. Separate your house garbage: one basket for organic waste and one basket for the rest, what can be recycled.

2. Waste for further recycling must be placed in special containers only. It can be a yellow container of "Kyivgorvorresursy" or an ordinary container with the label of leading recycling companies. Such containers have a plate reading what type of waste they are meant for. If you do not find such containers near your house, ask your local housing office to provide you one.

3. Sort as much waste as possible and bring it to relevant collecting center. You can find the location of such centers in Kyiv on Such centers accept PET bottles, polyethylene, waste paper, plastic products, aluminum cans, glass waste.

4. Buy less useless goods, like plastic bags, for example.

5. Follow the principle of three R: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Anastasia Pika


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