Issue 2, 2015. April-May

   

RECYCLING, SORTING THE FIRST STEP TO BETTER WASTE MANAGEMENT

Researcher at Policy and Management Consulting Group (PMCG)

Nino Kverghelidze,
Researcher at Policy and Management Consulting Group (PMCG)


Georgia's trouble with waste management is clear to even casual observers. While it has proven to be a persistent issue for the government, the country's new waste management code could be a major step forward in efforts to control the problem. In addition to instituting many regulations,the code also imposes increased fines on dumping waste in the environment. The size of fines varies from 50 to 5000 GEL.However, effective implementation of this law still remains challenging.

In towns and self-governing cities waste collection services are more or less available, but it is difficult to say how many of the 3,629 villages controlled by the Georgian government are covered by this service. According to the Green Movement of Georgia, almost every village has its own dumpsite. Moreover, these dumpsites are mainly located near agricultural lands, pastures, schools and houses. Hence, by not providing waste collection services, the municipalities unintentionally compel people to pollute the environment.

In developed countries, waste management is a very complex system that includes waste reduction/prevention, reuse, recycling, energy recovery and disposal. In Georgia, the only way to "manage" waste is by collection and disposal in landfills.The Performance Audit Report on Solid Municipal Waste Management prepared by the State Audit Office of Georgia sheds light on many shortcomings and gaps that exist in the current waste-management system in Georgia.The country faces lots of weakness in governance, planning and implementation processes. According to this report, there are 56 active municipal landfills in Georgia and 53 of them do not meet any environmental standards or sanitary norms. Since waste is not treated properly at landfills, it implies an adverse impact on the environment and on human health.

The amount of waste generated in the country is increasing every day, and this is an irreversible process. More waste necessitates more landfills/dumpsites, and the environment is becoming more polluted. The only solution to this problem isto start waste reduction as soon as possible, and the best approach to this is recycling waste: it saves natural resources and reduces the amount of waste disposed of in landfills. In the current situation, waste reduction is very important in Georgia, and it is necessary to start separate waste collection to achieve this goal.

Today, all types of waste are disposed of in landfills without having been sorted, despite the fact that a significant portion of this waste has the potential to be recycled.The list of recyclable waste materials is very impressive: plastic, glass, paper, bio-waste, metals, construction waste, waste electronic and electrical equipment, end-of-life vehicles, tires, batteries, etc. If sorted properly, actually almost every type of waste can be recycled.

Due to the fact that waste recycling is a profitable business, waste is sorted and recycled to some extent in Georgia; however, waste sorting does not have a well-organized character. Different types of waste are recycled in Tbilisi, Adjara, Kakheti, Kvemo Kartli, Shida Kartli and Imereti. In all these regions, waste recycling is applied mainly for paper, plastic, tires and glass. In order to cause waste reduction, it is necessary to start waste sorting on a larger scale. However, it is impossible to implement a separate waste collection system in the whole country in one or two years. There are not enough resources, finances, and experience to do it. Moreover, public awareness of waste management is not high enough. Due to these facts, it is appropriate to start separate waste collection in public service offices, schools, ministries, restaurants and organizations, like a pilot project.

As a first step, three types of waste can be chosen for recycling: PET bottles, paper, and glass bottles. As a second stage, according to demand, other types of waste can be added to this list. The company providing separate waste collection services can either state-owned or private. The mechanism for implementation might be as follows: public service offices, schools, restaurants or organizations that buy special recycling bins and start waste sorting will be exempted from waste collection fees for one year. After this period, organizations will pay a reduced fee (30-40% of the initialone) on the collection of waste that remains after sorting.The amount of recycling bins needed can be determined according to demand, activity and number of employees of the respective organizations. Further financial details can be agreed to between institutions and waste transportation companies, and the last step will be to negotiate with waste recycling companies that are interested in purchasing the sorted waste.

Despite the number of institutions covered by this waste sorting system, the volume of waste disposed of in landfills will be significantly reduced. In addition to this, people will get used to waste sorting, and this system will gradually change their behavior. Moreover, if separate waste collection is implemented in schools, it will facilitate raising the awareness of children regarding the importance of waste management. At the very beginning, separate collection of waste can be a voluntary practice; however, it will be better if it becomes mandatory practice step-by-step, and if appropriate laws and regulations are in place.

Currently, the existing problems in waste management in Georgia are very complex.Therefore, all of them cannot be tackled initially at the same time. First of all, the country should start separating waste at the institutional level: in schools, universities and public service offices. This will raise awareness regarding the importance of waste management and facilitate the change of the behavior of a considerable part of society.

Moreover, it will encourage waste recycling and, as a result, the amount of municipal waste will be reduced in the country.

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