Prof. Goran Vujić, executive director of Serbian Solid Waste Association (SeSWA)
Over 60 sessions and workshops were conducted during three days in Novi Sad, and such exchange of knowledge and experience at all levels, state, local and expert, is the main benefit that will become apparent in the realization of new projects in the future
What are the main impressions and conclusions after the ISWA World Congress, which was held in our country for the first time, and whose organization was entrusted to the Association you are in charge of?
Over 60 sessions and workshops were held during three days in Novi Sad, and such exchange of knowledge and experience at all levels, state, local and expert, is the main benefit which will become apparent in the realization of new projects in the future. The conclusion we can draw right now is that ISWA World Congress was the largest congress ever held in Novi Sad, but more importantly that, with its 1,344 participants, it was the largest congress in the history of ISWA. The congress was bigger than those organized in big and well-known cities such as Vienna, Florence, Sao Paolo, Antwerpen. The SeSWA could not have done it wothout the engagement of the successful companies and people from Serbia. Special thanks are owed to the company Miteco, which provided us with an immense support – not only in financial terms, but also in promoting the congress, as well as the organization of each session. Many other successful companies working in the field of waste also helped the organization, then the phenomenal team of young people from the Department of Environmental Engineering at the Faculty of Technical Sciences, as well as an excellent team of young people from the Novi Sad Fair and numerous agencies.
We have shown we can organize an excellent conference and that there are companies and experts in Serbia that are parallel to the world ones, and finally we managed to show that in certain segments we are even better. The abovementioned is evidenced by the fact that we achieved such success with the budget 15 times lower that the one in Antwerpen. In my opinion, the main impression from the congress is – when there is a will, a desire, good team, and when we support the realization of the project together, we can do it at global level.
In comparison with other European countries, what are the most important and efficient measures that should be urgently implemented with the aim of improving waste management system in Serbia as soon as possible?
This was precisely the aim of ISWA 2016 – to show there is no universal solution to be applied. There ia a large number of examples in developed countries, that two cities, which are adjacent to each other, have different waste management systems. There is no solution that can be copied and applied in the city without observing all conditions related to waste management: composition, quantity, culture, past practice, human and technical capacities, purchasing power of citizens. Examples of good practice worldwide were presented at the ISWA 2016, and by obseving the specific properties of the city, we can propose a proper solution.
And when speaking about recycling?
The level of recycling is a basic indicator of how developed a waste management system in a country is, the higher the level – the more developed waste management system. The level of recycling is low in our country, although the system of packaging waste gives certain results and that is precisely why we are not at zero, but we have a recycling percentage ranging from 5 to 10 percent. The conclusions of the ISWA are that we must follow the direction of recognizing and engaging an informal sector into a formal one, since that is what results in the improvement of health and safety at work of a large number of informal collectors, in addition to the increase of the recycling level. The primary waste separation is the next step that has to be established in our country, since the separation at the source, that is in households, is the firts step in all countries with a high percentage of recycling. The establishment of the dual deposit system for PET bottles and glass packaging could also increase the amount of separated, and the quality of these two recyclables. Although the system seems expensive, it has proved to be very effective in many countries.
Bearing in mind that solid waste management is a complex area, does Serbia have the capacities to meet the regulations that are a part of the ecological European integrations of our country within the prescribed deadline, that is by the year 2020?
The moment we become aware that the establishment of the EU regulations and the EU waste hierarchy is good for us and our waste managemen system, and not only the chapter that needs to be aligned, we will have a chance to establish such principles. A long way, which requires human and financial capacities, and primarily political will, awaits us. It is necessary to acquire wide support in political circles, perform the education at all levels of government in order to start aligning the EU and our regulations in a proper way. It should be mentioned that, as a realization of a project, the process of adaptation and accession to the EU lasts for many years. Only the countries that have managed to have the same set of people in key positions during this long period have been successful, such as the Baltic countries, primarily Estonia and Portugal. Countries that change their set of people after every elections have great difficulty in applying the abovementioned principles, and an example of this can be found in our neighbourhood.
The process which Serbia needs for its own sake, and not because of the prescribed conditions depends primarily on the political will. The moment it is shaped and determinated, we can estimate the deadline for reaching the EU conditions, but, based on the current situation, the deadline will not have been reached until 2020.
In what ways the Serbian Solid Waste Association promotes the economically acceptable principles of waste management and the amendment of legal regulations in this sector?
SeSWA as an association of experts, scientists and private companies promotes solutions acceptable in our conditions and helps local government to properly observe what is necessary to make the right decision on the waste management. Circular economy is a challenge set before all of us and simultaneously a chance for the improvement of the waste management system. Proper observing of the circular economy principles and its application to the parts of the waste management system, supported by all levels – state, local and private, is precisely what we see as an opportunity for the improvement of the waste management system.