Aleksandr Lukashenko holds session on improvement of recyclable materials processing

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President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko said that the system established in Belarus to collect and process recoverable materials has to be improved. The head of state made the statement at the session held on 18 March to discuss ways to improve the existing system.

“We should not forget that the development level of the recoverable materials collection and processing system, in essence, indicates not only our general culture but also the degree of civilization of the overall economy. Apart from that, the effectiveness of the management of recoverable materials directly affects the country's ecological security. It is our responsibility towards the future generations,” the head of state said.

The President remarked that the reduction of things to order is particularly important since spring has arrived. He gave instructions to take care of the relevant matters as early as this week. The topic will be looked at during the session from a wider angle. “Setting things to order is not only about collecting waste, domestic household waste, but using it rationally,” Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked.

These matters are vital for Belarus because the country has scarce natural resources, with many kinds of recoverable resources sometimes wasted and buried in the ground without thinking, pointed out the head of state. “Yet the resources represent an important source of raw materials that we have to use to the best of our ability for economic purposes,” the Aleksandr Lukashenko believes.

The President mentioned that waste is used to produce up to 50% of secondary material resources in Europe. The example of Switzerland and Germany that never bury solid municipal waste is particularly instructive. In these countries all the waste is collected and processed. What cannot be processed is burned to produce heat or is composted for agricultural purposes. “It is what we should strive for,” the Belarusian leader emphasized.

Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that upon the government’s initiative a special decree was issued over 15 years ago in order to bring about the existing system for collecting and using secondary material resources in Belarus. “Back then I was told that we would introduce the well-reputed principle of extended responsibility. The mechanism was supposed to be simple and transparent. It would allow tapping into money of producers and state and private suppliers of merchandise and packaging for the sake of financing the system designed to process recoverable materials,” the President noted. “However, the system doesn’t seem to work as intended. I am told that over 2,000 economic operators just ignore the system,” he added.

Certainly, positive results have been achieved, too. More secondary resources are now collected, the physical infrastructure of collecting enterprises has been renewed, and the construction of processing factories has started. “Yet the recovery of secondary material resources is extremely low. According to the most optimistic calculations, we process only slightly more than 12% of solid municipal waste while Europe’s most advanced countries process 30-50%. Look around, will you? You can still see overflowing waste containers in backyards of high-rise buildings, with the waste stored in one pile although the containers have different colors,” the head of state remarked.

The situation regarding the recycling of LED lamps, energy-saving lamps, and electric batteries is even worse, with huge damage done to the environment and people’s health when these products are just thrown away.

The President also drew attention to the state of affairs at landfills. Many companies bury their production waste there, breaking nature management laws and dodging the relevant fees. The situation is inadmissible and must be fixed, stressed Aleksandr Lukashenko. “The government has to enable economic, organizational and social conditions for improving the collection and processing of waste in order to make the practice on par with developed economies. Mikhail Vladimirovich [Myasnikovich], I have to admit that we fail to handle the situation properly for now,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

The head of state remarked that he had given instructions to closely examine all the aspects of waste management, analyze international practices, and prepare relevant proposals. “I know the government has discussed them. However, I believe that they should be thoroughly discussed at today’s session,” the President said.

“I have read your objections. The government must be accustomed to things not going the way you want by now. But you are still responsible for controlling and managing the process,” the President said. “It is hilarious that the government suggests privatizing and auctioning state assets nearly every day while now you are afraid that private hands may take over the organization of the process,” he added.

The President mentioned that he had received proposals from private business regarding the system’s improvement. While Aleksandr Lukashenko did not insist that the suggested solution must be adopted, he was puzzled by the government’s objections.

Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined that doing nothing about the collection and processing of recoverable materials in Belarus is out of the question. “We do not have resources to waste. The entire world collects and processes recoverable materials,” he said.

“We just throw away huge resources without thinking, we damage the environment and human health and later spend billions of US dollars to treat people. And we fail to use these resources for manufacturing purposes,” the head of state added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko presented participants of the session with several questions. The session is supposed to find solutions for improving the effectiveness of the waste management system, the collection and recovery rates have to be improved. The President also wondered about measures to keep the existing installations operating at full capacity and measures to set up new waste processing installations. “We still unreasonably spend foreign currency on importing waste paper, waste glass and other secondary resources, which are abundant. We bury our own waste just to pay hard cash to import it from abroad. Is it wise by any definition?” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also drew attention to the basic organization of the process. Landfills for burying municipal waste must be set in order. The responsibility of economic operators for failing to follow waste management regulations must be increased. “It seems to me that the present sanctions fail to do the job. It seems they have to be seriously bolstered,” the head of state believes.

“I am told that Russia and Kazakhstan are busy creating their own systems to handle waste. What are we going to do? Are we going to integrate with the European organization for packaging waste recovery or are we going to create a system of our own in the Eurasian Economic Union?” Aleksandr Lukashenko wondered.

“We cannot afford doing nothing. It is true for any problems and processes. If we stop, we don’t make progress. We should put consistent and energetic efforts into improving all the steps of the management of recoverable resources,” the head of state concluded.