UARU
The Why, Where, and How of Recycling in Ukraine
8 April, 2020
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Sorting trash helps turn trash into resources: it makes products or energy out of trash, and lowers landfill quantities Photo: depositphotos

Over a million tons of refuse are created in the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv each year. Most of it is taken to landfills. But instead of further harming the environment, trash can be recycled and reused. We asked the advisor the deputy chairman of the Kyiv City Administration, Petro Panteleyev and eco-activist Svitlana Nemesh, about how recycling works in Kyiv, why you should sort your trash, and how to prepare it for recycling. 

READ MORE: How Ukraine Can Learn to Control its Waste Problem

READ MORE: Upcycling: Making Wealth from Waste in Ukraine

1

Why should you sort your trash?

Unsorted trash rots in landfills, polluting the land and the oceans, and destroys ecosystems. Sorting trash can help turn trash from refuse into a resource: recycled trash can be reused and remade into products or used as fuel for energy, and reduces the number of landfills.

Organic trash can be composted and turned into fertilizer or biogas. Energy-rich materials (meaning packaging that can’t be recycled because it’s dirty, for example) can be burnt for energy.

2

How much trash does Kyiv produce, and how much is recycled?

According to the Ministry for Communities and Territories Development, in 2018, Kyiv produced 1.3 million tons of refuse. 250,000 tons were burnt at the only trash-burning plant in Ukraine, “Energy”. The plant can heat the entirety of the Pozniaky neighborhood in Kyiv, considered one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the capital. Another 450,000 to 600,000 tons of trash was buried in Pidhirtsi, a village neighboring Kyiv. The rest of the trash was buried in landfills around Ukraine.

Only 3% of all trash in 2018 was marked for recycling. The Ministry has not yet provided data for 2019.

Svitlana Nemesh, an eco-activist who took part in the Kyiv Green City initiative, explained that in order to recycle more trash, Ukraine’s laws need to be updated. Regulations are required for sorting and recycling trash. There also aren’t enough sorting lines and factories willing to purchase recycled resources.

From July 2019, the Kyivan authorities, working together with Kyiv utilities provider “Kyivcommunservice”, began to update dumpsters around the city and split them into separate waste containers for glass, plastic, and paper.

From August to November of 2019, Kyivcommunservice gathered 40,000 cubic meters of refuse in 2,600 containers. Very often, the trash in these containers was dirty and contained food remains, which is why only 15% of that total could be recycled.

3

Who uses recycled resources and what can they be used for?

Trash collecting companies sell sorted trash to large manufacturing companies. Glass is transferred to the glass factory “Vetropack” in the town of Hostomel, a suburb of Kyiv. Glasses and other dishes are made from recycled glass. Paper is sent to the Zhytomyr region, where a cardboard factory and a paper factory make further use of the recycled material – toilet paper and chicken egg containers are often made from them.

Plastic bags are sent to the town of Fastiv in the Kyiv region, where they’re converted to garbage bags.

Plastic refuse is also converted into thread and polyester padding, used for windbreakers. Recycled aluminum cans are reused and converted to new aluminum cans. 

4

How can trash be prepared for recycling?

Find specialized dumpsters or trash collection points near your house or apartment, and check what sort of trash they accept. 

Sorted trash needs to be washed to ensure that no food remains on the trash, and then dried. Separate different parts of items into separate piles – for example, remove the caps from bottles. Paper and plastic can be compacted for it to take up less space.

5

Where should you take the trash?

If there are separate dumpsters near your house, then you can leave your sorted trash there. The dumpsters should display the contacts of the trash collecting company responsible for taking it.

Sorted trash can also be left at the nearest gathering point for the “Kyivmiskvtorresursy” company, or in glass, paper, and plastic dumpsters maintained by the “Kyivcommunservice” company. 

The organization Ukraine Without Trash also maintains No Waste and #SilpoRecycling stations, where they accept 40 different kinds of refuse, including bottles left over from household cleaners, single-use plastic bags, styrofoam, and so on. The organization used to operate a mobile sorting station nicknamed the “Master of Good Works”: this station, built into an automobile, would drive on pre-defined routes and collect sorted trash. But the project was discontinued in 2019.

Batteries, lamps, and mercury thermometers cannot be disposed of the same way other refuse is. Kyiv maintains 139 specialized dumpsters for those sorts of refuse.

Batteries are also collected by the organization “Batteries Surrender”. On March 11, the organization sent 20 tons of batteries for recycling at a factory in Romania.

6

What is the trash situation like in Ukraine?

Ukraine, in total, according to 2018 data from the Ministry for Communities and Territorial Development, produced 9 million tons of refuse, which was buried in 6,000 official landfills.

180,000 tons (2%) was burnt, with 378,000 tons sent to specialized recycling points and waste recycling plants. 

Ukraine lacks government programs that would require the sorting of trash. At the same time, sorting is done on local levels. For example, in the city of Ternopil, residents of apartment complexes and janitors, cleaners, and custodians began requiring trash to be sorted. Apartment complex co-ops and maintenance companies are converting garbage chutes to carry sorted trash.

Eco-activists have also created an interactive map called “Recycle Map”, where recycling points are noted. The map tracks points in Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa, Zhytomyr, and other Ukrainian cities.

7

Who are the global leaders in recycling, and whose experience can Ukraine learn from?

According to the latest data provided by Eurostat, the European country with the biggest success in recycling is Germany, with 67% of all trash in that country successfully recycled. Another 31% is used for energy generation, while only 2% is buried in landfills.

Until the 1990s, Germany had 8,000 landfills. Then, the country introduced a government-managed system of trash collecting and recycling. Companies began to create packaging intended to be recycled instead of thrown away. That sort of packaging is labeled with a “green dot.” This way Germany reduces the amount of trash that needs to be buried in landfills.

Germany also has many different containers for trash – blue for paper, yellow for “green dot” packaging and plastic, and brown for organic refuse. Dumpsters for glass have different marks on them: a green tank for colored glass, while a green and white line denotes plain glass.

In 2005, Germany forbade the disposal of unsorted trash in landfills. Trash is only buried in landfills if it’s first determined to be unsuitable for recycling or burning.

The country also has different types of landfills, depending on the type of non-recyclable trash. According to German statistics, there were 1,100 landfills in 2017, with 144 of them earmarked for household waste.