Nevena Čolić Mohora, Director of MITECO Kneževac

Waste – A Resource For Economic Growth

Serbia needs a systematic concept of waste management

Nevena Čolić

Communication with the European Commission regarding the EU’s enlargement policy for 2018 as it relates to Serbia indicates that there is still no data on industrial waste and facilities for its treatment.

Data on the exact amount of hazardous waste in Serbia is lacking, but there are some estimates that around 100,000 tonnes of hazardous waste is located in almost 100 locations. The approach to the issue of hazardous waste should be systemic, encompassing, among other things, solving the problem of exporting hazardous waste for treatment and final disposal.

MITECO is among the pioneers in the industrial and hazardous waste disposal industry in Serbia. According to your estimates, how much historical waste does our country have and what steps should be taken to ensure the proper disposal of this waste?

– Former industrial giants that became bankrupt enterprises in the previous period represent losers when viewed in economic terms. But if we look at them from the perspective of waste management, they can bring financial benefits. We should look at waste as a resource, as a development opportunity for Serbia’s economic growth, within the framework of the circular economy. With the elimination of historical waste and historical pollution, greater potential would come for the development of various economic activities. However, it is essential for progress that there be a predictable economic environment, primarily legal and administrative, and without this condition neither foreign nor domestic investments are possible, nor successful models based on the principle of PPPs (public-private partnerships). Serbia, as an EU membership candidate country, should define its own industrial policies and develop and analyse economic models. We need the implementation of a systematic concept of waste management, which is supported by both the state and the private sector.

MITECO has warned for years that it will soon be impossible to export hazardous waste from Serbia to the European Union, or to countries that already have adequate centres for the “incineration or physio-chemical treatment” of that waste. More precisely, the prediction is that the deadline for this expires in 2020. However, despite the fact that the possibility of exporting waste to EU countries still exists, industrial and hazardous waste is still being dumped at landfill sites. Why is that?

– Yes, in the last two years we’ve witnessed serious quantities of hazardous waste being found that haven’t been adequately disposed of and treated. That kind of waste is hazardous to human health and has a very negative impact on the environment, given that the land (where the waste is buried) is contaminated with dangerous substances. Such accidents are just another consequence of the non-systemic handling of the issue of managing flows of hazardous waste.

Around 3,500 companies have an active permits for waste management in Serbia, while realistically that work is only done by around 30 companies that have adequate technology, knowhow and capacities, but also insurance policies. The remaining firms don’t have actual capacities to dispose of waste, so they dump it at landfill sites, which is contrary to all rules.

MITECO

Companies that are engaged professionally in industrial waste management must invest continuously in new plants and production techniques, which develop every year at the global level. MITECO annually exports about a thousand tonnes of hazardous waste that cannot be disposed of in Serbia. We export it to EU countries that have plants for its processing. The total budget for this is almost a million euros, which MITECO pays each year to plants abroad for final disposal of hazardous waste services.

Around 3,500 companies have active permits for waste management in Serbia, while realistically that work is only done by around 30 companies that have adequate technology, knowhow and capacities, but also insurance policies

Our obligation, as an operator that’s seriously engaged in this business, is to highlight the possibilities that can be offered by the private sector and to provide the best possible solutions, so that we won’t only deal with the waste management issue when an incident waste management is one of the important segments in closing Chapter 27, and that in order for Serbia to complete standardisation in accordance with EU legislation successfully, major investments are required. The investment potential of waste management is high, but we must be aware of the fact that the survival of this industry is brought into question no incentive funds are secured. According to the latest estimates of the Fiscal Council, establishing an efficient waste management system in Serbia requires the securing of around 1.5 billion euros. As such, it would be useful if independent financial institutions, such as the Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency Fund, also dealt with this w ork.

In which direction will the future of your company develop?

– MITECO plans will be developed in the direction of investing in the Recycling Centre Kneževac. First of all, we will invest in new processes that return natural materials to a reusable state. The focus will be on the recycling of electrical and other industrial machines. These waste streams must be managed in an extremely professional manner, in order for dangerous components (which such machines contain) to be separated, recorded and transferred, via the Transfer Station, for final disposal.

This can best be illustrated through the example of a transformer, as a device composed mostly of natural, recyclable materials. However, if the oil from a transformer, especially if it contains PCB, isn’t managed in an adequate way and enters the environment, it can have serious ramifications for the environment, but ultimately also for the health of people. occurs, but rather this area in Serbia will be ordered legally and systemically.

The 2019 Budget Act, with which the money allocated for the treatment of waste in 2018 was determined, envisages a third less than the amount of costs that the recycling industry has already covered for 83,000 tonnes of waste disposed of during the last year. On the other hand, the Fiscal Council’s assessment is that a strong increase in investments in environmental protection is a budgetary priority this year and in the following years, and that it should total around 1.2 – 1.4% of GDP annually. Do you consider such an increase realistic at this time, and that the state has the possibilities and the “ear” for that?

– We should consider that the issue of waste management is one of the important segments in closing Chapter 27, and that in order for Serbia to complete standardisation in accordance with EU legislation successfully, major investments are required. The investment potential of waste management is high, but we must be aware of the fact that the survival of this industry is brought into question no incentive funds are secured. According to the latest estimates of the Fiscal Council, establishing an efficient waste management system in Serbia requires the securing of around 1.5 billion euros. As such, it would be useful if independent financial institutions, such as the Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency Fund, also dealt with this w ork.

In which direction will the future of your company develop?

– MITECO plans will be developed in the direction of investing in the Recycling Centre Kneževac. First of all, we will invest in new processes that return natural materials to a reusable state. The focus will be on the recycling of electrical and other industrial machines. These waste streams must be managed in an extremely professional manner, in order for dangerous components (which such machines contain) to be separated, recorded and transferred, via the Transfer Station, for final disposal. This can best be illustrated through the example of a transformer, as a device composed mostly of natural, recyclable materials. However, if the oil from a transformer, especially if it contains PCB, isn’t managed in an adequate way and enters the environment, it can have serious ramifications for the environment, but ultimately also for the health of people.