How Slovenia Implemented EU Standards on Waste Management
We used to think that waste is something we need to get rid of; once we take it out of our house — we no longer care about it. And then we see enormous waste landfills occupying the space that otherwise could be used for recreation, infrastructure, etc. How much would we pay in order to eliminate those landfills, to have a clean lake in the neighbourhood?
On the other hand, if we cared about the waste from the moment of its formation in our household, since it is indeed our property and we shall care about it like about any other of our goods, all those landfills could be avoided: by separating different types of the waste and by recycling it we ensure a decrease in waste landfills, we pay less for our waste management and the waste processing enterprises make profits since waste is also a valuable material that can be sold (for its reuse in different industries: for example, recycled biodegradable waste is a fertilizer in agriculture).
In Ukraine, the Law On Waste (No. 187/98 of 5 March 1998) introduced in 2012 the concept of the waste separation by prohibiting as of 1 January 2018 the disposal of non-recycled waste on landfills. This should mean that the waste should be separated according to its type and recycled for further use in different fields of industry to the maximum possible extent.
Naturally, the most efficient way to achieve the waste separation is the separation by households placing the waste in different waste containers: then the waste processing companies come to pick it up and to recycle it for further reuse. However, even though the respective provision in the Ukrainian Law On Waste exists since 2012 and is valid for more than 5 months now, only a very limited number of households in Ukraine currently dispose of the containers for waste separation.
The official figures (according to the National strategy of the waste management in Ukraine until 2030 adopted by the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers from 8 November 2017 No.820-r) are impressive and frightening: still today the main way of waste management in Ukraine is its disposal in landfills (in 2016 the volume of the created waste was approximately 11 million tons, from which only 5.8% of waste was recycled and other waste was disposed in landfills, 99% of which do not correspond to the standards of the European Union).
So what do we need in order to achieve the European standards in waste management? Slovenia, as young country as Ukraine, shows its success story in waste management progress.
During the first years of independence, the Slovenian waste management system was still in its infancy and was not functioning in accordance with international standards of environmental protection. In 1995, according to a research conducted by Umanotera,1 separation of municipal waste was non-existent and approximately 90% of all collected waste was put in landfills, which is the worst possible solution for the environment.
In the accession process to European Union membership, Slovenia had to implement the Union's policy on waste management. This primarily meant the implementation of then-applicable Framework Waste Directive (75/442/EEC) with the Rules on Waste Management which were adopted in 1998. While the Rules included a more detailed determination of tasks and obligations of waste management participants and certain waste producers, the framework still had some deficiencies. These deficiencies were gradually rectified, firstly by the Decree on waste management in 2008 and subsequently by the Decree on waste in 2011 and 2015, implementing the European Parliament and Council Directive 2008/98/EC on waste.
The most important change was adopting a structured approach, acknowledging that waste management is futile without the prevention of waste production. When dealing with waste, the primary objective is the preparation of waste for their reuse, followed by recycling and other forms of processing, whereas disposal in landfills can only be used as a last resort, where the negative environmental impact or costs of processing would exceed the impact of disposal into landfills. The tasks and obligations of all waste management participants have been further detailed, while the supervisory role of government authorities has been increased through the implementation of an information system for waste management. The Decree of 2015 also prescribed the obligation of the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning to analyse data on waste management and report to the European Commission on the implementation of Directive 2008/98/EC.
Data gathered by the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia shows that, excluding the export of collected waste, in 2014 only approximately 4.6% of waste was disposed of in landfills and in 2015 this percentage fell further to below 4%.2 Thus, in the timespan of approximately 20 years Slovenia has made a great improvement in terms of prevention of waste disposal. Additionally, the amount of recycled waste was between 40 and 45 % in 2014 and 2015, while prior to implementing the Union’s policy on waste treatment, this percentage was around 6%.
A very important step in improving the waste management system by increasing the possibility for recycling and decreasing the amount of waste disposal was the implementation of separate collection of fractions of municipal waste in 2001 by Order on the management of separately collected fractions in the public service of urban waste management. Prior to the implementation, households gathered all produced waste into singular waste containers and the task of separation was imposed on waste processing companies.
However, since the implementation, households are obliged to separate their waste by themselves into several fractions, including paper and cardboard; glass; plastic and light packaging; and biologically
degradable waste as fractions representing the largest percentage of produced waste.
According to the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia, the percentage of separately collected municipal waste was 8.6% in 2002, a year after the implementation of the Order. This number increased slowly in the first couple of years and was 11.5% in 2007. However, the percentage extraordinarily increased between 2009 and 2013 and has since settled at around 65% of municipal waste. Despite the initial reluctance of the municipal population to change their habits and comply with these regulations, the practice of separation has seen an immense increase since 2009 and Slovenia is one of the leading EU countries in this aspect.
The waste management system is mostly decentralized and organized on a municipal level, whereas the municipal authorities issue special regulations regarding waste management in their area. Waste management participants (collectors, processers, etc.) range in sizes from small to large companies, while the collection of municipal waste is organized as a public service which must be provided for all residents.
While there have been certain accusations regarding the failure of the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning to completely implement an effective supervisory system over all waste management participants and the consequential misrepresentation of data regarding waste management in the Republic of Slovenia, it cannot be denied that Slovenia has made great progress in developing its waste management system to European Union’s standard and, consequently, protecting the environment.
Simple personal motivation of all the participants of waste management could bring us all clean environment and profits: usually, the takeover of sorted waste by waste processing companies costs much less for households than of non-sorted waste and recycling companies make profit on selling the recycled waste for reuse. As a result everyone’s a winner. The only investment to make in order to achieve this is willingness and care.
Katja Šumah, senior associate at Law firm Miro Senica and attorneys, Ltd
Anastasiia Poels, legal counsel at Law firm Miro Senica and attorneys, Ltd
Žan Klobasa, legal clerk at Law firm Miro Senica and attorneys, Ltd