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RIO+20 The Future We Want

RIO+20 the future we want

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle in Moldova

By Irina Iurcisin

Livestock manure is used as natural fertilizer in Soldanesti. Photo: Alexandu Tinica

Littering is still socially acceptable in most of Moldova.  Nationally, there are no government policies or programmes that address the issue. Locally, Apa Canals, the municipal enterprises responsible for handling waste, have limited capacity, resources and public support.

Soldanesti is an exception. A city of 6,000 inhabitants in northern Moldova, it tested the reduce, reuse and recycle — “3R”— approach to improve waste management. In 2010, the city’s municipality started to build and expand infrastructure for household waste segregation and educate its citizens on how to improve the urban environment.

Soldanesti’s long journey towards a clean environment began with a few simple step: waste segregation through 27 platforms and public education on how and why to separate waste. When launched, the waste management project was new and unexplored in Moldova, until the United Nations Development Programme’s country office provided resources and technical assistance. The city installed attractively coloured containers for waste glass, paper, domestic residuals, metal and plastic, mostly near public institutions such as hospitals, schools and offices in densely populated areas. 

Physical infrastructure was also developed to raise awareness of three aspects of the 3R approach: reducing the consumption of retail plastic bags; reusing organic waste as natural fertilizer; and recycling plastic bottles. The local Public Health Centre, the Ecological Inspectorate and Apa Canal produced and disseminated 2,000 leaflets outlining the principles and benefits of segregated waste collection; broadcasted a bi-monthly programme on local television channels about compost and biogas production from manure and plastic recycling for rural road construction; and organized a series of public presentations and debates in schools on the role of citizens in handling waste. 

New framework

Apa Canal team has better equipment for segregating waste with UNDP’s support. Photo: Alexandu Tinica

The pilot project opened the door for further action. Representatives of business (especially retailers and farmers), non-governmental organizations, health and environment-related public institutions and citizens developed a blueprint for a dedicated Local Waste Management and Environment Protection Regulation. While there is still a long way in implementing the main provisions of the plan, its creation is an achievement given the establishment of previously absent frameworks and actions.

The plan proposed to develop a new incremental tariff plan for improper waste handling; activate enforcement mechanisms for fines and other measures for waste disposal in non-designated areas; provide manure collection services for households owning livestock; and carry out advocacy measures among retailers to cut down on plastic grocery bags.  

New birth of plastic waste

From the very beginning of the waste segregation initiative, Apa Canal noticed that plastic—especially bottles and parts of household equipment—was most often separated from other types of disposed waste. Because no plastic recycling technology was yet in place, Apa Canal decided to store plastic at a dedicated site outside the town until such time as they can set up appropriate processing mechanisms.

This challenge triggered regional co-operation in dealing with plastic waste. Apa Canal Soldanesti together with Apa Canal Rezina and Floresti, the neighboring districts’ municipalities, established a steering group to identify solutions for reuse and recycle plastic bags and bottles.

The core idea behind the initiative was to transform plastic waste into material for rural road construction. This initiative would simultaneously solve several problems: clean the environment of non-degradable plastic residuals; improve the road situation in rural areas; and create much needed local jobs. The steering group is aware that it involves very complex technology and significant investment and is planning a feasibility study.

Soldanesti’s residents say that the project became an indirect invitation to them to review their own waste handling habits and for local authorities to activate a recycling mechanism.