There is no secret that Russia has a growing waste problem, but the companies from abroad seem to be more interested in bringing solutions to the Russian people than the country’s own government. The degree of existing problems in infrastructure and the long practice of landfilling more than 90% of its waste, rather than separating and recycling it, or using for energy recovery, is rather shocking in 21st century.

“After all, it all comes to the main question: who will pay for changes?”

The year 2017 is declared the “Year of Environment” in Russia. It might be one of the reasons why federal bill, which has been for many years waiting for its right hour in the hallways of the Russian Government, has finally been voted for and entered into force. The Law makes manufacturers and importers responsible for meeting recycling targets of the end of life goods, and obliges them to either organise their own recycling systems, sign a contract with a regional waste management operator for a period of 10 years, or pay the environmental fee. The law also prohibits landfilling waste fractions that have recyclable components, and states that such waste should be used for energy recovery or recycled. Sounds like a great plan!

An implementation of the law, however, seems to be quite different from the plans written on paper. While the federal bill has been adopted, it is still unclear how the law will be put into action on the regional level. Each region needs to provide its own so-called territorial scheme for managing waste, and only 7 regions out of 83 prepared their schemes on time, by the end of 2016.

“Even though the benefits of recycling and energy recovery from waste seem to be obvious, investors do not seem to be rushing to put their money into the waste business in Russia.”

Saint Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia, with the region having extremely challenging situation with waste management. The city has recently passed its territorial scheme for managing waste, with some mentioning of energy recovery from waste and turning waste into fuel, but no description about how to bring the plans into action. Leningrad region has one waste treatment plant that was completed in 2011, but currently not functioning due to the lack of volumes and funding, and five more plants, whose commissioning was put on hold or completely cancelled in the recent years. After all, it all comes to the main question: who will pay for changes? Gate fee for landfilling is around 4 times smaller than the one for waste treatment plant, which is no wonder why landfilling remains the only dominant solution. Separate collection and recycling would require modernization of the waste collection vehicles and collection containers, and the government doesn’t seem eager to invest into this modernization.

Even though the benefits of recycling and energy recovery from waste seem to be obvious, investors do not seem to be rushing to put their money into the waste business in Russia. Political and legal risks are still too high, and the future of the waste management industry seem to be quite unclear.

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About the author: Bushueva Julia, Junior Advisor/Designer, julia@naturalstep.fi, +358 (0)40 375 8641

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