Russia postpones recycling and waste management reform

Russia was supposed to implement a reform where manufacturers should recycle all product packaging, pay a tax for waste management or have the products removed from stores. But it is postponed as several ministries find it unfeasible.

Waste management of plastic bottles
In 2022, 100% of packaging was supposed to be recycled in Russia. But the reform has been postponed | © Nick Fewings

In December 2020, Russia had the ambition to improve its poor waste management system. The Ministry of Natural resources of Russia decided that starting on January 2022, 100% of product packaging should be recycled. But the reform is postponed as several ministries disagreed with it, RBC reports.

About half of the solid municipal waste, meaning waste coming from households or that people throw away every day like food, comes from packaging. Russia produces 60 million tons of solid municipal waste and 8 billion tons of industrial waste per year.

With the reform, all of the packaging coming from goods needed to be recycled from 2022 on.

Since 2019 domestic and foreign product manufacturers had to pay a tax for collecting waste or to handle waste management themselves, via a subcontractor or with their own facility.

Currently, they need to have between 10% and 40% of their products recycled or properly disposed of in a waste management facility. And the reform sought to increase the threshold by 10% every year.

If companies didn’t comply, products would have been forbidden from sale and removed from store shelves.

Moreover, the current environmental tax is only applied to sold products and the new reform sought to apply the tax to all manufactured goods, even if they were damaged and couldn’t be sold for example.

Recycling and waste management system in Russia still in its infancy

But ministries of Economic development, of Trade and Industry, and of Agriculture all disagreed with the reform as they considered it unfeasible. They advocated for postponing the reform. Some economic players also warned there could be a shortage of food and products in stores.

The reform consisted in implementing the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for real this time. In fact, the concept, launched in 2015 in Russia, never really took off.

The EPR operated for more than four years but has only shown environmental and economic stagnation,” said Victoria Abramchenko, the deputy Prime Minister in charge of ecology, in 2020.

The tax is currently asked in the Extended Producer Responsibility is actually paid by only few companies. Yet, it is supposed to finance the construction of waste management facilities, which are deficient in Russia.

There has never been a waste management industry in the countryadmits Victoria Abramchenko. Most Russian waste ends up pilling up on landfills. Ninety-four percent of municipal solid waste, including glass which has good recyclable properties, is dumped in landfills. A lot of landfills are also saturated.

Companies to pay for recycling and managing waste

The reform is also meant to make companies pay for waste management rather than the population, a system that is built in almost every country Russian President Vladimir Putin argued.

Russians pay about 180 billion rubles a year (US $2.45bn) for the country’s waste management system. In the meantime, the corporate environmental tax only brings 3 billion rubles a year ($40m).

Moreover, not recycling and not re-using raw materials would cost Russia’s economy about 275 billion rubles ($3.75bn).

Last year, Vladimir Putin set development goals for the Russian Federation to achieve by 2030. In terms of waste management, 100% of garbage should be sorted by 2030. And at least 50% of waste would need to be taken care of in a waste management facility.

The country is supposed to be able to sort 80% of waste and recycle 60% of solid municipal waste in 2024. In September, Russia was also considering banning disposable plastic goods within the next two years.

But as far as packaging’s recycling and waste management is concerned, reforms will not pass and not much of the environmental corporate tax will be collected before July 2022 now.

Read more about Russia

Интервью Виктории Абрамченко Тине Канделаки для RTVI, Government of Russia, December 2021, Free access, UnsecureДмитрий Кобылкин встретился с представителями ассоциаций и объединений производителей для обсуждения новых принципов РОП, Ministry of Natural resources and Environment of the Russian federation, March 2020, Free access, Unsecure

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