Waste

Vinča regional landfill improves Serbia’s waste management in 2021

vinca regional sanitary landfill sepa report

Photo: Beo Čista Energija

Published

November 28, 2022

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Published:

November 28, 2022

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The start of operation of the Vinča regional sanitary landfill last year has significantly contributed to the waste management system in Serbia in terms of total quantity of waste deposited at such facilities. According to a report called Waste Management in the Republic of Serbia within the period 2011-2021, issued by the Serbian Environmental Protection Agency, there was also a drop in the amount of waste ending up in unsanitary landfills, or garbage dumps, and illegal landfills. It is one of the most significant environmental issues in the country.

The report Waste Management in the Republic of Serbia for the period 2011-2021 showed progress in waste reporting as well, but not in the segments of packaging waste management or imports and exports of waste.

vinca sanitary landfill waste management 2021 report sepa municipal waste
Municipal waste

The number of facilities that report on waste generation is constantly increasing, and from 2011 to 2021, it jumped more than six times from 783 to 5,100. The number of reports is also constantly increasing, as is the number of reports on the transport of hazardous waste. It advanced from 63,000 to 72,000 just in one year.

The data demonstrate that both those who generate and those who manage waste are becoming more responsible.

Regional sanitary landfill Vinča made a difference

There was also a significant increase last year in the amount of municipal waste deposited in sanitary landfills, which is one of the major problems in waste management in Serbia. The existing facilities are insufficient to take in about 2.9 million tons of municipal waste generated annually. About 2.3 million tons are usually deposited in unsanitary landfills (garbage dumps) and illegal landfills, from which pollution spreads into the air, water and land.

Last year the quantity was reduced to two million. On the other hand, 850,000 tons were deposited in sanitary landfills, which is an increase of about 50% from 559,000 tons, from the 2020 report.

The change was attributed to the start of operation of the Vinča regional sanitary landfill on the outskirts of Belgrade, where 328,000 tons were disposed of, so Serbia now has a total of 12 sanitary landfills. The new site was opened in August 2021, according to the website of its operator Beo Čista Energija.

However, most municipal waste is still deposited in unsanitary and illegal landfills

Vinča also doubled the accessibility of sanitary landfilling of solid municipal waste to the population. Last year’s share was above 40% compared to under 20% in 2020 and only 14% in 2016.

vinca sanitary landfill waste management 2021 report sepa sanitary landfills
Sanitary landfills and collected municipal waste

Even though the start of the operation of the new Vinča landfill was a big step, there is still a lot of work to be done because around two million tons of waste still end up in unsanitary landfills and illegal dumps. The numbers haven’t changed: Serbia had about 140 unsanitary landfills and about 2,700 illegal landfills last year.

Packaging waste targets were met, but a lot of the material still ends up where it doesn’t belong

vinca sanitary landfill waste management 2021 report sepa packaging waste
Packaging placed on the Serbian market, and collected and reused by authorized operators

There isn’t any good news when it comes to packaging waste, because a significant part still ends up where it doesn’t belong – in nature, unsanitary landfills or illegal landfills. The government currently does not have the strength to change the existing system, where companies that place packaged products on the market are responsible for managing them properly, which means collecting and reusing them. The deposit refund scheme, which has proven to be a good solution in many countries, is yet to be introduced.

Authors of the 2021 report underlined that the numbers of companies included in operator-run management systems for packaging waste and those not included were more or less unchanged from last year, at 1,924 against 247, respectively.

National targets have been met, according to the report

Looking at the submitted data on the amount of packaging placed on the Serbian market, it can be concluded that the largest amount was collected and reused by authorized operators.

Out of the 390,000 tons of packaging placed on the market in 2021, 248,000 tons were collected and reused, but the remaining 36% ended up where they shouldn’t have. However, according to the unofficial data, as much as 60% isn’t collected or reused.

At the same time, the general and specific national goals for reusing waste have been met with the reported numbers. The target, 62%, was topped by 1.75 percentage points.

Same types of waste are imported and exported

vinca sanitary landfill waste management 2021 report sepa waste export
Waste export

Statistics regarding waste imports and exports were unchanged. About 421,000 tons were sent abroad, of which 37,000 tons was hazardous waste. Metals make up more than half of the exported waste, and most of the material in the segment includes iron. Paper, cardboard and paper packaging are next on the list, followed by glass and non-ferrous metals.

There is a long-standing issue with exporting waste as it is expensive for firms to dispose of hazardous waste that way, so it is estimated that over the last nine years it cost them EUR 35 million. The solution is to build recycling centers and facilities for the energy treatment of waste, which would prevent illegal and unauthorized disposal throughout the country. Such practice is a violation of the law and it jeopardizes public health and the environment.

vinca sanitary landfill waste management 2021 report sepa waste import
Waste import
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