The climate ministry has announced changes to Poland’s waste management system, which include new rules for rubbish segregation and tougher punishments for illegal disposal of waste.

The programme, which was unveiled this week, is also intended to allow the costs of waste collection to be reduced, after a recent steep hike in costs.

Earlier this year, the government introduced new rules on waste segregation, with Poles having to sort their rubbish into five separate waste containers or risk a fine.

The changes were aimed at bringing Poland’s system in line with EU standards, ahead of the bloc’s new waste management directive that came into force at the start of July.

The newly announced programme, which is intended to go into force in late autumn, will allow some municipalities to be released from this obligation, with residents only required to segregate their waste into three containers.

The allowance, however, will be contingent on municipalities achieving targets for recycling and selective collection, with any changes first having to be approved by the climate ministry.

Poland races to tidy up its waste disposal

The new EU rules require countries to recycle at least 55% of municipal waste by 2025, 60% by 2030 and 65% by 2035, and also imposes a cap on landfill disposal and improvements to extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes.

According to the EU’s 2019 environmental review, Poland generated 315 kg of municipal waste per inhabitant in 2017, which is well below the EU average of 487 kg per person. Of that, 34% is recycled, which in turn is below the EU average of 46%.

The Polish government’s new programme sets out recycling targets for municipalities to reach: 25% in 2021, 30% in 2022, 35% in 2023, 45% in 2024 before finally hitting the EU’s goal of 55% in 2025.

The new regulations also increase potential penalties for littering in public places from 500 to 5,000 zloty (€1,140), with fines for disposing of rubbish on private land also raised to the same level.

Those who are found to have discarded hazardous waste illegally will now face up eight years in prison, compared to the current maximum of five years. The government last week set up a new task force to clamp down on illegal waste disposal.

Sanctions in the form of fines will also be introduced in cases where waste management has been outsourced to bodies which have not obtained the required entry in the register of regulated activities.

“We want to tighten penalties for inappropriate handling of waste,” said Jacek Ozdoba, a deputy climate minister.

“This includes discarding waste in public areas, such as roads, squares or green areas. Increased penalties, along with improved methods of identifying perpetrators, will make it possible to reduce this type of negative behaviour.”

Special unit created to fight “trash mafia” that illegally burn and dump waste in Poland

The implementation of a new, more complex system of waste segregation has seen rubbish collection costs rise considerably in Poland in recent times, with increases of 100% for households in some municipalities during 2020, reports Gazeta Wyborcza.

The climate ministry’s new programme seeks to mitigate some of these costs. People who compost their own biological waste, for example, can now be exempted from municipal charges for the collection of it.

The plans also include changes in the ways waste collection costs are calculated for multi-family residential buildings. If municipalities are able to identify which households in such buildings segregate waste and which do not, they will be able to apply a fairer settlement of fees for individual households, rather than the current collective rate for the whole property.

“Polish local authorities have waited a long time for this day,” said Lucjusz Nadbereżny, the mayor of Stalowa Wola, a city in southeastern Poland, at the climate ministry’s press conference.

“Thanks to the cooperation of local governments with the climate ministry, it was possible to work out bold changes, which mean savings for our residents,” continued Nadbereżny, who represents the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Businesses and other organisations in Poland have themselves been introducing a number of innovative solutions in a bid to tackle waste issues in recent months. Supermarket giants Auchan and Carrefour launched reusable cotton bags earlier this year, whilst Warsaw’s Royal Castle began recycling old advertising banners to create bags.

Warsaw’s Royal Castle transforms old advertising banners into bags

Main image credit: Jacek Halicki/Wikimedia (under CC BY-SA 4.0)

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