Monday, 10 October 2022

Ultimate Guide to New Zagreb Waste Management Rules

October 10, 2022 - If you've spent any time consuming Croatian media, you must've noticed the now infamous word "vrećica". What does it have to do with Zagreb waste management?

You'd be excused if you thought that vrećica had something to do with the global climate crisis that is gonna get the rest of us, not already fallen victims to global pandemics or the dictators occupying neighboring countries while wielding nuclear weapons. But no, let me put your mind to ease, it only means "baggie". For the last month or so, specifically, referring to the garbage disposal baggies, which became emblematic of the new system of waste management introduced in Zagreb at the end of September.

The rationale is obvious: we buy more and more stuff, the stuff we buy is packaged in more and more (mostly) plastic and, generally speaking, there is more and more of us (not in Croatia, as the recent census has shown, but in Zagreb, the number of inhabitants is still managing to grow). And it's a worldwide problem, I don't know that there are any cities in the world where the waste management is handled perfectly. There are (partial) successes and failures; if you live in any city you probably heard about the Swiss or the Tokyo model of dealing with that particular problem that's not going anywhere.

In Zagreb, there's one landfill, Jakuševac. It has been in horrible condition for as long as I can remember (and I've lived in Zagreb for my entire life, which is not... short). The former mayor promised and promised that it would get "remediated", which is a phrase that got repeated so many times I don't think anyone even knows what it means and what would happen to our garbage after that. One of the ways his administration started dealing with so much waste created by the people of the city was to put many (MANY) recycling bins for paper, plastics and biodegradable materials everywhere. So, every building and house in Zagreb got some of those. Let's take an example of my small building, 2 km north of Ilica (so, not really in the suburbs): we have two wheely bins for mixed communal waste ("miješani komunalni otpad", abbreviated to MKO, which is the abbreviation I'm gonna continue using in this article), a bin for paper and bio-waste each and we're supposed to put our plastics somewhere to be picked once every two weeks in yellow bags. It's been like that for years, the last major change was that the frequency of pick-up for plastics and paper was reduced during the pandemic and never returned to the pre-pandemic state.

So, we all had the possibility to separate our MKO from the plastics and biodegradables for a while now, and the yellow bags for plastics and brown ones for bio stuff was (semi-)regularly distributed to each household in Zagreb. There are also numerous "reciklažna dvorišta" (recycling centres of yards) located all over the city, where you can take just about any type of waste to be disposed of for free, as well as the so-called "green islands", communal bins for plastic, paper, glass, textiles, which have been notoriously under-managed and unkept by the city, which is something that will hopefully change soon. 

This article will not get into the nitty-gritty of how the global recycling of plastics has gotten to an abrupt halt, nor about the fact the facilities for the treatment of the biodegradable waste in Zagreb are nowhere near the capacity needed to process what was being produced annually by the city's inhabitants. What has changed for the people of Zagreb as of October 1st is mostly as follows: 

- most of the wheelie bins for MKO, paper and biodegradable waste have been removed from the streets in the center of the city. I have to say that the "center" is defined very loosely, and there are complaints about that being done in some places and not in others, but that's a constant in this saga: there are non-stop complaints about every single decision here. People living in the center have to put their MKO in their "blue bags" in front of their buildings, each day between 8 and 10 pm if they want them to be removed, and wheel out the paper/bio bins on scheduled days to be emptied;


- the infamous "vrećice": all of the mixed communal waste, meaning stuff you produce minus the recyclables should be disposed of exclusively in the blue bags, sold by the city in all major stores. They're made in three sizes, 10, 20 and 40 litres, they're sturdy, they're not cheap (2, 4 and 8 kuna apiece, respectively) and there's a whole legal argument about the legality of how they're sold, procured etc (look at the previous point if you forgot about the favorite Croatian national sport: complaining). So, in addition to paying a fixed fee for waste management (currently at 45 kuna a month), you basically pay for the bags, which means that you pay for the amount of MKO you produce and dispose of. The more you recycle, the smaller amount of blue bags you'll need, in theory. Then, you either put them in front of your building (if you're in the center), or drop them in your still-existent wheelie bins in front of your house/building. You already see the problem: people here are not really good at following rules. They will throw their garbage in regular, non-blue-and-city-approved bags in their trash, so we were warned that there would be fines. Of course, the first thing you think of then is "I will just throw it in someone else's trash", which leads just about everyone to talk about locking/securing their wheelie bins in various ways, and some buildings have already done that, some plan to, and some just stick to the idea that it's completely unimaginable that an apartment complex could be fined for something there's no proof any of them have actually done.

For a while now, there has been a shortage of the blue vrećice in Zagreb supermarkets, especially the smallest, 10l ones, which is what most households are expected to use after learning to separate their waste. I'm sure the dust will eventually settle, and we'll collectively learn to separate our trash (it's really not that difficult or demanding; I've been doing it for at least 10 years and I don't feel like it's a bit inconvenience for my way of life) and then maybe we'll be able to turn to the more important stuff in our lives than Zagreb waste management.

Saturday, 18 June 2022

Albanian Minister Says Her Country Taking Steps to Stop Flow of Garbage to Croatia

ZAGREB, 18 June 2022 - In winter, particularly when strong southern winds blow, sea currents bring garbage from Albania along the coast of Montenegro to Croatia's southern Adriatic areas, which is an important environmental issue raised also in bilateral and multilateral meetings.

Therefore during a recent Adriatic-Ionian Forum in Tirana, reporters asked Albanian Tourism and Environment Minister Mirela Kumbaro about his topic, and on that occasion she said that sea pollution was a very important topic and she promised to provide answers in greater detail by e-mail.

A month after the forum, Minister Kumbaro said in her response that she had already taken some concrete steps in prevention of sea pollution which is also damaging to Albania and its burgeoning tourism industry.

She said that she had initiated a national clean-up plan and campaigns as well as the campaigns for raising awareness about this issue.

She also mentioned plans for investing into landfills and their rehabilitation.

Four years ago, Albania, with the support of the Swiss government, started identifying all the landfills near its coast and rated them in compliance with its national legislation.

The next step was to start relocating waste and to manage waste appropriately.

The Albanian government provides financial support to local authorities in these efforts, says Minister Kumbaro.

The supervision of waste management has been also stepped up.

On 1 June, a ban on the use of plastic bags entered into force in Albania.

Croatian MEP writes to EC about plastic waste in the Adriatic Sea coming from Albania

In early February, a Croatian member of the European Parliament, Karlo Ressler, sent a letter to the European Commission about plastic waste in the Adriatic Sea coming from Albania.

More that 90% of plastic waste and other types of waste come to Croatia's coast from the south, notably from Albania, this HDZ/EPP representative says.

Over 229,000 tonnes of plastics end up in the Mediterranean annually, and the sea currents and relatively shallow sea make Croatia exposed to plastic waste from the Mediterranean. More than a decade ago, Albania's government announced an investigation into plastic pollution coming from Albania to Croatia, however, there have been no results, said the MEP.

In his capacity as a member of the delegation to the EU-Albania Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee, Ressler asked the EC to find ways to intervene through European programmes of environmental protection and Albania's accession negotiations to address this matter.

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

Croatia Still Far From Meeting Waste Management Targets

ZAGREB, 15 March 2022 - Croatia is still far from meeting the waste management targets, the parliamentary Committee on Environment and Nature Protection said on Tuesday.

The Committee discussed waste sorting infrastructure and technology in local government units. It met in the northern town of Prelog, which is regarded as an example of good practice in this regard because it has tripled the percentage of waste separation in the last five years.

A total of 1.7 million tonnes of municipal waste was generated in Croatia in 2020, which is a decrease of 6.5 per cent from 2019, and amounts to 418 kilograms per capita, said Mile Horvat, state secretary at the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development.

"2020 saw a rise in the number of local government units separately collecting biowaste from municipal waste. This activity was carried out by 20 units more than in 2019," Horvat said.

At least 65 per cent of municipal waste should be recycled by 2035, but many local government units are far from meeting this target, said Pero Čosić, deputy chairman of the Committee.

He commended the town of Prelog as an example of good practice because it had tripled the percentage of separately collected waste in the last five years, which has now reached nearly 70 per cent of waste separation.

"The amount of mixed waste has also been reduced, to below 100 kilos per capita, which makes Prelog one of the leaders in sustainable waste management in Croatia," Čosić said.

Such local examples show that the system of waste separation on the doorstep and establishment of local infrastructure for waste processing and recovery, along with raising of public awareness, are the key to meeting the set targets, Čosić said.

The mayor of Prelog, Ljubomir Kolarek, agreed, saying that his town's success in waste management was the result of systematic work and public awareness raising over the last ten years.

The Committee said that the new Waste Management Act had set new, more ambitious targets with regard to municipal waste management, and that HRK 1.25 billion (€167m), which is planned to be invested in the waste management system through the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, should contribute to waste reduction, reuse and recycling.

Friday, 1 October 2021

Commission Quashes Zagreb Mayor's Decision on Bulky Waste Tender

ZAGREB, 1 Oct 2021 - The State Commission for the Supervision of Public Procurement Procedures has quashed a decision by Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević and the city will have to complete a previous tender and sign a preliminary agreement with the Reoma Group or Petar Pripuz's Cezar company, Večernji List reports on Friday.

Mayor Tomašević recently cancelled a tender for the recycling of bulky waste, explaining that the city did not need privately owned companies to do it because its Čistoća public sanitation company could do the job.

Two bids had been submitted to the tender, one by the Reoma Group, which offered to recycle the city's bulky waste for HRK 89 million and one by Cezar, which offered to do it for HRK 125 million.

The public procurement procedure itself was advertised in December 2020 but the previous city government did not make a decision on the matter, explained Tomašević, who took office after the May 2021 local elections.

Tomašević in September announced that the city would purchase crushers for bulky waste and that one was already being tested. Meanwhile, he sent some of municipal bulky waste to Sisak to be recycled by the local Royal Media company because of problems with the necessary licences and procurement so currently bulky waste from Zagreb is crushed in Sisak and taken back to Zagreb's Jakuševec landfill.

Tomašević now faces one more obstacle - the State Commission for the Supervision of Public Procurement Procedures and the Reoma Group, whose complaint against his decision to cancel the tender has been accepted by the Commission.

The State Commission for the Supervision of Public Procurement Procedures has concluded that there were no grounds for Tomašević's decision to cancel the tender because it believes that the city's explanation that it has only now become aware that it can recycle bulky waste on its own cannot be true.

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Sunday, 12 September 2021

Textile and Footwear Waste Recovery Facilities Not Utilised Enough

ZAGREB, 12 Sept, 2021 - Forty-one percent of waste in Croatia is sorted and every Croat annually generates 414 kilograms of waste, which is then used by companies to manufacture new products, Večernji List newspaper said in its Sunday edition.

The largest amounts of textile and footwear waste are not separated and end up in mixed municipal waste or bulky waste, the newspaper quoted the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development as saying.

The ministry noted that textile and footwear waste recovery facilities are not utilised enough, and that all wastes should be collected separately on the sites where they are produced, for example by using containers or a door-to-door waste collection system. It added that waste re-use centres are also a solution, such as the one operating in the northern town of Prelog, and stressed the importance of awareness raising, encouraging product repairs, buying more durable products and separating unwanted products for re-use.

The national waste management plan for 2017-2022 aims, among other things, to reduce the total amount of generated municipal waste by 5% and ensure separate collection of 60% of municipal waste, 40% of biowaste and 75% of construction waste.

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Sunday, 15 August 2021

Međimurje County Champion in Municipal Waste Sorting

ZAGREB, 15 Aug, 2021 - The Croatian municipal waste sorting champions, small municipalities in the northern Međimurje County, stand next to the most advanced European regions, while the national average remains below 20% and some cities, including county seats, are still not sorting any waste.

The data comes from an Environment and Nature Protection Bureau preliminary report on municipal waste sorting in 2020.

Croatia was supposed to recycle 50% of its municipal waste by 2020, so the fact that the percentage rose from 11.52% in 2018 to 18% last year does not make experts optimistic.

Of the ten municipalities and towns with the highest sorting percentage, nine are in Međimurje County, followed by Krk island and several other cities.

Of the 556 local government units in Croatia, Belica Municipality ranks first, sorting 79.76% of its waste, followed by the town of Prelog with 70.98%.

Five local governments which sort between 60 and 70% of their waste are also in Međimurje County, as are five sorting between 50 and 60%.

In the latter group are also the town of Koprivnica and seven local government units on Krk. This island in the northern Adriatic was the first in Croatia to sort waste and is close to becoming an energy self-sufficient island without carbon emissions. The group also includes Semeljci in Osijek-Baranja County.

All those local government units have met the waste-sorting target set by the EU.

The list of local government units sorting zero of their waste is much longer, the champions being Karlovac and Dubrovnik-Neretva counties.

Plitvice Lakes Municipality, where the national park of the same name is located, is one of six in Lika-Senj County that sort zero of their waste, including the county seat Gospić.

Virovitica-Podravina County also has six local government units sorting zero of their waste, while Šibenik-Knin and Zadar counties each have five, Brod-Posavina, Sisak-Moslavina and Split-Dalmatia counties each have four, Zagreb County has two, and Bjelovar-Bilogora and Primorje-Gorski Kotar counties each have one local government unit not sorting any waste.

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Tuesday, 13 July 2021

New Waste Management Legislation Will Make Bills Higher, Says Opposition

ZAGREB, 13 July, 2021 - Some opposition parties claimed on Tuesday that the new waste management law will result in higher bills for citizens and that this will in particular affect lessors and small entrepreneurs.

The entire waste management system is based on waste management centres which are very expensive and that will be evident once citizens receive their new bills, said MP Sanja Udović (SDP).

She claimed that in those areas where these centres have been established, citizens can expect their bills to increase by 100 percent. "We, in Primorje Gorski Kotar County can soon expect the end price to go up, that means the price citizens pay will increase by some 30 to 40 percent," she said.

MP Marin Lerotić (IDS) underscored that the new bill doesn't go in favour of citizens nor lessors or small businesses who have been categorised as non-households and will pay a higher price.

"Shopping centres will pay the same, minimal service, as will shoemakers, or camp sites for up to 10,000 people will pay the same as a family-owned camp site with a capacity of up to 12 people. Hotels with a capacity of 100 rooms will pay the same price as a lessor of a flat," warned Lerotić.

MP Josip Borić (HDZ) explained that the government was providing a framework for prices to be defined by the local government.

"The opportunity exists to reduce the price for those who need to be rewarded. It contains criteria that allow that reduction for enterprises to certain household members, you can make them up yourself and include them in the price list," he said.

Local government officials have to realise that their role in waste management will be more complex, constructive, creative and more responsible, state-secretary in the Economy Ministry, Mile Horvat said.

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Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Circular Economy on Islands Lags Due to Low Environmental Awareness

February 17, 2021 – In a video podcast entitled "Energy Transition on the Islands," organized by the Island Movement initiative, participants warned that underdeveloped environmental awareness is one of the main obstacles to implementing the circular economy on islands.

As Hina reports, the deputy mayors of Hvar and Cres warned that citizens are still unaware of the green economy's importance, which makes it challenging to introduce a circular economy on islands.

"The most difficult phase in achieving sustainable development is to explain to ordinary citizens why the energy transition would be a step forward," said Marin Gregorović, deputy mayor of Cres.

The circular economy is a production and consumption model that encourages sharing, borrowing, reuse, repair, recovering, and recycling of products and materials to achieve the product's added value. Such a concept has a positive effect on reducing the amount of waste.

Commenting on the inefficient disposal of waste on the islands, Gregorović noted that "the system is not working well" and that "we have not yet reached the stage of resolving the issue of biowaste disposal."

"Although we have a recycling yard and dual waste management on Cres, and we plan to build a composting plant, the story of the circular economy is still just – a story," said Gregorović.

Kuzman Novak, deputy mayor of Hvar town, added that "the fundamental problem at the national level is waste management."

"We take the garbage bags out of the house, and they are taken away, which we don't see, so we don't think they are our concern anymore. That is the key problem," Novak said, explaining the underdeveloped environmental awareness of citizens.

"When we talk about sustainable development, it's not just about solar power plants and waste management, it's essentially developing an awareness not to be selfish," said Novak.

The new EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy is one of the key elements in achieving climate neutrality, which is a central goal of the European Green Plan. Voting on the new EU circular economy action plan, the European Parliament this month called for additional measures to achieve a carbon-neutral, environmentally sustainable, and fully circular economy by 2050.

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Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Five Smart Containers for Separate Waste In the Center of Rijeka

December 16, 2020 – The Rijeka utility company for cleaning and waste management "Čistoća" introduced five more new smart modular containers for mixed municipal and valuable, recyclable waste in the center of Rijeka.

As writes, to upgrade the existing waste collection service, "Čistoća "already installed 12 smart containers in June 2019, of which 7 in the very center of Rijeka. Five new smart containers will be installed in the city center area: in Trpimirova Street and on the Riva (at bus stations), on Karolina Riječka Pier, on the 111th Brigade of the Croatian Army Square, and Klobučarić Square.

The director of "Čistoća", Jasna Kukuljan, said that the containers have built-in fill sensors that send data to the management software, that is, the tanks themselves report the need for emptying. They also have a press that compresses waste, thus enabling the disposal of more waste than is possible in conventional containers.

Artists will paint the containers

All the needed energy-smart containers use a photovoltaic panel located on top of the container body. Using advanced technologies achieves significant savings in time, human resources, and energy and contributes to reducing emissions of pollutants into the environment.

In addition to being useful, Rijeka artists will also beautifully paint the containers. Namely, through the competition, "Čistoća" selected the 20 best artists from Rijeka who will paint smart containers with their works. Therefore, they will undoubtedly be interesting and attractive elements of urban equipment.

These are the artworks: Biciklistica, author Tina Radosavljević; Cranes, by Ariana Sušanj; Octopus, by Hana Dutina; Let's recycle in the city that flows by the author Nora Vlaša, and Love your city – think green, author Mirta Tomulić.

Rijeka separates a third of the waste

Deputy Mayor Marko Filipović emphasized the importance of applying new technologies in all segments, including the one related to waste collection, which places Rijeka at the very top of Smart Cities – cities that are entirely ready for the digital transition.

In addition to containers, citizens collect waste separately through recycling yards. In Rijeka, they currently have three fixed and two mobile recycling yards at their disposal, and the plan is to expand the system of recycling yards.

Together with waste collected in recycling yards, Rijeka separates almost 30 percent of its waste.

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Bioplastic Success for Rijeka Family Company

With its fourteen employees, Mi-Plast is a partner in EU research projects in the development and production of bioplastic solutions.

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