Vujadin Šćekić, Owner, Jugo Impex d.o.o.

Rubbish Is An Urban Mine

Former pioneers, and today’s leaders in the field of recycling, they operate through two recycling companies – one for electrical and electronic waste and the other for industrial waste. These two differ widely in terms of the complete organization of work, output and input

Based on his decades of experience, the owner of Jugo Impex thinks that 2023 will be a very difficult year, that as a society we should strive for energy independence and invest in systems that will be able to use all forms of energy – solar, wind energy, and energy from waste.

You have been involved in recycling since 1994, and E-recycling began in 2010. How did that happen?

– Besides being a recycling industry, Jugo Impex is also a manufacturing industry. We have closed a part of the circle of the circular economy by making our own products from recycled materials that we sell on the market. Jugo Impex is a completely market-oriented company that is influenced by the metal stock exchange and everything else that happens in our business of recycling.

E-recycling was created in such a way that the input is constantly known, but for its operation it needs a high education level in society, and for everyone who participates in it. It cannot work just with market forces, because its process is extremely expensive and the output cannot cover all the costs of operation and disposal of electrical and electronic waste. Like everywhere in the world, laws have been introduced in our country according to which consumers pay for the recycling of all electrical devices that become waste after use.

These are two different concepts of recycling and it is impossible to put both companies under the same roof, which is why it was best to separate them, which turned out to be correct.

How do you become a leader in the recycling industry of Serbia? By constantly acquiring new knowledge, continuously investing in technology and introducing state-of-the-art equipment?

– Leader in the recycling industry is not a title you give yourself, but your work and environment put you there. Our goal was never to become leaders, but we do our work to the best and highest quality that we can. We felt that we had to work non-stop, to adopt new technologies, to produce machines ourselves, to find new markets… When you do that for ten or twenty years, you get into a position where others recognize you as a leader.

In our part of the world, not even a fraction of the potential of the recycling industry has been used. How many “green jobs”, those that protect the planet, can recyclers open in each of the countries of the Balkan region?

– In this part of the Balkans where we are, recycling is partly a consequence of the problem of environmental pollution, water, air and land. Awareness is slowly growing, but we are still far from realistically planning environmental protection as most of us would like. We need synergy of the entire society and the setting of the right values for goals. Realistically, we waste a lot of energy that we need, we do not collect waste or put it in the right place.

After so many years of introducing recycling systems, special waste streams, we have reached the status where there are raw materials and the next step should be to use them to create new products. A major problem is the slow and long procedures in the administration for obtaining the necessary documentation for working with waste and raw materials, which is one of the problems that hinders development in the entire Balkans.

The economic environment is improving, investments are being made in infrastructure, factories and plants are opening, which brings improvement for your industry. What do you expect from the state?

– As I said, the main problem for us is the speed of administration, adapting to standards and understanding the recycling industry. Many regulations have been passed, but they are poorly implemented. It is good that many manufacturers have set up business, which has increased the capacity of the recycling industry. This has greatly increased the volume of raw materials on the market, and therefore accelerated the investment cycle in the recycling industry and increased gross income. I repeat, the administration must work faster and better at every level in our country. We have no right towards our country to inhibit any development in the industry. For everything bad we have sanctions, also where it is easy to close things, but it is difficult to create something new.

How can we help people understand that by recycling waste, the planet can be made a better place to live, that nature is restored to balance, that future generations learn to value the resources they have?

– As time goes on and as we increasingly use natural resources in terms of minerals and metals, we shall come to a situation where they no longer exist. The basic source of all these elements will be urban mines, i.e. waste. We have to take it seriously and not wait for it to happen without being ready to use our resources. For people to understand where we are going and what we are doing, we must primarily regain confidence in ourselves as a society, and at the same time create a synergy of everything we know, think and want.

If benefits were given for the removal of finely recycled waste, and double or triple the charge for poorly recycled waste, we would learn the rules

If municipal waste was not collected for two months in a neighborhood of residential houses, many people would understand what waste is. Or if you gave benefits for finely recycled waste, on the price or somehow differently, and charged double or triple for badly recycled waste, we would learn the rules and come to the right values, which are necessary for us in every part of life.

How many employees do you have at Jugoimpex, and how many of them are in E-recycling? Are you planning to expand your capacity and hire new people?

– Jugo Impex has about 100 employees, and E reciklaža has 240. Employment plans are always present, we constantly invest in technological development and we try to make our outputs 100% pure raw materials, which is the goal of a real recycling industry. An increase in capacity and something new is possible in 2023 if the market for metals and recycled materials that we produce partially stabilizes.

How much do negative global developments affect recyclers and your company’s plans? What are your expectations for 2023?

– Everything that is happening in the world, the crisis that occurred partly because of the war in Ukraine, and partly because of the increase in interest rates, affects all of us by losing value in every way. I don’t expect big changes in 2023, I think it will be difficult, more difficult than 2022. I’d be happy to be wrong, but with the current interest rates, you can’t get long-term loans easily, it’s hard to maintain a constant income to service everything.

I am of the opinion that 2023 will be a very difficult year where we will all have to change our habits and development strategy in the coming period. I would like us as a society to start striving for energy independence and to invest in systems that will be able to use all solar energy, all energy from wind and waste in one system. This is necessary for us, because if we don’t do it, we will face serious disruptions in the energy sector in the future, which will greatly affect liquidity and cause high prices of our products.

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