STA, 23 August 2019 - The Hungarian government has reportedly decided that the country will stop importing sewage sludge, a move that could spell serious trouble for Slovenia which exports around 70,000 tonnes of sludge from its municipal wastewater treatment plants to Hungary.
According to the Slovenian Chamber of Public Utilities, the Hungarian government - facing media criticism the country was serving as the public toilet of Europe - decided this month to stop extending permits for sewage sludge imports.
The chamber's director Sebastijan Zupanc told the STA that the Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry was trying to obtain more information on the issue through the Slovenian Embassy in Budapest.
He added Slovenia would find itself in serious trouble if Hungary closed its border to sewage sludge. From September onwards, Slovenia could be left with 120 to 140 tonnes of it a day, while an alternative solution would definitely need to be found by the end of the year, as all existing permits will expire by then.
Slovenia presently incinerates around 10,000 tonnes of municipal sewage sludge at home, at the plants in Celje and Anhovo.
Some wastewater treatment plants make use of it themselves, however Slovenia does not have sufficient capacities to use what remains for energy, with all that is exported going to Hungary. Croatia is in the same situation.
Other European incineration plants are full, which means Slovenia is very vulnerable in this field, Zupanc stressed.
Sewage sludge from municipal wastewater treatment plants is not hazardous waste, but it is very specific, since it involves excrements coming from toilets.
"We cannot store it, since this is a semi-fluid affair that reeks strongly and is produced in great quantities," Zupanc pointed out, noting it needed to be removed on a daily basis.
The Chamber of Public Utilities is part of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), which said it was working hard on the issue and cooperating with the Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry.
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