According to the European Commission’s report (the so-called Early Warning Report), published on June 8, 2023, Croatia is one of the EU member states that is at risk of missing the targets for recycling municipal and packaging waste by 2025 and the target for 2035 in terms of landfills. These goals were transferred to our Law on Waste Management (Official Gazette 84/21) and represent goals from EU directives.
With regard to the goal of 55% preparation for reuse and recycling of municipal waste and 65% recycling of all packaging waste by 2025, Croatia is among the member states along with Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia which have been identified as being at risk of not achieving targets.
Each of our backlogs leads to further backlogs in terms of the separate waste collection because the directive also includes long-term ambitious targets: 60% by 2030 and 65% by 2035.
EU RECOMMENDATIONS VS. SITUATION ON THE FIELD
The priority is to prevent the generation of waste
In 2020, Europeans produced an average of 521 kg of municipal waste per person. Of this amount, 49% of the waste was prepared for reuse or recycling, while about 23% was disposed of at the landfill. However, in recent years, a slow increase in generated waste has been observed, which is inconsistent with the first priority in waste management – the prevention of waste generation.
According to the data from the proposal for the Waste Management Plan in the Republic of Croatia for the period 2023-2028, in Croatia, in 2021, an average of 454 kg per inhabitant was produced, which is less than the European average (Picture 1). However, most of the coastal counties exceed the Croatian and EU average, due to the high influx of tourists and the large seasonal increase in municipal waste.
Figure 1. Annual amount of generated municipal waste per inhabitant in 2021, by county
Also, from November 10 to December 10, 2022, at the public consultation through the e-Savjetovanje portal, there was a Proposal for an Rulebook on the packaging and waste packaging, single-use plastic products and fishing gear containing plastic, which should regulate the implementation of Single-Use Plastic directives. To date, no consultation report has been published, and the expected publication of the report was on January 10, 2023. This Ordinance is being prepared for 2021. The slowness and inertness of the Ministry regarding the Rulebook indicate that the Ministry’s priorities are not aimed at preventing the generation of waste.
Systems for separate collection of waste and processing of bio-waste
At the same time, with a few exceptions and positive examples (eg the island of Krk), the coastal counties of Croatia are characterized by very poorly developed systems of separate collection of waste and especially bio-waste, still unsensitized landfills and numerous illegal landfills.
On the other hand, the EU report points out that biological waste is the most important waste for which measures need to be taken, given that it makes up an average of 34% of municipal waste. The EU believes that it is necessary to focus on the introduction or expansion of efficient capacities for the separate collection and treatment of biological waste.
Moreover, today there is not a single composting plant in Dalmatia, although composting plants are planned in numerous planning documents dating from the first decade of this century. Split, as one of the largest cities in Croatia, generates a significant amount of biological waste. Unfortunately, Split still does not have a composting plant, but it does have containers for biowaste financed by the EU!!! All this represents a missed opportunity to significantly reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, including in Split’s Karepovac.
Compost stations are not a solution only for bio-waste. Many citizens forget how endangered and impoverished the soil in Croatia is. Composting is a measure that will prevent further soil degradation and at the same time adequately manage biowaste.
The directive requires the adoption of national waste management plans, as well as programs for the prevention of waste generation. In addition to the aforementioned Rulebook, relevant to the measure to prevent the generation of plastic and packaging waste, it should be noted that the Waste Management Plan of the Republic of Croatia has not yet been adopted. Public consultation for the proposal of the Waste Management Plan of the Republic of Croatia for the period 2023-2028 was carried out in the period from February 27 to March 30, 2023, however, the public consultation report has not been published to date.
The Waste Management Act of 2021 also changed the waste management planning system at local levels, and after more than a decade of planning at the level of local self-government units, i.e. from cities and municipalities, planning obligations were transferred back to counties. At the same time, the county plans should be drawn up by January 1, 2024, and harmonized with the national plan, which has not yet been adopted! How functional this will be and how much it will contribute to the successful achievement of the goals is yet to be seen. However, we do not consider this a useful move for cities and citizens who ultimately bear the costs of waste management even when the systems are poor.
State of consciousness
The recommendations from the EU report state that awareness-raising activities are key to increasing citizen participation in better waste management. They can be adapted to different target groups (such as households, students, or tourists). The poor state of awareness regarding the creation and handling of waste in Croatia is present at all levels and structures, endangering the achievement of EU goals.
We believe that it is crucial to conduct education first among local government structures, state administration bodies and among the business sector because they are the ones whose engagement can lead to the establishment of successful waste management systems. Citizen education can only be effective if citizens can apply what they have learned.
The EU’s warning came at a time when drinks from a concert in Split, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, were being poured from plastic bottles into plastic glasses. The organizers claim that the people of Split are not ready for a system of reusable bottles and deposits, which is the most environmentally responsible solution. However, there are examples like Šibenik, which has already shown that it is possible to adapt to such a system. Unfortunately, such positive examples are still too rare. On the other hand, resistance to responsible solutions that require investing a little more effort and concern for the environment, resources, and future generations is still too strong.
Read the rest of the recommendations as well as the assessment of the situation on the ground in subsequent articles on our website, as part of the Sunce’s information campaign on waste management.