Clean Cities Project - Ukraine

Approximately 46 million people generate a lot of rubbish in Ukraine.

If global trends are simulated in Ukraine then almost 75% of the population will be living in cities by 2035.  That will, needless to say, put a severe strain on the infrastructure of the established cities in Ukraine, many of whom, despite exceptionally poor and corrupt local governance, are trying to keep the historical feel of the cities.

Amongst the infrastructure that will be stretched to breaking point will be that of waste management in the years ahead.  In fact, in most major cities it has already reached that point leading to a lot of illegal land fill sites.  No real surprise in a nation where rule of law is somewhat lacking and/or easily redirected via bribery to look the other way.

Less surprising still when considering just how big Ukraine is in comparison to the amount of people who live in it.  Many illegal land fills exist but are simply unknown because of this.

Of the legal and recongised land fill sites in Ukraine, there are in excess of 4,500.  That may or may not sound a lot until we consider Germany has only 162.  That then puts the issue under a reasonable lens and raises the question of why Ukraine has so many in comparison to Germany.

The answer lays with the severe under development of the Ukrainian recycling industry.  I can think of only 2 facilities worthy of being called incinerator plants in Ukraine - and they look to be of late 1970’s, early 1980’s construction.

Naturally this comes as no surprise as successive governments have completely ignored Ukrainian infrastructure since Ukraine became independent more than 20 years ago.

However, it seems at long last, matters maybe progressing at governmental level.  Not that it means anything will necessarily get done, but at least they are talking about it.  It seems a feasibility study to build new incineration plants submitted by the State Agency of Ukraine for Investment and National Projects has been accepted by the government - although I have yet to see the said feasibility study or indeed know anybody who has.

Anyway, from what I gather, there are plans to build plants near Kyiv and Kharkiv with the ability to process 300,000 tonnes of waste annually, a plant near Dnipropetrovsk to handle 200,000 tonnes and plants around Poltova, Chernivtsi, Sumy, Khmelnytsky, Kirovohrad, Ternopil and Vennytsia each dealing with 100,000 tonnes per annum.  The estimated cost - Euro 435 million.

Further to this, and I am not sure this falls within the remit of the Clean Cities Project, I understand from somebody I know in the Lviv City administration that they are also going to construct an incineration plant capable of dealing with 100,000 tonnes per year as well.

All well and good as far as it goes - but incineration is only part of any recycling process.  The whole point of recycling is that as much waste as possible is reused and not simply burnt - even if optimally what is suitable for burning,  is burnt is via a CHP plant thus generating power - and it is not clear that this is the case in these proposals.  A caveat to that is that not all materials that can be burnt are suitable for CHP power production and inevitably no matter how clever any recycling program is, necessarily there is waste that is simply burnt.

So, let us imagine that this plan comes into reality.  What then of the legal land fill sites (not to mention illegal ones)?  Will they be reclaimed or partially reclaimed?

Through fair means or foul, my neighbour, Mr Markov of Odessa City Council, soon to be RADA MP in all likelihood, and leader of Party Rodina, has the contract for some or all of Odessa’s waste.  To be truthful I don’t really know the extent or details of that contract, as prying too deeply into his business interests over a cup of tea just doesn’t seem overly neighbourly - or necessarily wise.  However if the media is to be believed he makes a few million from this contract alone.

If reclamation or partial reclamation of his landfill sites are eventually on the agenda, then one has to suspect he stands to make several more million as well by sorting the waste he has already been paid  to remove.  Maybe I should start charging him for the tea - he can certainly afford it!

Anyway, the Clean Cities Project in Ukraine looks like a project for the environmentalists, government procurement and corruption watchers to keep an eye on in the next few years I suspect.

As far as I can tell, Odessa is not on the list for a new incineration plant and I suspect our current Mayor is more concerned with dealing with the sewage works after a very public metaphorical slapping by the Prime Minister over the issue last week (including a veiled “where’s the money gone” statement)!