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Kazakhstan implements waste-management pilot projects
With garbage crisis looming, country seeks solutions
By Alexandra Babkina
ALMATY – In its latest and largest attempt to solve its growing garbage problem, Kazakhstan will implement pilot projects for processing solid waste in Almaty, Aktau, Astana, Zhambyl, Karaganda, Shymkent, Petropavlovsk and Ust-Kamenogorsk.
“The pilot projects will see Kazakhstan convert to civilised methods of waste disposal in managed landfills, its subsequent processing and the promotion of garbage sorting,” said Victor Merkushev, head of the Municipal Services Administration at the Kazakhstani Construction and Housing Utilities Agency.
“Kazakhstan can finally move forward in its struggle with garbage dumps that are growing at an astronomical rate,” Merkushev said. Plans are in place to recycle 70% of all waste by 2020 by having residents and industry separate waste from recyclable items.
Garbage cannot wait
According to the Environmental Protection Ministry, the country has accumulated 23 billion tonnes of solid waste – a total that increases by 700m tonnes a year.
Almaty, the country’s most populous city, has the most solid waste. Last year, it buried 470,000 tonnes of trash. Pavlovar Oblast, which lacks a waste-processing plant and buries all its garbage, holds second place.
“The issue of household and industrial waste disposal in Kazakhstan is critical,” explained Serikzhan Mambetalin, the leader of Rukhaniyat, an environmental party.
The initiative comes at the right time, he said.
“In Kazakhstan, the accumulated waste per capita is about 2,000 tonnes annually, whereas in Germany it is 400kg,” Merkushev said Kazakhstan recycles only 3-5% of all garbage, a figure the government wants to increase.
“Garbage cannot wait, and the government must urgently develop and implement a waste-processing system,” said Zufar Dzhandosov, a staff expert on the Environmental Protection Ministry Committee of Ecological Regulation and Oversight. "Every effort must be taken so that the pilot projects are implemented efficiently.”
“Our country ... has vast steppes, but how much longer can we treat them as one huge garbage dump?” asked Merkushev.
Aktau 1st in line
The Mangistau Oblast government, with help from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Aktau, has begun making preparations to construct a plant to recycle waste into bio-gas and “green” fuel for generating electricity.
“The project is aimed at recycling municipal waste, which comes mainly from households,” said Damir Kameshev, director of the Public Utilities Project Co-ordination Centre in Mangistau Oblast.
Designers have developed a plan for a modern waste-recycling plant with an adjacent landfill, he said. The IMOG waste-recycling plant in Belgium will serve as the model for this plant.
Plant construction is set to begin in 2012 at an estimated cost of $23.8m (3.5 billion KZT). Authorities also plan to raise environmental awareness and emphasise the benefits of the public sorting its garbage.
“Until now we have not had a recycling industry,” Mambetalin said. “Now that we are taking our first steps, ... it is necessary to create a legal foundation and to fix rates.”
The Construction and Public Utilities Affairs Agency is introducing several amendments to modernise its utilities. The amendments are to the strategic development of solid-waste recycling as well as its financing and laws governing it.
Should garbage be separated?
Separate containers for trash and recyclables were installed in Aktau and other pilot cities in late 2011. However, most Kazakhstanis continue to throw out unseparated trash.
“Unfortunately, our people are still not used to sorting their garbage, like in developed countries,” said Galia Karibzhanova, head of the Department of Economic Regulation and Sustainable Development at the Environmental Protection Ministry. Fining violators could help, but such a system is far off, officials said.
“As of now, we lack the legal foundation for ... issuing such fines, since we cannot control how garbage is thrown away,” said Nina Gor, deputy director of the Waste Management Department at the Environmental Protection Ministry.
“Even if people sort their garbage ... the garbage trucks mix it into one big pile,” said Olga Pavlovskaya, a spokeswoman for the NGO Central Asia Regional Environmental Centre. The Environmental Protection Ministry has recognised the problem and intends to address it.
While the public isn’t ready to “sort its garbage at home,” Tabigat Party leader Gani Kasimov said he supports installing separate containers for food waste and solid waste.
But Gor said big-city residents will ultimately support garbage sorting.
“It's important that people believe that containers for separate waste collection are not just there for show but represent a link in the chain of a proper waste management system,” she said. “For this we first need to create this chain and educate the public.”
As a first step, the Environmental Protection Ministry has developed a technical regulation that covers the entire cycle for handling solid waste.
“We have established strict requirements for all businesses that produce packaged products,” Gor said. “They will be obligated to buy back their packaging from the public. Under these conditions, there will be a real incentive to sort household waste.”