The recycling industry in our country is still in its early stages of development. As our market is still being developed, and, as there is no established system, a significant improvement will be visible once the reform of public utility companies is finished and primary separation of waste is introduced.
How would you evaluate the current status of the recycling industry in Serbia?
Recycling is a very good business, very developed throughout the world, however, it has not been established here as a result of the legal gaps. The entire recycling industry today depends on state offered incentives, which means that if the state fails to allow incentives to businesses, defined goals for 2015 will not be met.
This fall we are expecting significant changes in the area of environmental protection. What is your opinion of the recently held public hearing on the amendments and supplements of the new laws regulating this area, which are expected to be adopted in September?
The state administration is under great pressure from the EU and this why it implements provisions of the European legislation without previous analyses of the economic implications for the application of these provisions. One of the conditions for a successful implementation is the inclusion of all factors in the creating of policies in a certain area, as well as economic analyses. The amendments and supplements of the Law on Waste Management reduce the number of legal gaps in relation to European regulations, without taking into consideration the preparedness of the market or the possibilities for the implementation of those institutes and definitions locally at the present moment.
It is extremely important to set up a partner relationship between the decision-makers and the industry in the area of environmental protection, as it should be the industry's role to carry out a large part of the planned investments in environmental protection. An important factor for the waste industry is predictability. According to the plan of the competent Ministry, 2017 is expected to be the year of major changes as that is when a revision of the overall Law on Waste Management is scheduled for, as well as a revision of strategic documents.
The impression is that the professional and general public are looking forward to the forming of the Green Fund again. What are the main benefits of its forming?
The idea of a Green Fund is good, however, the proposed method for the organization of the Green Fund is not fully in line with the general idea. On the other hand, it is still uncertain when the Green Fund will begin operating, considering that the proposal entails a legal vacuum of a year for the adoption of by-laws which are to define the method of work of this fund. The effect of the Green Fund will not be maximized if it is formed as a budget dependant fund. Naturally, a stable line of financing environmental protection is necessary, and the so-construed Green Fund is a pioneer step in that process.
Benefits of the fund should be visible through investments in the environment for sectors that are not commercial, as well as for infrastructural and other projects whose finaincing is the duty of the state.
What are the most important changes introduced by the new Law on Waste Management?
The draft of the Law on Amendments and Supplements of the Law on Waste Management partially fills the existing legal gaps in relation to European legislation. The national regulations now acknowledge institutes such as the by-product, end-of-waste status, dealer broker, responsibility of the manufacturer, harmonized defintions with the framework directive on waste 2008/98 EC. However, if there is no synchronization with other relevant regulations, then the problem of implementation is still present.
Establishing a recycling system is the key segment in the process of harmonization of local legislation with EU legislation. In your opinion, what steps have been taken so far, and what remains to be done?
Establishing a waste management system is an important segment and substantial economic actions are required in the process of harmonization with EU regulations. According to the Approximation Strategy, costs are estimated at 2,796 billion Euros, which presents 26% of the total estimated costs of 10.6 billion Euros. A large bulk of the financing of waste management should be borne by the economy.
At this moment, what worries is that the industry is totally neglected in this process, and the national policy is created without the input of all the parties concerned. The state should prepare a plan of implementation and education on the challenges and tasks awaiting the industry, as well as citizens, relating to waste management, without which it is impossible to achieve expected results.
Also, we should concentrate more on the problem present in the waste sector which is the second most important according to economic implications, and we should seriously consider proposed reform measures of the Approximation Strategy which was adopted in 2010, and which is one of the most important documents in the EU accession process.
In presenting the post-screening documents for Chapter 27, it was emphasized that education of the general public is one of the "weak" points in the harmonization with the EU in the environmental protection area. Which mechanisms should be employed in order to provide incentive for this segment?
With on-going informal education, because education is important and necessary throughout the present transition process which we find ourselves in. This is why it is important for this education to be suited to all age groups.
The Association of the Waste Industry of Serbia „Hrabri čistač", attended the recently held FEAD Conference in London. The theme of the Conference was "Dynamic Potential of a Circular Economy", but many other issues were discussed. What are the most important conclusions reached?
Circular economy is a new concept of waste management which was concieved after the 2008 crisis, and it refers to maximum utilization of used resources. This is a concept by which waste disposal is minimized and waste is treated as a raw material. The goals set by the European regulations are very ambitious and they are hard to reach without applying the concept of circular economy. All of this requires a well developed infrastructure and a high level of consciousness regarding protection of human health and the environment, which, in the end, brings economic benefits to all.
What are the main principles of circular economy and to what extent is it possible to apply circular economy in the Balkans?
First of all, in the Balkans it is necessary to change awareness in relation to the market and capital. Unfortunately, the entire Balkans area is so far from the essential concept of circular economy which, although not easily attainable, presents a very ambitious undertaking. All of the Balkan states have difficulties in establishing a waste management system. But the very key to circular economy is the establishing of this system (primary separation of waste) and maximum utilization of resources.
In Europe, as well as worldwide, resources today have a significant value because great attention is paid to the protection of the environment and human health. It should be noted that the concept of a circular economy is inevitable as it is implemented into European regulations which all countries-candidates for EU membership must harmonize and implement.