Zagreb Waste Disposal Issues Continue With Promise of Fines This Month

By 10 February 2023
Zagreb Waste Disposal Issues Continue With Promise of Fines This Month
Patrik Macek/PIXSELL

February the 10th, 2023 - The old Zagreb waste disposal issues and the endless problems surrounding getting people to use the blue ''ZG vrecice'' (rubbish bags allocated for mixed waste as of October 2022) are continuing. Threats of fines seem to have fallen on deaf ears for many and now promises of not only fines but proving who is dumping what with recorded footage are now on the cards.

As Suzana Varosanec/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the now not-quite-so-new model of Zagreb waste disposal which came in the form of ZG vrecice/bags introduced just a few months ago in order to comply with the "polluter pays more" principle and to encourage high-quality recycling is showing its first results: there is almost 30% less mixed municipal waste here in the capital, and the amount of recycled material is increasing - there's been 50% more plastic, 30% more biowaste and 9% more paper.

However, in the application of this particular Zagreb waste disposal model, it has also been shown that the effects are not unambiguous because they actually depend on the existence of the infrastructure conditions that are necessary for this model. For example, boxes placed in public areas that are under the supervision of building owners and tenants when it comes to multi-apartment buildings are an issue.

Namely, even at the level of around 90%, the model showed its efficiency when family houses are in the middle, the same is allegedly true for the very heart of Zagreb, however, problems of a different nature have manifested in the segment of multi-apartment buildings. This is actually where the biggest impact of the full application of the previously announced contractual penalty on bills for February is expected because of various errors in the sorting and disposal of the waste.

It can be considered that the ''getting used to it'' period of the new Zagreb waste disposal model has now ended and that it is moving into full implementation, which means also through the procedures for issuing the foreseen individual contractual fines for violators who don't dispose of their municipal waste in the proper blue ZG bags.

Critics of the entire thing have claimed that it will be difficult to implement these fines in a legally sustainable form in a situation where the issue of proper disposal facilities for ZG bags hasn't been solved infrastructurally, and there are still no underground containers which were initially promised.

A professor of the Faculty of Law in Zagreb, Aleksandra Maganic, believes that, if the emphasis is now on individual punishments, then it would mean that they don't dare to apply collective punishments. In her opinion, people must also make an effort of their own if the blue bags are insisted on.

"The shift from collective to individual punishment is an interesting one, but the question remains as to how it will be determined," said Maganic. If they start by checking the contents of the bags, she says, it can't be said that it isn't a legitimate way, so if they manage to find something so that the guilt is individualised, then that can be evidence. It also raises the question of whether video surveillance must be highlighted as a means of catching those evading these blue bags.

"If it were a civil law sphere of responsibility, the courts could now also use evidence that was conducted in an illegal way, for example that such videos weren't obtained with the consent of the person who was recorded, but even in that case the court can use it if there is no other evidence. At the same time, the so-called the test of proportionality between the violation of the rights of the person who was filmed and didn't give consent, and the court's position that it has been done in the interest of a higher goal (justice) must be balanced out. You've got to prove that there's a balance there to show that the evidence should be used," said Professor Maganic, adding that municipal wardens do have the right to control the contents of these waste bags.

Thus, the emphasis on individual punishment in the first steps clearly proves to be a good incentive to move away from the concept of collective punishment, to which the legal profession had some serious objections from the point of view of constitutionality.

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