Waste – Trash or Resource?

Waste management development is in an active phase in Georgia. The Waste Management Code of Georgia, adopted in 2015, and the EU-Georgia Association Agreement are the two factors significantly contributing to this development. Within the above documents, Georgia made certain commitments to introduce sustainable waste management. However, the country still has a long way to go.

The current waste collection service in Georgia is inefficient, especially in the villages. There’s no adequate waste collection tariff system and service tariffs are only administered in large cities. Waste is disposed of in landfills that fail to meet international standards or is dumped by local residents at dumpsites. However, the Solid Waste Management Company has to a certain extent taken care of the landfills and is now planning to construct sanitary landfills. This process has already been started in some regions. Unfortunately, neither waste reduction nor reuse is a wide-spread practice in Georgia.

To solve these problems, Georgia has started to seek new investments and build the capacities of the country.

Specifically, all the old landfills and dumpsites must be closed on the territory of Georgia and be substituted by regional landfills meeting international standards. According to the plan, waste separation, reuse, recycling and composting are an integral part of the new system. New Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) are to be set up at some of the new landfills.

The country is going to get a significant economic benefit from waste management sector development in the long run. The introduction and development of a new waste management system will transform the existing reality whereby the fee will cover the cost of service, which is crucial for sector development. This will also ensure provision of an effective waste collection service to the consumer.

The Waste Management Technologies in Regions (WMTR) program has prepared a report on cost-benefit analysis of the waste management options using an example of waste management systems in Adjara A.R and Kakheti Region. The key goal of the study is to inform society and decision-makers on the economic potential of alternative waste management strategies.

The report has shown that the social costs of waste disposal in Adjara A.R and Kakheti Region are quite high considering waste collection and transportation, disposal in a sanitary landfill and methane emissions. For instance, the average social cost of waste disposal in a landfill using the Purchasing Power Parity exchange rate is USD 169 per ton in Adjara A.R and USD 75 per ton in Kakheti Region. These figures are equal to and in certain cases even exceed the same costs in the US and some regions of Europe.

Based on the results of the study, source separation and recycling programs could bring some net economic profit to the country as compared to regular waste disposal. The cost of CO2 emissions depends on the type of recyclable. For instance, each ton of glass makes USD 2, per ton of paper and cardboard of various qualities – USD 14 on average, per ton of plastic – USD 36 on average and per ton of aluminum – USD 131 on average.

The main problem the country still faces is optimal integration of the components of the waste management system. The simultaneous functioning of several components could involve both complementary elements and inefficiencies. For example, source separation of wet waste recyclables will improve waste recovery efficiency at mixed waste MRFs, while source separation of paper will improve the quality of commercial fiber materials.

Based on the analysis, integration of local composting projects into regional and state programs could be used to obtain credits issued for emissions reductions. These credits will then be passed on to the State and will help it cover the expenses.

Baia Dzagnidze

17 June 2016 11:29