Moldovan Villages Keeping Waste Away from the Landfills by Recycling

Moldovan Villages Keeping Waste Away from the Landfills by Recycling
25 August 2020 | 10:00

The residents of Sărata Veche village, Fălești district, the north of Moldova, have been separating waste for three years. Each household collects plastic, glass, and household waste separately. At Sărata Veche, the household waste ends up in the landfill, and the plastic is transported to the sorting station in Călugăr village, the same district. 

Likewise, twelve villages from Șoldănești district, the south of Moldova, collect waste separately. These villages accepted another model of waste collection. People take the garbage to the platforms equipped with special containers. However, they are not always responsible for sorting waste correctly. 

Experts say that the state should also come with solutions to the waste problem. At the same time, residents should be responsible for the separate collection of waste, including signed contracts with waste management operators and paying the sanitation tax as they pay the bill for electricity, water, or gas.

Paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, and metal are recyclable waste. They can be transformed into new products through recycling when they can no longer be used. Recycling keeps waste away from the landfill, saving valuable natural resources such as energy and money.

Separate waste collection is the first step in the recycling process. This requires that the packaging be collected separately in a special container intended for plastic, glass, paper, or metal. Waste that cannot be recycled is placed in a separate container, and biodegradable waste can be turned into compost, which is fertile soil for flowers or gardens.

SOURCE: Collection guide published within the project “Step by step towards the separate collection of solid waste,” implemented by the Fălești District Council and co-financed by the European Union

Waste Generation Versus Recycling

According to the 2016 Eurostat data on waste management, the European Union (EU) generates, on average, 482 kg/inhabitant of municipal waste, i.e. those from households. Romania is in the first place among the EU countries with the least quantity of municipal waste – 261 kg/inhabitant.

However, it has one of the lowest recycling rates – 11 percent. Poland follows with 307 kg/inhabitant and the Czech Republic – with 339 kg of waste per inhabitant, both with a recycling rate of about 34 percent.

At the opposite pole of waste, production is Denmark with 777 kg/inhabitant and the recycling rate of 50 percent, followed by Cyprus – with 640 kg/inhabitant and Germany – with 627 kg/inhabitant and a recycling rate of 67 percent. 

In 2018 Moldova had 330 kg of waste per capita, which means an increase of 67 percent compared to 2001.

By 2030,  the EU Member States have agreed to reuse 60 percent of municipal waste.

Did You Know That…

  • A ton of recycled plastic means saving about 800 liters of oil.
  • About 30 percent of the plastic produced goes to packaging.
  • A 15-year-old tree is needed to produce 700 paper bags.
  • A ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 1436 liters of gasoline, 780 liters of water, 4000 kW of energy (approximately as much an average home consumes in six months).
  • Glass takes a million years to decompose into small pieces.
  • Glass can be recycled indefinitely without losing its qualities.

A study on the efficient methods of separate collection of solid waste in rural Moldova identified five methods for separate collection of solid waste applicable in the rural areas of Moldova. Thus, waste could be collected through trash bins installed in each household, street containers, or platforms installed in neighborhoods.

Another method is to collect household waste (recyclable waste, plastic, glass, and paper) in trash bags, and residual waste – in the bins installed in each household. Still another way is to collect recyclable waste in containers on collection platforms, and residual waste – in the bins installed in each household.

Containers for Residual Waste and Bags for Recyclable Waste

The commune Sărata Veche, northern Moldova, has started sorting waste within a project funded by the European Union. The commune includes three villages: Sărata Veche, Sărata Nouă, and Hitrești. After a consultation with the locals, the fourth method of waste collection was the most applicable for the community. People have been instructed how to properly sort waste. They collect the residual waste in the containers installed in the households, and the recyclable waste – in bags. 

Valentina Caras is the director of the municipal enterprise Menajacvaprim from Sărata Veche commune, Falești district. She was the one who convinced the villagers to sign contracts with the municipal enterprise for waste disposal. The woman went door-to-door and explained to the villagers about the need for separate waste collection.

“We went to each household and informed everyone that the time has come to separate the waste, to transport only the trash, to separate the plastic, the bottles, the paper. From the beginning, it was very difficult for us; we only had about 50 contracts. Gradually, we have reached 100,” says Valentina Caras. 

According to the company’s data, the number of households that signed waste disposal contracts increased; from 116 contracts signed in 2012 to 510 signed contracts in 2017 and 2020 -640 contracts. The degree of coverage with sanitation services increased, as well as the amount of collected waste.

Each household in the commune pays annually about 5 euros for trash evacuation services. The local council set the price so that the inhabitants could afford it, and the municipal enterprise operates on this money.

Valentina Caras claims that the community has become cleaner and the plastic is no longer scattered on the fields since people began to collect waste separately.

Separation of Waste Reduces Pollution

Natalia Sandu’s family from Sărata Veche village started separating the trash before the village authorities implemented it. The woman says she taught her children to take care of the environment. Thus, it was easier for them to adapt to the adjustment.

“I welcome the idea of separating waste and it is good they organized it, now we have separate containers for plastic, for glass, and for household waste,” says Natalia Sandu.

Mihail Fotea from the same locality says that it was not difficult for him to separate the waste in his household. Mr. Fotea uses animal waste as fertilizer, collects glass and plastic in bags, and throws the household garbage away in the trash bin. When the tractor comes to collect the trash, he can easily dispose of it. Mr. Fotea says it is very important to separate the waste because plastic contains chemical compounds, which pollute nature and cause human health problems.

“It surely must be separated and disposed of properly. Places look much dirtier where they do not do it,” says Mihail Fotea.

The man says that every local authority should monitor the ecological situation and waste management in their villages. In his view, officials should persuade people to pay for waste management services.

We talked to Iulia Sînger, a resident of Sărata Nouă village when she received the trash bin from the local municipal enterprise. The woman says that waste separation is important because it reduces pollution and keeps the environment cleaner. As Mr. Fotea, Mrs waste can contribute to the spread of various diseases.

“Previously, every villager would take the household garbage and throw it wherever they wished, sometimes even on the road. We can still see it on the central road, we see how trash bags are thrown from the cars,” says the woman.

She also says that at the village meetings people learned how to sort waste properly, but still not everyone does this. She believes that in order to increase the number of people who collect waste separately, they need to be better informed.

Waste Management is Costly and the Services Must be Paid

With the support of the European Union, by 2027, the Moldovan government aims to create an efficient system of waste management throughout the country, and thus ensure the protection of the environment and the health of the population.

The state aims to promote a new way of collecting household waste, production waste, as well as to recover reusable materials. Thus, in seven years, a selective waste collection should be established in all localities, as well as the creation of facilities for sorting, composting, and recycling of waste. It is expected to improve the waste transportation system, as well as to eliminate waste by building solid household waste repositories and stations for their mechanical-biological treatment at the regional level.

Experts say that waste management is costly, and people should understand that they should pay for their maintenance. Currently, the local public administration calculates tariffs, based on very old outdated regulations. Therefore, the Ministry of Agriculture, Regional Development, and the Environment aims to develop a new methodology for calculating tariffs. Svetlana Bolocan, Head of the Directorate for Waste Management Policies within the Ministry, says that, once these tariffs are established, it will be possible to apply sanctions.

One of the conclusions of the study “Effective methods of separate collection of solid waste in rural Moldova” states “good legislation is not enough to solve the problems that Moldova faces in the field of waste management. Therefore, other solutions are needed, at the institutional level, as well as insuring a higher level of awareness and change of behavior.”

Regardless of the existent legislation in the field, there is currently no clear regulation that would require every household in Moldova to connect to the sanitation service, and local public administrations do not have the power to require people to pay for these services, says Mihail Ioncu, the director of JSC Salubritate Șoldănești. He believes it would be good to have profile associations, as well as a state institution to regulate the field. “The state today is more of a spectator rather than the main actor,” stated Mihail Ioncu.

As a rule, the local public administration passes on waste management obligations to an operator. The man says that in order to develop this service, platforms must be built, containers must be installed, and access roads must be built to allow trucks to evacuate waste even from narrower roads.

People Dispose of Residual Waste in Containers for Glass or Paper

Since 2014, Șoldănești district, with the support of the International Cooperation Agency of Germany (GIZ) has launched a separate waste collection service. Platforms were built in the localities of the district and separate waste collection containers were installed. Today, the waste management operator JSC Salubritate Șoldănești regularly provides waste collection services in 12 localities out of 22.

Even so, not all waste can be sorted. Mihail Ioncu explained that the problem is that people throw other residual or animal waste in the bins for glass or paper.

“If the primary sorting were respected, the workers would not have to throw the contents of the containers with glass or cardboard in the truck that transports waste to the landfill. People need to understand that household waste should not be collected together with paper or glass,” said Mihail Ioncu.

As the project implementation started, a raising awareness campaign was carried out in all rural localities that were part of the project, through which people were taught how to separate waste. Activities were organized in schools as well as theatrical events. Subsequently, information campaigns were no longer organized.

“This should be one of the local public administration responsibilities. The population should be regularly informed. You don’t have to graduate from university to learn how to collect waste separately. We pasted stickers on the trash bins, we updated information about waste separation on the back of the payment notices,” says the director of JSC Salubritate Șoldănești.

Of all the sorted waste, the company manages to manage best the collection of plastic. In the district, they collect it in mesh containers. Once collected, the plastic is subjected to secondary selection. That is, the workers of the waste management company sort it by categories and colors. 

In 2019, JSC Salubritate Șoldănești sorted 3 tons of plastic, approximately 17 tons of cardboard, and three tons of celluloid. They have been compacted and sold to companies that recycle this type of waste. The company also used the machine it has and chopped branches and leaves and delivered the mass obtained to the companies that produce pellets.

According to the data of the National Bureau of Statistics, in 2019, in Moldova over two million cubic meters of waste came from households. In total, in the country, less than 550,000 households benefit from the waste collection service. Related to the population, less than half benefit from this service. 

According to the Inspectorate for Environmental Protection, about 90 percent of the amount of municipal waste collected by sanitation services goes to the landfill, selective collection is partially organized only in Chișinău and in some district centers. Waste recycling and recovery rates are still very low.

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