Recycling requires infrastructure, awareness and campaigns
The level of consensus in Serbia about a framework for a sustainable economy is yet to improve, said Filip Radović, director of Serbian Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA). In an interview with Balkan Green Energy News, he cited the economic crisis but also a transitional moment in the development of domestic economy as barriers . However, Radović explained there are significant efforts in transposing European Union’s legislation in the environmental sector, aiming also at the implementation of concept of sustainability.
A business management graduate from Institut Franco-Américain de Management in Paris, he also holds a diploma of an environmental analyst. Radović is a member of the Serbian negotiating group for chapter 27 – Environment and Climate Changes within the process of accession to the European Union. He has managed numerous national and international projects in the field of waste management, climate change, water and air quality, and energy efficiency.
What are SEPA’s activities in international cooperation and do you have projects in preparation?
Its main European counterpart is the European Environment Agency. Since its establishment SEPA continuously increased the level of cooperation with it, mainly through priority data flows, delivering data and information to EEA fully in accordance with its highest requirements and reaching 92% of targets (15th position out of 39 European countries). At the same time SEPA prepared and implemented several internationally funded projects (IPA, bilateral support, UNEP, cross-border cooperation, etc.). SEPA also initiated the establishment of a Western Balkan interest group associated with activities of the European Network of the Heads of Environment Protection Agencies (EPA Network).
Is waste management the main condition to transform the economy and the society’s sensibility on environmental protection?
In Serbia we do recognize waste management as the most important part of green economy. If we take in account sustainable development and green economy concept of the United Nations, there are 11 fields crucial for transformation into a sustainable economy: agriculture, fisheries, water, forests, renewable energy, manufacturing, waste, buildings, transport, tourism, and cities.
Is it better to incinerate paper and plastic or to put it back to use? What is Serbia’s strategy and how does it compare to the solutions applied in the rest of the Balkans?
In accordance with the Waste Framework Directive, incineration of these types of waste is limited. Serbia has capacities developed for paper recycling as well as PET fraction from plastic waste. In other Balkan countries the system for recycling these types of waste is less developed.
There are no obligations or penalties for Serbia at the moment from the Waste Framework Directive, however in some fields of waste sorting and treatment the country is at the very beginning.
There have been numerous initiatives for waste sorting and recycling even in the 1980s, including programmes in kindergartens and elementary schools. What are the fundamentals in infrastructure and the motivation of citizens and companies?
The main point is to build up infrastructural capacity followed with activities in raising public awareness in order to enable citizens to do primary separation of waste. The majority of European countries was applying similar concepts through more than one decade, targeting participation of school level population and support from celebrities.
Domestic capacities for paper recycling and PET fraction from plastic waste are more developed than in the neighbouring countries.
What are Serbia’s obligations and potential penalties in the segment of waste sorting and treatment?
Future transposition of the Waste Framework Directive will determine the obligations and penalties. At the moment there is no such obligation, however in some fields of waste sorting and treatment Serbia is at the very beginning. There is substantial improvement in some other fields like packaging and electronic waste.
Is there an example of giving commercial value to a kind of an otherwise toxic waste and what market mechanisms can Serbia access?
Due to the fact that the amounts of toxic and hazardous waste are not so high in Serbia (from around 10 million tonnes of waste only 0.5% can be defined as toxic) there is still no commercial system established. The Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection prepared an EU-funded project for the development of a non-commercial hazardous waste treatment plant.
What are the challenges in reaching standards for the export of specific kinds of waste, in fields where it isn’t feasible to develop treatment systems?
For many years Serbia exports some types of waste not treatable here, such as PCB waste. These procedures are well established and in accordance with Basel Convention.
How do you assess the ratio of your agency’s capacity and budget against its responsibilities?
SEPA has conducted a thorough analysis of responsibilities and capacities of many European environmental agencies, concluding that majority of them have similar or even same responsibilities. This exercise also produced a clear picture on SEPA’s current state of play in relation to human and financial capacity, showing that lack of sustainable funding is one of the main obstacles in full implementation of EU-related environmental legislation.
How harmonized are domestic regulations with European Union’s legislation and international treaties in your area of activity?
SEPA is not responsible for transposition and harmonization of legislation. However, in all the fields of implementation of EU legislation SEPA showed that it has a capacity to perform in accordance with it.
What are SEPA’s main responsibilities in environmental disasters?
SEPA’s responsibilities in field of water and air monitoring also include monitoring during environmental disasters. A good example is the permanent water quality monitoring during the catastrophic floods in 2014.