Miodrag Mitrović, MITECO:

We Discard Millions Of Euros At The Dump

Waste management analysis shows that awareness of waste as a resource still doesn’t exist in Serbia and that, due to a lack of infrastructure, poor organisation and a shortage of modern technologies, Serbia annually discards raw materials worth millions of euros

The European Commission adopted a new legal framework in late 2015 for the introduction of the model of the circular economy, in order to strengthen the economy through the sustainable use of resources and ensure sustainable economic growth. Proposed measures, such as increasing reuse and recycling of waste instead of landfill dumping, thus “closing the circle”, or extracting the greatest possible benefit from all raw materials, products and waste, along with increasing energy savings and reducing pollution of air, water and soil.As the leading operator in Serbia and the region in the field of industrial and hazardous waste management, how would you assess trends in developing recycling and waste management?

– The waste industry is in its infancy in Serbia. Pioneering steps were taken in 2001, following the democratic changes. When the country emerged from isolation, first to emerge was the export of hazardous industrial waste began, and operators from Western Europe charged excellently for this service. In later years appeared companies that started dealing with the treatment of hazardous waste, especially using waste as a resource. Special impetus was given to this process by a set of laws adopted in 2009, as well as the later establishment of a fund as an independent institution for eliminating historical pollution. This was followed by a period of stagnation in financing those jobs that are a state obligation. Some things were launched as of 2017. After a ten-year break, a dedicated Ministry of Environmental Protection has been re-established, with this area having previously been dealt with by various ministries for which this was a secondary domain. Additionally, the so-called Green Fund began to function, though for now it only subsidises the recycling industry (EEE, waste tyres). Unfortunately, Serbia still doesn’t have an adequate administrative capacity to conclude the integration process in accordance with EU directives, to which we aspire as a candidate country.

The 5th International MITECO Forum was held on November 30th 2017 with the message “TODAY RESPONSIBLE, TOMORROW SUSTAINABLE”. The focus of this Forum were the topics related to the business environment in Serbia from both national and international perspective and the possibilities of creating an environmental policy in accordance with the EU postulates

Are you succeeding in your mission of waste being treated as a resource, and not as an unnecessary thing, which practically extends the technological production chain?

– Confirmation that there is no systemic solution for the disposal of hazardous waste is also provided by the example of cement plans that cannot maximally utilise alternative fuel from waste, which inevitably leads to the prices of their products increasing. This doesn’t only mean cement companies losing out, but the domestic economy as a whole. It is necessary to secure sufficient quantities of reliable and stable waste that cement plants could use as an alternative to fossil fuels in the production process. MITECO has the potential and ability to prepare such alternative fuel from waste.

While around 90 per cent of waste is recycled in Germany, this figure is only about 10 per cent in Serbia. To what extent does this testify to the state and society’s relations towards their own surroundings?

– My associates and I, through the Waste Industry Association and the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Serbia, are working intensively on introducing several main principles to the industry: introduce a landfill charge of a minimum €30/t for municipal waste; increase the insured sums for operators, thus contributing to reducing the black market in Serbia; and for all polluted locations to be cleaned with transparent funding from the budget of the Green Fund. Of course, we have to work on improving awareness and education of the wider public. Confirmation that Serbia is heading in the right direction is provided thanks to the fact that in spring 2018 we expect to open Chapter 27 of the EU accession negotiations.