Georgia Implements Waste Management Code Based on EU Regulations

Prepared by USAID’s Waste Management Technologies in the Regions Program

The intense growth of the population across the world is directly linked to the amount of waste we produce, which negatively impacts on the environment and human health via emissions in the air, land and water. Consequently, a few decades ago waste management and its reduction became a world priority. However,this trend in Georgia is being embraced quite slowly, while Europe has established the view that waste is a potential source of raw materials and energy and recycling would bring significant social and economic benefits to the country.

According to the Ministry of Environment Protection and Natural Resource’s National Report on State of Environment, as of last year there are around 60 landfills officially registered in Georgia covering 203 hectares of the country’s territory most of which do not comply with international standards, nor do they include separation or waste-based energy production. Additionally, there are hundreds of unofficial dumpsites in rural Georgia where municipal waste services are inadequate or nonexistent creating health and environmental problems for local inhabitants.

After signing the EU Association Agreement, Georgia is required to implement a number of environmental activities including the development of the waste management sector. Despite the fact that the country has adopted a new Waste Management Code in January 2015 Georgia still does not have a unified strategy and an action plan.Consistent with the AA requirements, both sides should promote long-term goals for “green” economic development. Article 302 of the EU requirements states that Georgia should advance air and water quality, develop waste management, nature protection, industrial air pollution and chemicals management at an international level.

The EU’s 2005 Waste Framework Directive perceives waste as a resource, while its concept and principle is based on waste management hierarchy (WMH), where waste prevention is prioritized. Following thisarereuse, recycling, recovery and disposal. With this principle, the EU intends to recycle 50% of municipal waste and 70% of construction waste by 2020. Moreover, the directive obliges member states to promote high quality recycling and introduce separate collection systems at leastfor paper, metal, plastic and glass.

In order to implement the principle of WMH, European countries have different regulatory and incentivized policies. For example, the landfill is taxed by the public authority according to the weight or volume of the waste and the fee is paid by the service provider. Such actions consequently reduce the amount of waste on landfills as the tax varies from 3 Euros per ton (Bulgaria) to 107 Euros (Netherlands). Part of the tax revenues are used for waste reduction and other environmental actions.

Moreover, the manufacturer who introduces the product to the market is obliged to pay for waste collection and its recycling fee. According to EU estimation, this forces the manufacturer to take into consideration the product’s entire life cycle.

Besides, separate waste collection systems are widely used by EU countries which helps to make the highest quality materials and maximize theirvalue. In addition, containers are put inretail shops where the citizens get some kind of reimbursement when bringingcertain types of waste. For example, the inhabitants of the city of Forli (Italy) get public transport tickets or stationery items when delivering waste to the containers. The EU directive also includes the “polluter pays” principle – whereby the waste management costs are paid by the waste generator.

Despite the fact that EU member states are at varying stages in waste management systems, the tendency to improve its waste management is still noticeable. Today, Europeis aimed towards creating a “circular economy” where reusing and recycling is a norm, while the word “waste” is outdated. This system allows for economic changeso that it benefits the environment and improves the quality of life.

The situation in Georgia is quite complex, but with the help of various NGOs, donors and the state, the country is on the right direction in terms of implementing a waste management system. The Waste Management Technologies in the Regions (WMTR)Program implemented by International City/Country Management Association (ICMA) and the Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN) andfinanced by the USAgency for International Development (USAID), assists central and local governments, local businesses, communities and municipalities in developing integrated waste management systems for Kakheti and Adjara.

The new Code, which was created based on the examples of Germany, Austria and Bulgaria,is structured around relevant issues and touches upon dangerous and harmless waste collection, transportation, recovery and disposal issues, as well as obligations on waste management planning, accounting, issuance of permits, registrations and control issues.

In line with the requirements of the Code, the government should develop a national waste management strategy, which should define the policies and goals of waste management for the next 15 years. Additionally, each municipality should have its own 5-year plan for municipal waste management, while those companies, who annually produce more than 200 tons of non-hazardous waste or 1,000 tons of inert waste or any amount of hazardous waste annually, are obliged to develop a waste management plan which will be revised every 3 years.

According to the Code, Georgia should have the same waste management hierarchy as the EU and involve several principles such as precautionary, “polluter pays”, “proximity principle” and “self-sufficiency principle.”The bill also obliges the waste producer and owner to process waste himself or to transfer it to a special agencies dealing withcollection, transportation and recycling. Additionally, the law bans waste burning outside ofa licensed incinerator.

It must be noted that the billdoes not introduce new fees but brings in administrative penalties.

Baia Dzagnidze

27 August 2015 21:26