Waste management in Kazakhstan (Part 2)
Kazakhstan is the first country in the Caucasus and Central Asia region that adopted waste management legislation. Nowadays, more than 43 billion tons of garbage (with annually 5-6 million tons of its disposal) has accumulated at Kazakhstani landfills, whereas only 10-11% of this amount is recyclable. Meanwhile, EU countries and Japan recycle up to 80% of its industrial waste not solely inside of their countries, but also contribute to disposing of waste of other countries. There is an assumption that Kazakhstan may become mired in waste in the near future in case if solid waste recycling will not be regulated by appropriate international standards.
Kazakhstani waste management’s status quo
The solid waste disposal has become an acute problem that requires urgent government intervention.
Currently, only 10-11% of solid waste is recycled, and 89-90% is landfilling. The exceptions might be Temirtau and Nur-Sultan cities, where the percentage of waste treatment is substantially higher than in other cities of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
There are currently 3,520 landfills and garbage dumps, whereas 82.4% do not comply with the environmental and sanitary requirements in Kazakhstan. They do not have permission and do not adapt waste for separate placement and storage. Additionally, they do not possess special equipment for separating, recycling, and disposal of waste.
Moreover, a significant part of the existing landfills is overfilled. The total volume of accumulated solid waste has exceeded 100 million tons with annual growth at around 5-6 million. It’s expected to increase by 8 million tons per year in 2025.
One of the reasons for landfills’ spontaneous combustion is that garbage disposed without preliminary neutralization. The waste degrades in a landfill that in a consequence impact on soil condition, noxious gas discharges, dioxin emissions, environment and human health.
Waste management system: the origin of the problem in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstani sustainable urban development is impossible without proper waste management, as well as without clean water and appropriate sanitary conditions.
Firstly, it is required to take into account the best practices of developed countries, to consider law amendments to evolve the separating and recycling business.
As mentioned above, there are about 160 companies in Kazakhstan that recycle almost all major types of waste: paper, transparent glass, plastic, rubber (car tires), aluminium and tin cans. The exception is textiles and food waste that are not recycled, but it is only a matter of time. Nonetheless, almost all of these companies do not possess sufficient garbage as raw materials for recycling in Kazakhstan, where in a consequence forced them to acquire it abroad.
Besides, the law amendments might also create a “garbage collapse”. In January 2019, the situation in Semey city, where local garbage companies were unable to comply with the requirements of the new law, has been the subject of extensive discussion throughout the country. Garbage trucks stopped launch trash to the landfill because there were not any signed contracts with garbage carrying companies. Consequently, the city turned into a huge trash for a week.
Secondly, in Europe, waste belongs to the operator, which is a waste recycling or incineration plant. The operator is the person that decides to take action toward waste (not the local municipality). In Kazakhstan, garbage is in the possession of Akimat represented by different services and departments, who are not the owners of landfills, garbage dump, and garbage enterprises. That is a reason for different approaches to waste management. Based on the current waste management situation, it is easier way to burn all the waste at the landfill in Kazakhstan, while the developed countries make every effort to recycle the waste.
However, it is inaccurate to assert that waste incineration should not be regarded as a solution. For instance, Japan has successfully developed and implemented garbage incineration facilities. The Japanese government not solely establishes legislation, but also undertakes the following actions with the purpose to facilitate public understanding and to enhance collaboration with other entities in order to promote the sustainable development of a healthy society. The major challenge in Kazakhstan is that all garbage might be incinerated rather than recycled because of its incorrect sorting.
Thirdly, it is necessary to change people’s attitude and mentality to waste management.
Only 1% of the 18.63 million Kazakhstani population separates the trash. There are several reasons could be explained this attitude, such as the lack of a convenient waste collection system in the yards, the low awareness of citizens about recycling, and the lack of competent communication between garbage recycling plants, the companies that supply garbage and the country’s inhabitants.
Clearly, long-term solutions will take time to bring effective and desired modifications. It’s feasible to achieve the effect through children to explain to them how important to sort garbage correctly. The government of the Republic of Kazakhstan organizes environmental actions, conducts the programs as mobile mini-plant for plastic waste recycling called “Eco truck” and “Eco yard’’. These programs encourage children and entail local janitors to have a responsible attitude toward correct waste disposal.
Besides, it might be appropriate to establish a more effective system of financial control. For instance, Sweden and China penalize legal entities and individuals for not sorting their garbage properly.
It’s difficult to achieve a truly sustainable future without an established waste management strategy. Obviously, the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan and its inhabitants have to make an effort together toward “green” economy efficiency.
Keywords: waste management, Kazakhstan, recycling, landfills, green economy, transition, circular economy, expanded manufacturers’ obligations, garbage, solid waste, disposal