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“Waste” from the reform. Part 2: Waste reform in official reports

Over the last two years, enough legislative changes have been introduced into environmental legislation related to the reform of the waste management industry. During the same period, representatives of the agency responsible for the waste reform - the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation - have repeatedly reported on their activities in this direction.

Last summer, the head of the ministry, Alexander Kozlov, said that the waste reform was “ahead of schedule”: there were no risks of disruption, and the indicators for waste disposal, treatment and utilization exceeded the targets. This conclusion was supported by figures: 73.2% of waste is sent for landfilling, 43.3% for treatment, 11.6% for utilization, and by 2024 it is planned to build 220 new complexes for waste treatment, disposal and utilization.

Later, the Ministry of Natural Resources also reported, that the waste reform was ahead of schedule. Officials promised to send 100% of household waste for sorting, after which no more than 50% should go to landfill.
This year, the Ministry of Natural Resources reported that 58 landfills within the boundaries of cities and 74 of the most dangerous objects of accumulated harm were eliminated under the “Clean Country” project. “By the end of 2023, it is planned to complete work on another 53 dumps and four most hazardous objects. In total, 191 dumps and 88 objects of accumulated harm will be eliminated by 2024. Since 2025 the project “General clean up” will become a continuation of the “Clean Country” - say the representatives of the environmental department.

In general, at the beginning of this fall, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Victoria Abramchenko called the waste reform a success. She reported, that the percentage of household waste processing in Russia increased compared to 2022 and amounted to 53%. Processing is the preliminary preparation of waste for further utilization or neutralization or disposal, including sorting, disassembly, cleaning. In fact, it is an indicator that characterizes the growth of sorting lines, but not the growth of recycling.

“More than half of solid municipal waste in the Russian Federation is already undergoing the necessary treatment. It is true that the share of solid municipal waste in the total generation of all industrial and municipal waste is less than 1%. Abramchenko said that about 50 million tons of waste is generated annually in the municipal sector alone. But this is an insignificant volume against the background of subsoil waste - 8 billion tons. To the creation of a full-fledged mechanism for processing industrial waste today is as far away as at the beginning of the “waste reform”.

“It took decades to create the solid municipal waste management industry in other countries, we are forcing the solution of the tasks set before us,” explained Deputy Prime Minister. Now there are already more than 182 regional operators in the country, which provide services for solid municipal waste management. “The infrastructure necessary for waste management is being created, and this is the most important thing. In three years, 211 facilities with a total capacity of 19 million tons per year for sorting and 5 million for utilization have been created,” Abramchenko said.

According to Deputy Prime Minister, by the end of 2024, seven complexes for treatment, utilization and neutralization of hazardous waste will be built. Waste disposal facilities will be created in each federal district, in addition, Russia will create a register of waste disposal companies.

The Russian Ecological Operator (REO) reported that “in 2022 the key indicators and results of the federal project have been achieved, and some of them have been exceeded one and a half to two times”. The agency believes that 2022 was a turning point: waste began to go strictly to organized landfills, while in 2021, 15% ended up in illegal dumps. In 2022, landfilling amounted to 81.4% of the total mass of waste treated, while the goal in the federal project for 2022 is 92.4%. “This does not mean the growth of landfills, but the growth of waste movement control, which meets the objectives of the National Project ‘Ecology’,” said Ekaterina Stepkina, Director for Project Activities and Strategic Development of the Russian Ecological Operator.

This article is part of an analysis of garbage reform over the past two years. Read also: 
“Waste” from the reform. Part 1: Garbage in the language of law and
“Waste” from the reform. Part 3: The Reform: a view from the regions and alternative opinions