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Throw out garbage

Living in Geneva or Paris, when you need to throw away an empty bottle, you would normally look for designated recycling bins for glass or plastic bottles to be separately collected and processed. You would bring a broken toaster to a local electrical goods store, and expired medicines to a pharmacy nearby, so that these unwanted but potentially dangerous products won’t end up with the household waste and will be disposed of properly. However, in some places in the UNECE region you would need to spend quite some time looking for a simple rubbish bin on a central street, not to speak of a separate bin for recyclables.

There is no UNECE convention or standard on separate waste collection. Each country develops its own legislation and policies regulating waste management. Nevertheless, at UNECE we promote the upgrade and coherence of environmental policies and practice across the region through our Environmental Performance Reviews (EPRs). EPRs are done for each country from the Caucasus, Central Asia and Eastern and South-Eastern Europe every 5-7 years to see what has been achieved and what needs to be improved in terms of environmental laws, policies and their implementation. The reviews provide recommendations tailored to the specific circumstances and capacities of each country and promote cooperation among countries in introducing better solutions for the environment.

Let’s come back to the example of rubbish bins. In Tajikistan the EPR in 2010 recommended developing a system for the separate collection of recyclable waste. Since then, the collection of fluorescent lamps has started. However, Tajikistan still generally lacks recycling infrastructure, except for recycling of scrap metals and paper. A major challenge for waste management, identified in the ongoing third EPR of Tajikistan, is increasing the collection coverage for municipal solid waste. Currently, collection is only provided for 80 per cent of the urban and 15 per cent of the rural population. Increasing collection coverage is also a particular problem in view of the continuing increase in the volume of waste generation in the country.

In Belarus, separate collection is available in the capital and in district centres for dry (paper, plastics, glass) and for wet (biodegradable) waste. The system for dealing with special waste streams (e.g., tyres, waste oil, refrigerators or TV sets) became operational in 2013. The key challenge for the country is the transformation of disposal practice, from small disposal sites to modern regionally controlled landfills, which would allow for better control of their impact on human health and the environment. Here, the 2015 EPR of Belarus includes recommendations to the country on how to phase out or rehabilitate “mini” dumpsites.

Enhancing municipal solid waste management, introducing the extended producer responsibility principle, improving tariff policies for waste management, applying specific measures for medical, industrial, mining, construction and other waste, and addressing the problem of historical waste from abandoned industrial facilities are just few of the policy measures promoted through EPRs to improve waste management across the UNECE region. Similarly, EPRs support countries in improving air quality, tackling water pollution, managing the protected natural areas and integrating environmental protection in transport, energy, agriculture, industry and health policies.

For more information see http://www.unece.org/env/epr.html or contact info.epr@unece.org.