According to the national broadcaster's portal MMC, waste packaging is pilling in the yards of the utility companies again. A total of 16,400 tonnes of packaging waste have already accumulated across the country.
The largest pile of garbage lies on the outskirts of the capital. Voca Snaga collects garbage in eleven municipalities and covers waste disposal for one fifth of the country. Nina Sankovič from Voka Snaga told the MMC that "the situation is terrible. We were desperate in 2018, but today we can say that the times we thought we could handle the situation are now gone. Piled up packaging in the size of 17 Olympic swimming pools might catch a fire and we are only a kilometre away from a residential area."
The main reason behind the growing piles of disposed packaging is that the six Slovenian packaging waste management companies (DROE) don't collect it. That is because these companies finance their work from a packaging tax, only paid by companies which produce or import more than 15 tonnes of packaging. According to the Court of Auditor's data, as much as 53 percent of packaging waste is not included in this system.
For a while DROEs were required to collect all of the waste packaging until the Administrative Court reversed the changes to the environmental permits issued by the Environmental Agency of the Republic of Slovenia (ARSO) in December 2019. Since January 1st 2020, the companies have started to comply with the provisions of the original environmental permits, which only contract them to take care of the amount of packaging waste produced or imported by those who pay the aforementioned tax. Thus what is piling up in the yards of the utility companies is “orphan” waste packaging.
Although the discussion has dragged on since 2018, the problem of fair packaging payment still hasn’t been settled. Besides, packaging imports are very difficult to control and are also increasing because of the growth of online commerce.
The director of the Chamber of Public Utilities Sebastijan Zupan stated that the current 16,400 tonnes of stalled waste packaging could increase by 5,700 additional tonnes every month, and we could end up with 65,000 tonnes of unmanaged garbage by the end of the year.
According to Zupanc, utility companies are supposed to have a seven-day storage capability and in reality all sites have fourteen day storage capability facilities, but they don’t have a capability to store waste for months and months. For this reason waste packaging is being stored in inappropriate places and carried around by the wind, attracting birds, rodents and cockroaches and producing unappealing odours. The most worrying of all is that it presents a considerable fire risk.
However, Zupanc explained that the situation could be resolved by a new intervention law which would cost the country around € 8.7 million. As it has not yet developed a waste management strategy, the state will most likely have to address the situation with emergency laws and financial injections.
At the end of the press conference, Zupanc said that the problem does not reside in the sorting capacity of the waste packaging management systems in Slovenia. He mentioned that five workers had recently been laid off at such a facility in Grosuplje, and that waste packaging had to be imported from Austria in order to keep it going. He added that the capacity of the sorters is large enough for all the packaging we produce. The problem lays in the steps between the collecting sites and sorting facilities.