Ukrainians produce about 12 million tons of solid waste annually, which gets piled up on landfills, taking away hectares of precious soil and killing everything around. Officially, solid domestic waste landfills take up 7.4 thousand hectares, and illegal landfills take in about the same territory. Experts have calculated that total area of landfills in Ukraine equals to the area of Cyprus. Thus, having visited the biggest garbage recycling plant in Ukraine "Ukreco" of the State Company "Ukrecoresursy", located in Kyiv, ForUm learned not only how to dispose waste, but also how to make use of it.

Wonders of modern equipment

Head of the industrial complex "Techno-service" of "Ukrecoresursy" Oleksandr Bodnarashek was our tour guide and told us that "Ukreco" was established within the project of the Ecology Ministry of Ukraine "The valley of green innovations" and has been working for a half a year only. Similar plant was put in operation recently in Dnipropetrovsk, and another project is being developed for Alushta.
According to Bodnarashek, working one shift only the enterprise can sort out up to 65 thousand tons of garbage annually. There are about 40 workers and 15 office employeers working at the plant. The enterprise uses both Ukrainian and foreign equipment. In particular, the whole waste sorting line, except for the press, has been manufactured in Ukraine, while the vehicles delivering mixed and sorted garbage for recycling have been imported.

"When the garbage arrives at the plant we weigh it," Bodnarashek explains.

Then a special tractor delivers it to the receiving bunker, from where the garbage goes in the cylinder.

In the cylinder the garbage gets sorted: small and domestic solid waste passes through holes and gets in a skip lorry delivering it to a landfill or the waste-to-energy plant "Energy".
The waste remaining in the cylinder must be sorted out manually. Workers of the plant divide it in eight groups: plastic, metal, glass, paper, polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

"Plastic is sorted out by color, as every color has it price. Transparent white plastic is the most expensive, while mixed plastic of various colors is the cheapest," head of the "Ukrecoresursy" marketing department Olha Drobysheva explains.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to do without manual work for the moment. Automatic sorting systems exist, but are very expensive.
The special line delivers the sorted waste under the press, where it gets shaped into packs.

"This is recycled waste ready for sale," Olha says.

"After manual sorting there are always so-called tailings left, which we send to the "Energy" plant for utilization. We try to recycle as much as possible to reduce the amount of waste to be disposed after on landfills."

Recycling for sale and burning to produce energy are not the only methods to make use of waste. There is also a technology enabling to produce energy from waste with the help of biogas units. There is one such unit of German manufacture near Boryspil. Chief engineer of Boryspil landfill Oleh Bogdan explained ForUm how this system works.  

The technology itself is not complicated but requires accurate diagnostics and calculations.

"We drill a 15-18 meter-deep well, install a perforated pipe, connected to our pits, which lead to the general system, and the pump delivers the extract through filters directly to the unit," the engineer explained.

However, before launching the system it is needed to control how much methane, oxygen, etc., every well can give. For this, the Gas Institute conducts special diagnostics to calculate the number of wells to drill and amount of gas to extract.

According to Oleh Bogdan, there are 50 wells working on the landfill. Drilling of each takes about two days, and altogether they produce up to 1 megawatt of electric power per hour.

Garbage as a national wealth

Experts told us that there are only a few waste recycling enterprises working in Ukraine, though the demand for recycled waste is high. Funny though it might sound, Ukraine even purchases garbage from abroad. So why cannot we make use of our own waste?

There are several aspects to this issue.

The first one includes an opinion that waste sorting enterprises are unprofitable. According to specialist on waste recovery of "ABE-Lviv" company Andriy Slonski, 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.

"Ukreco", on the contrary, assures that working one shift only its plant will pay off in 3-4 years. "Potential buyers are many, as buying recycled raw materials is cheaper than producing new ones," Oleksandr Bodnarashek says. The price of recycled waste is rather high, thus it is quite profitable to do this business. "Ukreco", for example, recycles 750 tons of waste monthly, and 200-250 tons of it go for sale. According to Bodnarashek, one ton of a sorted group costs on average 1200-1300 hryvnias, depending on morphology. Transparent white plastic bottles are the most expensive. One ton of this waste costs more than 5.5 thousand hryvnias. Sorted paper, for example, is the cheapest article on the garbage market - less than a thousand hryvnias per ton.

The second aspect includes obstacles, created by local authorities. According to Olha Drobysheva, at the national level Ukraine trends to increase the number of garbage recycling plants, but in practice it is very difficult to persuade local bureaucrats to allot a land for construction of such plants - they are simply not interested.

Sorting in the Ukrainian style

As of today there is a two-faction sorting system working in Ukraine: into wet and dry refuse. Thus, everything you need to do at home is to separate organic and solid waste and dispose it in garbage tanks separately. Such approach cheapens the garbage removal procedure and simplifies sorting and recycling at the plants. 

However, such two-faction sorting system is the minimum of "garbage culture", and Ukrainians have much to learn. In China, for example, people even wash garbage before disposing it, and in Europe the technologies of sorting and recycling are so efficient that the waste recycling enterprises have started digging out and recycling closed landfills. Anyway, while Europeans dig out old garbage, Ukrainians must learn to handle at least everyday trash, otherwise we risk to drown the country.

Kateryna Sukhopleshchenko, photos by Maxim Trebukhov


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