Posted 17 января 2023,, 08:30

Published 17 января 2023,, 08:30

Modified 17 января 2023,, 08:57

Updated 17 января 2023,, 08:57

The year since garbage reform started in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Why there are no positive changes

The year since garbage reform started in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Why there are no positive changes

17 января 2023, 08:30
The reform of municipal waste management has been going on in the capitals for a year now. But apart from the increased payments, neither Muscovites nor residents of St. Petersburg saw any changes. Why did this happen and has it become cleaner in megacities? Novye Izvestia tried to analyse it with together with experts.
Garbage reform

Alexander Dybin

In Russia, the garbage reform started in 2019.

But both capitals and Sevastopol received a three-year delay in order to better prepare. After a year of work in the new format, residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg can say that there have been no big changes in how waste is removed from yards. There was no qualitative leap in the quality of this service. Also, both megacities have not advanced on another indicator of the reform – environmental. According to experts interviewed by Novye Izvestia, separate waste collection has not become widespread, and garbage is still being taken to landfills that poison the lives of neighboring settlements.


Petersburg began with scandals


A year ago, the Northern Capital plunged into a garbage collapse. The old waste carriers were replaced by the Nevsky Ecological Operator company, which was established by St. Petersburg, Leningrad Region, VTB and Inter RAO. The start of work began with problems: there were not enough cars, drivers did not know the routes, and the wipers did not open the gates. As a result, the courtyards of St. Petersburg turned into landfills for several weeks. But over time, this problem was solved, and stable garbage collection was established.

However, the scandals did not end there. According to the logic of the reform, St. Petersburg garbage should be sent to five waste recycling complexes (KPO). Two in the city, three in the Leningrad region. So far, only one has earned – on the Volkhonskoye highway. Three regional complexes are proposed near the villages of Dubrovka, Ostrovsky and Orzhitsy – this is a severe social conflict. Local residents are categorically against the placement of these objects. They organize protest actions, write to deputies and officials of all levels. The fact is that the objects proposed to be built next to the old quarries, which will be reclaimed by the tailings left after the recycling of garbage. Residents insist that such "reclamation" will kill the surrounding landscape and groundwater, make life in the area of objects unbearable. And in the Orzhits area, the complex also threatens the catchment area of the Peterhof fountains' power system.

According to Novye Izvestia, the Nevsky Ecological Operator, despite the protests of residents and the arguments of environmentalists, continues to promote KPO projects in places proposed by the authorities of the Leningrad Region. There are no other locations for factories, even in theory.

According to ecologist Sergey Gribalev, the main problem of the garbage reform in St. Petersburg is that two neighboring regions were divided between two regional operators. NEO is engaged in the garbage of St. Petersburg, but is forced to interact with the Leningrad region. There is nowhere else to take waste to the neighboring region. At the same time, the Leningrad Region manages its garbage itself through its own company. If both regions were administered by one company, there would be no counteraction and sabotage in the garbage sphere between the city and the region.

"While the reform is failing", - the ecologist says, "the plans for improving the quality of life that the president spoke about have not been implemented. The very course of the reform has been disrupted. There is only one positive thing this year. Under pressure from the public, environmentalists, NEO launched one of the points of the KPO Volkhonka. This is the most promising facility, waste recycling has been going on here since Soviet times. And now this territory has begun to be developed. Now this object exists, and we can show it to people, using the example of this KPO, it will be seen how the reform can go. But this step should have been taken three years ago. We've lost time. The next plans of NEO are facilities in the Leningrad region and we – environmentalists - are against all three. In my opinion, it is necessary to develop KPO Novoselki in the north of the city. There is already an object of strong negative impact there – a former landfill. If it is turned into a waste recycling complex, then it would be possible to recycle landfill gas, reduce the impact on the air. The President's instruction to carry out the degassing of this landfill has not yet been fulfilled. And no step has been taken in that direction. We still have a terrible object that poisons the north of St. Petersburg, the smells reach the Black River. If KPO develops there, a number of environmental problems will be solved immediately".


Moscow has classified everything


The garbage reform in Moscow manifested itself in the information space rather in the monetary plane. The business complained about too high tariffs for waste removal for legal entities. And Muscovites who have dachas in the suburbs are forced to pay the full cost of removal for both addresses, although it is physically possible to stay only one at a time.

"Since the beginning of 2022, a single regional operator for the management of MSW (solid municipal waste) has been operating in Moscow – SUE Ecotechprom. The transition to unified management took place without serious failures, there was no critical increase in the number of complaints from the population, public utilities generally coped with the management of waste generated by Muscovites even in bad weather. From the point of view of technological support for the provision of services, everything is in order in the metropolitan region. There is also a service in Moscow for organizing the removal and disposal of old household appliances and bulky garbage, for example, furniture", - said Yelena Sharoikina, Chairman of the Commission on Ecology and Environmental Protection of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation.

The main scandal related to Moscow garbage is a protest around the northern village of Shies, where they wanted to take the capital's waste, but people set up a tent camp to prevent this.

According to Maxim Shingarkin, an ex-deputy of the State Duma, one of the authors of the law on garbage reform, after Shies, the Moscow authorities classified data on where the capital's garbage is being transported. These data are not included in the territorial scheme, as well as information about how much waste the capital generates.

"Moscow deliberately delayed joining the reform", - says Maxim Shingrakin, "instead of showing other subjects how it can brilliantly solve problems, the city deliberately maintained the status quo. The Moscow region dealt with this issue, and Moscow withdrew itself. No one, even experts, know how much MSW is actually formed in Moscow, what proportion is formed by citizens, and what by legal entities. How these wastes are processed, and most importantly, where they are taken and where they are buried. This is unknown. Moscow has actually blocked the transfer of its garbage for incinerators in the nearest Moscow region. But at the same time continues to operate two unfortunate factories in the city limits. Given that the Russian Federation has signed the Stockholm Convention, the work of these plants looks absurd and meaningless. The Moscow government has already closed the 4th plant once. And why it works now is a mystery. Moscow has not stated which regions and what volumes of garbage they accept, and what they get for it. At the same time, we know that an excessive amount of waste is stored in the KPO near Moscow, which does not correspond to the design solutions. These wastes are sent to Muscovites who go to dachas, next to these KPO. And Moscow refuses to take responsibility for this garbage".

When will there be a separate collection of waste?


One of the triggers of the garbage reform is the separate collection of waste, which is promised to citizens. But in fact, this process has not been launched en masse. First of all, because garbage carriers and operators are not interested in sorting, a different logic works for them – the more waste, the more money.

"The very organization of a separate collection causes distrust among the population", - says Yelena Sharoikina, chairman of the Commission on Ecology and Environmental Protection of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation. - The gray and blue tank look almost identical. The janitors sabotage the work, who can mix waste from two tanks if they see that one of them is overflowing. In addition, people want to receive financial remuneration for the delivery of recyclables or at least a reduction in utility bills, i.e. to pay for mixed waste "in fact". It seems unfair to them that sorting is already included in the tariff, and they are also offered to sort around the house without any encouragement. The movement towards the goals of the reform is observed, but insignificant, its pace leaves much to be desired. According to the Moscow City Hall, more than one million tons of recyclable materials were collected in the capital in 10 months of 2022. Last year, similar results were achieved in 12 months. 2 According to the territorial scheme, more than 8 million tons of raw materials are produced annually in Moscow. Thus, only an eighth of the waste is sent for recycling, which is 12.5 percent. According to the reform, 36% of household garbage should be sent for recycling by 2024. That is, the volume of recyclables collected should be tripled in two years. And such indicators are hardly achievable in these terms."Problems with separate collection are also being discussed in St. Petersburg.


"In terms of the quality of service, nothing has changed for the better this year", - says ecologist Sergey Gribalev, "all because logistics has not been rebuilt. I've never seen my hometown so dirty. When they tell us about separate garbage collection, they show blue and yellow tanks for separate waste collection… This is all unreliable. And I see large containers standing in the center, and utilities are dragging colored tanks from corner to corner, collecting foliage, it's chaos. And these are not steps towards separate waste collection. It's just throwing, just to take it out and it can be seen from the container sites. How strangled is the public initiative on separate waste collection. Unfortunately, it is not yet a state program, while it is a public initiative. Yes, there is some interaction with the regional operator, but this friendship is only because there is strong pressure from the public and the media, who ask the question: where is the separate collection? But the reaction is not what is prescribed in the stages of garbage reform and the national ecology project".


Bad smell


An acute problem for the Moscow region in recent years has been the smell of landfills. In 2020, the regional authorities reported that they had closed the last landfill and promised that they would not return to this format. Now the garbage goes to the KPO. This is a plant where garbage is sorted, some of the useful fractions are sent for processing, some of the waste is converted into RDF fuel. But still there are tails that have to be stored at landfills, which are at each KPO. These complexes have been operating not so long ago, but residents of neighboring settlements are already talking about the smell and filtrate that flows from the territory of the complexes.

"In the areas where KPO are built, people are not happy with the fact that they were promised to organize waste recycling, but, in fact, the lion's share of the raw materials coming there is still being transported to landfills. And this is again a question of the problems and morphology of waste generation. In the same place where landfills are organized, local residents note that this was done with violations, and that the new landfills are no better than the old ones", - says Yelena Sharoikina.

According to the chairman of the Commission on Ecology and Environmental Protection of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, one of the most important problems of the garbage sector is the rapidly growing volume of waste generation, despite the fact that the share of non–recyclable garbage is 50%.


"This is evidenced by the data of the morphological study of Ecoline Group, an operator that serves the Central and Northern Administrative Districts of the capital," the expert notes, "the question is what is being put on the market, and this area needs to be regulated. It is important to encourage manufacturers and sellers to use mainly recyclable packaging. As well as qualitatively work with the population. Now this work is organized extremely poorly. Information about how the separate collection works and what is permissible to hand over to the blue tank and what is not is still insufficient, or it is not communicated to people properly. The problem of handling hazardous waste is extremely urgent – batteries, mercury-containing lamps, medical waste. The question of how to collect this garbage from the population and ensure its safe disposal has not been resolved in principle".

According to former State Duma deputy Maxim Shingarkin, Moscow could solve its garbage problems on its own, at the expense of its resources.


"Moscow has financial resources that allow it to rely on the most conscientious citizens, and there are a huge number of them in the capital that could contribute to the separate collection of waste," he says. – Without export outside Moscow, a significant part of the waste could be separated into secondary raw materials. And the rest should be disposed of without causing damage to the environment on the territory of the Moscow region, including the volumes of garbage from the Moscow region, since Muscovites produce a significant part of them."Experts from St. Petersburg also talk about a similar approach.

To sort the waste as much as possible inside the city, where the enterprises working with recyclables are located, and to remove the few remnants to the region.

"But this concept has opponents, the KPO in Novoselki is located near the Levashovo airfield, the already operating KPO on Volkhonka is also not far from Pulkovo", - says St. Petersburg ecologist Sergey Gribalev, "of course, there will be resistance. But if the operator focuses on quality work, then there will be no seagulls in the KPO area".