Instead of preventing hazardous waste dumps, they are provoked with special cynicism – Lyudmyla Tsyhanok

Instead of preventing hazardous waste dumps, they are provoked with special cynicism – Lyudmyla Tsyhanok

Katerina Belousova

Not only the environment is being destroyed, but also trust in Ukraine on the part of international partners and the investment field

In Ukraine, due to the non-compliance of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources with the requirements of Law No. 2320-IX "On Waste Management", the hazardous waste management market collapsed on January 9, 2024, with no licensed companies and businesses and medical institutions unable to dispose of this type of waste legally. As of February 13, only two companies out of more than 200 had received licenses, which only exacerbates the situation.

EcoPolitic talked to Lyudmyla Tsyhanok, President of the Association of Environmental Professionals (PAEW) and CEO of the Office of Sustainable Solutions, about the causes and consequences of the market collapse.

  • Back in December, PAEW drew attention to the impending collapse of the hazardous waste market. Do you think it could have been avoided?

In fact, we at PAEW Association started sounding the alarm back in September, when it became absolutely clear that the European integration reform of the waste sector was at risk of complete failure due to the inaction of the authorities, the lack of a developed regulatory framework and any action plans for its implementation.

We did not just "express concern" but held consultations for business and with officials of the Ministry of Environment in September and December. Moreover, Yevheniia Popovych, Director of the Department of Digital Transformation, Electronic Public Services and Waste Management at the Ministry of Environment, publicly stated that the lack of license conditions would not affect the state of producer-licensee interaction, that there would be no delay in the relevant government agency.

Officials were supposed to start re-licensing from 09.07.23. They had a year (from July 2022 after the adoption of the Law "On Waste Management") to develop bylaws and fulfill the requirements of the law. However, their actions violated the provisions of part two of Article 19 of the Constitution of Ukraine. The officials of the Ministry of Environment created the collapse deliberately! The question arises – who benefits from this situation?

If the environment, if this is a real declared fight against the market of "black licensees" (a tough and very pro-state position is really needed there), then how does the proposed mechanism solve the problem? Why, instead of preventing unauthorized dumping of hazardous waste, we get to provoke them with particular cynicism? Fraudulent schemes are not the first time to "drink" billions of hryvnias from the budget, which supposedly go to clean Ukraine of hazardous waste. As if there is no war in the country. It is as if the trust of the entire world community in Ukraine is not at stake.

The team of reformers has a great desire to overcome the market of "black licensees" – so that the waste gets processed and disposed of. This is a plus, because it is beneficial for every Ukrainian.

  • What is the current situation in the hazardous waste management market?

Various industrial, hospital, pharmaceutical or construction wastes are among the most threatening, containing hazardous substances, compounds, components that threaten life and environmental safety. These include chemical mixtures, oil-containing solutions/emulsions, veterinary, medical, and biological waste (bandages, personal protective equipment, medical instruments, animal carcasses, amputated body parts, chemicals, etc.) There is also industrial and manufacturing waste (waste process liquids, fuels, oils, dyes, resins, varnishes and paints, acids, etc.)

Hazardous waste cannot be disposed of in a standard way by throwing it into a regular garbage can. The legislation also prohibits long-term (in some cases, more than 24 hours) storage or illegal transportation of such waste without proper permits. This requires a special license issued by the Ministry of Environment after checking the compliance of the material and technical base with technological requirements (specialists must make sure that the disposal equipment meets the established requirements).

On average, Ukraine generates about 498,000 tons of hazardous waste and about 98,000 tons of medical waste per year (based on data from the pre-docking era). In just 21 days of January, approximately 27,300 tons of hazardous waste were "in the shadows".

In this situation, it seems logical not to deepen the crisis, to return the reform to the "legal rails" and amend the Government's resolutions and give business entities a legal period to bring their activities in line with the new requirements and pass inspections. However, the Ministry of Ecology is not only violating the laws of Ukraine, committing negligent inaction, but also playing along with the monopolization of the hazardous waste market.

PAEW recorded tender purchases by business entities without a license for hazardous waste management in the period from January 9 to February 1, 2024. At the same time, they were the ones who were issued the first licenses. How could so many tenders have been legally won between January 9 and February 1 without the relevant documents?

The Ministry of Environment started inspections late. As a reason for refusing to grant the minimum 2-month period guaranteed by the Law "On Licensing of Economic Activities" for bringing the entities in question into compliance with the new licensing conditions, the Ministry of Environment pointed out that "the material and technical base of license applicants in most cases (80% of the submitted applications) does not meet the technological requirements for conducting economic activities in hazardous waste management."

Statements of the Ministry of Environment regarding the non-compliance of the material and technical base of license applicants, as the body that itself monitored compliance with licensing requirements in 2020-2023, sound cynical . Therefore, depriving the licenses of all "black licensees" from the team of the Ministry of Environment was not only an opportunity – it is their legal duty!

  • Are programs for the collection of hazardous waste from the population also out of the legal field? For example, at waste sorting stations, mobile hazardous waste collection points, etc.;

Yes, all programs are outside the legal field for today, with the exception of those that have already been "driven" into cooperation with the chosen monopolist.

  • How do you assess the actions of government bodies in solving the problems of the hazardous waste market?

We have addressed the relevant appeals regarding the situation to:

  • a number of people's deputies, in particular to the head of the parliamentary eco-committee;
  • State regulatory service;
  • National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine;
  • Antimonopoly Committee;
  • Office of the Prosecutor General;
  • national police

We hope that the market will be unblocked and those responsible will be punished. A situation that should not exist at all is not comforting. Every lost day plays against the environment!

The officials never once answered where the generators should take the waste, when as of today there is only one company that has been issued a new license. By the way, it was issued with a number of obvious violations, about which we also informed the National Security and Defense Council, the State Bureau of Investigation, NABU and the National Police. We hope that the response to the appeal will be appropriate.

  • Does the current situation in the hazardous waste market create risks of its monopolization?

No more risks! Since the beginning of February 2024, the market has been monopolized. During the war, it was hospitals and hospitals that received a "surprise" from the monopolist in the form of doubled prices compared to the beginning of this year! A hopeless situation for many business entities!

  • What will be the consequences of the collapse of the hazardous waste market for the environment? Can they be mitigated?

It is necessary to urgently unblock the hazardous waste management market, in particular for medical institutions, to meet the guaranteed deadline for preparing and reissuing a license, to provide license applicants and waste generators with sufficient time for properly conducting tenders and reissuing contracts.

As a possible solution, we suggest as soon as possible to amend the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers dated March 18, 2022 No. 314 "Some issues of ensuring the conduct of economic activity under martial law" and Resolution No. 1137 dated October 31, 2023 regarding amendments to it. It is proposed to apply the declarative principle regarding the implementation of hazardous waste management activities within five months. During this time, companies must obtain the appropriate permits.

  • How do waste generators currently deal with accumulated volumes?

For medical waste, which is generated daily and must be transferred daily to the licensees, there was no transfer mechanism for more than 20 days, and now the only Odesa licensed company does not relieve the acuteness of the problem in any way! It is impossible to accumulate such waste for such a long time!

  • The Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Ruslan Strilets spoke about significant progress in the implementation of European integration environmental reforms for 2023 and a positive assessment from the European Commission (2 on a 5-point scale). In your opinion, will the artificial collapse of the hazardous waste market not be a “step back” during the next evaluation phase?

The worst thing in this situation is the real state of our environment, which is deliberately deteriorating. It is a pity that not only the trust in Ukraine on the part of international partners is being destroyed, but also the investment field, which will not be helped by any "investors".

  • How do you see the future of the hazardous waste market and how can you ensure its stable development?

If we don't want waste to be lying in forest strips and Ukraine has an extensive European system of hazardous waste collection, we should stimulate the local business of decentralized collection, those who create infrastructure, create a healthy system of registration and control. And not just kill everyone at once and leave a few companies. It is necessary to develop real financial and investment mechanisms that will stimulate the waste processing market

More than 8 thousand companies will become illegal in Ukraine due to waste "reform"
More than 8 thousand companies will become illegal in Ukraine due to waste "reform"

The Ministry of Environment made this process physically impossible by its actions

Where to return batteries, lamps and thermometers in Lviv: schedule of Ecobus stops
Where to return batteries, lamps and thermometers in Lviv: schedule of Ecobus stops

Bulbs and mercury thermometers must be returned undamaged and in the manufacturer's packaging

Ukrainians told what to do with a broken mercury thermometer
Ukrainians told what to do with a broken mercury thermometer

Mercury cannot be collected with a vacuum cleaner, broom, or rag

Where to return lamps, batteries and medicines in Khmelnytskyi: addresses and schedule
Where to return lamps, batteries and medicines in Khmelnytskyi: addresses and schedule

This garbage cannot be thrown into the general container, because it has an extremely negative effect on the environment