“It is our environment and if we do not take care of it, nobody will do it for us” Interview with Rusudan Gorkhelashvili about waste management


While many European countries keep progressing in the vision that waste can be a potential source of energy or raw materials and recycling brings big social and economic benefits to the country, Georgia seems to be little bit behind this attitude.

Waste, garbage, rubbish, junk or trash – things which we don‘t need anymore, so we throw them away, and then… Well, then most of them get burned or buried into the landfills. As a result, we need to cope with the impacts of the emissions in the air, water and land, which negatively influence both environment and human health. And as human population has been growing, the amount of the waste we produce and its negative environmental impact became way too serious problem.

At this moment, there are 63 officially registred landfills in Georgia. Most of them are far from meeting the international standards. Furthermore, there are hundreds of unofficial dumpsites with insufficient municipal waste services, which cause health problems for local residents and significant ecological strain. Waste is indisputably one of the biggest environmental problem of the country, yet recycling in Georgia doesn‘t exist and practically all collected waste is transported directly to the disposal sites.

Despite all these alarming facts, the situation is very slowly getting better. Last year Georgia has adopted a new Waste Management Code thanks to the signature of EU Association Agreement. Rusudan Gorkhelashvili, Team Leader for Communication and Outreach of Waste Management Technologies in Regions Program (WMTR) talked about the changes and the challenges Georgia currently faces.

source: Solid waste management company of Georgia
Telavi landfill, source: Solid waste management company of Georgia
Can you shortly explain what exactly is WMTR program about?

Waste Management Technologies in Regions Program is assisting the Government of Georgia in designing an adequate waste management system in the regions of Adjara and Kakheti. The objective of the program is to support a cleaner and healthier environment, minimize adverse impacts from waste on human health and natural resources, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the landfills. Program was launched in 2014. The initiative is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), together with CENN – a local partner and a sub-recipient.

I registered some of your activities also in Tbilisi, do you work in the entire country, or are you focused on the particular parts of the country?

Our program targets regions of Kakheti and Adjara Autonomous Republic, but some exceptions occure also in other parts – Goodwill Recycling Corner initiative can be one of the examples. Since Tbilisi is the capital, kind of a centre of the country, it is easy to make changes visible and develop pilot activities here, it is easier to start the changes from the centre.

source: Solid waste management company of Georgia
Telavi landfill, source: Solid waste management company of Georgia
What is the present situation with waste management in Georgia?

Georgian waste management sector is now in its transition period. Georgia-EU Association Agreement pushed the sector to transform and develop. In 2015 Georgia adopted Waste Management Code and in 2016 developed 15 year National Waste Management Strategy and 5 year Action Plan.

What exactly does it mean? Can you introduce specifically what will be happening in the following years?
One of the objectives is of course development and implementation of an effective waste collection and transportations management system. The Country has a minimum target by 2020 when 90% of municipal waste should be collected and expande to 100% by 2025.
The changes concern landfills as well. The modernization or closure of the landfills that do not meet standards has already started. Solid Waste Management Company of Georgia is working on modernization, closure and construction of new landfills all around the country, with exception of Tbilisi and Adjara, since they do not cover these areas.

Existing official but not permitted landfills ( not meeting the new official standards) need to be closed by 2023, and dumpsites need to be closed and remediated by 2020. Alternatively, new modern landfills with transfer systems or modification of exiting landfills in accordance with EU standards need to be established by 2025. Overall, we are working on many changes to come in the upcoming years.

source: Solid waste management company of Georgia
Bakuriani – Borjomi landfill, source: Solid waste management company of Georgia
Does the government also have any plans connected to recycling?

The country also moves in the direction of waste separation and recycling and targets to recycle 30% paper, 20% glass, 70% metal and 30% plastic by 2020.

Few weeks ago, the first spot for waste separation in the country was opened, namely in Hypermarket Goodwill in the Didi Dighomi district in Tbilisi. And as I understand WMTR was one of the initiators of that. Does it mean that separation program is already starting in Georgia?

The Goodwill Recycling Corner is the first in Tbilisi, but not last. The waste separation is an obligation under the Waste Management Code that enters into force in 2019. So everything that will be done before 2019 will contribute to establishment of the waste separation system.

By initiating the recycling corner in Goodwill, we hope more commercial sector representatives like retail stores will be interested in replicating the initiative on voluntary basis.

13934938_1752796868336860_1104450705218213341_n
The Goodwill recycling corner, source: WMTR program
Personally, I have seen a lot of trash in the nature during my travels here. It seems that trash is everywhere – in the rivers, forests, along the roads and even at the high points of the mountains. And it looks like nobody cares. Is it more about low public awareness and environmental education, or is it a responsibility of the government?

The problem exists because of multiple reasons. Of course, one of them is low awareness and insufficient environmental education. But also, in most cases, the cause of heavy littering and illegal dumpsites is nonexistence or inefficiency of waste collection service, lack of infrastructure, such as lack of garbage bins. The problem must be tackled by working on expanding waste collection service coverage areas and parallel raising awareness and developing environmental education.

There is no possibility to recycle our rubbish yet, and it seems that all of the work is in the hands of government. But how can an ordinary citizen contribute to improvement of the situation with waste?

They can help spreading the information. They should not ignore when they see someone else littering. There are many ways, starting from changing our own behavior to initiating community activities. It is our environment and if we do not take care of it, nobody will do it for us. That is the key point that every citizen should realize.

source: Solid waste management company of Georgia
source: Solid waste management company of Georgia
Everyone can do something!

At the end, here are few easy tips for reducing our waste production and helping the environment:

1. Say NO to plastic bags. Almost in every shop in the country, even when you buy just one small thing, the shop assistents put it into the plastic bag. As a result, thousands of plastic bags go to the landfills every day.

Next time, when a cashier will be putting all your goods into the separate plastic bags, say no. Even better, take your own bag. It is so simple and you can significantly help the environment.

2. Buy only as much as you can eat. Tons of food are transport to the landfills every day. According to Draft National Waste Management Plan (2014), 42% of the waste composition in the Georgians landfills is food. Buy just what you can eat, you can also compost your unused food. Many types of food scraps, along with leaves and yard trimmings, can be combined in your backyard compost bin.

3. Choose the products that are returnable, reusable, or refillable over single-use items.

4. Shop at second-hand stores. Great fashionable pieces of used and unused clothes and other goods can be found in numerous second-hand stores. They are both low cost to you and the environment.

5. Sell or donate unwanted items. Reduce waste by donating unwanted items to family, friends or neighbours. You can even sell your possessions on the streets or bazaar and earn some extra cash.

6. Get involved. Visit pro-recycling sites, think about it and talk to the others in your community about the benefits of reducing solid waste – your family, friends and neighbours. If you start to make a difference, maybe others will follow in your footsteps

“It is our environment and if we do not take care of it, nobody will do it for us” Interview with Rusudan Gorkhelashvili about waste managementhttp://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Kutaisi-680x453.jpghttp://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Kutaisi-150x100.jpg admin EnvironmentSociety,,,
While many European countries keep progressing in the vision that waste can be a potential source of energy or raw materials and recycling brings big social and economic benefits to the country, Georgia seems to be little bit behind this attitude. Waste, garbage, rubbish, junk or trash - things which...
<p class="western" align="left"><strong><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">While many European countries keep progressing in the vision that waste can be a potential source of energy or raw materials and recycling brings big social and economic benefits to the country, Georgia seems to be little bit behind this attitude.</span></span></strong></p> <p class="western" align="left"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">Waste, garbage, rubbish, junk or trash - things which we don‘t need anymore, so we throw them away, and then... Well, then most of them get burned or buried into the landfills. As a result, we need to cope with the impacts of the emissions in the air, water and land, which negatively influence both environment and human health. And as human population has been growing, the amount of the waste we produce and its negative environmental impact became way too serious problem. </span></span></p> <p class="western" align="left"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">At this moment, there are 63 officially registred landfills in Georgia. Most of them are far from meeting the international standards. Furthermore, there are hundreds of unofficial dumpsites with insufficient municipal waste services, which cause health problems for local residents and significant ecological strain. </span></span><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">Waste is indisputably one of the biggest environmental problem of the country, yet recycling in Georgia doesn‘t exist and practically all collected waste is transported directly to the disposal sites.</span></span></p> <p class="western"><span style="font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;">Despite all these alarming facts, the situation is very slowly getting better. Last year Georgia has adopted a new Waste Management Code thanks to the signature of EU Association Agreement. </span><span style="font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;"><span style="font-size: large;"><b>Rusudan Gorkhelashvili</b></span></span><span style="font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;">, </span><span style="font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;"><span lang="cs-CZ">Team Leader for Communication and Outreach of Waste Management Technologies in Regions Program (WMTR) talked about the changes and the challenges Georgia currently faces.</span></span></p> <div align="left"><strong>Can you shortly explain what exactly is WMTR program about?</strong></div> <p class="western" align="left"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">Waste Management Technologies in Regions Program is assisting the Government of Georgia in designing an adequate waste management system in the regions of Adjara and Kakheti. The objective of the program is to support a cleaner and healthier environment, minimize adverse impacts from waste on human health and natural resources, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the landfills. Program was launched in 2014. The initiative is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), together with CENN – a local partner and a sub-recipient.</span></span></p> <div align="left"><strong>I registered some of your activities also in Tbilisi, do you work in the entire country, or are you focused on the particular parts of the country?</strong></div> <p class="western" align="left"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">Our program targets regions of Kakheti and Adjara Autonomous Republic, but some exceptions occure also in other parts - Goodwill Recycling Corner initiative can be one of the examples. Since Tbilisi is the capital, kind of a centre of the country, it is easy to make changes visible and develop pilot activities here, it is easier to start the changes from the centre.</span></span></p> <div align="left"><strong>What is the present situation with waste management in Georgia? </strong></div> <p class="western" align="left"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">Georgian waste management sector is now in its transition period. Georgia-EU Association Agreement pushed the sector to transform and develop. In 2015 Georgia adopted Waste Management Code and in 2016 developed 15 year National Waste Management Strategy and 5 year Action Plan. </span></span></p> <div align="left"><strong>What exactly does it mean? Can you introduce specifically what will be happening in the following years?</strong></div> <div class="western" align="left"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">One of the objectives is of course development and implementation of an effective waste collection and transportations management system. The Country has a minimum target by 2020 when 90% of municipal waste should be collected and expande to 100% by 2025.</span></span></div> <div class="western" align="left"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">The changes concern landfills as well. The modernization or closure of the landfills that do not meet standards has already started.</span></span> <span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;">Solid Waste Management Company of Georgia</span> <span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">is working on modernization, closure and construction of new landfills all around the country, with exception of Tbilisi and Adjara, since they do not cover these areas. </span></span></div> <p class="western" align="left"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">Existing</span></span> <span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;">official but not permitted </span><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">l</span></span><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">andfills </span></span><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">( not meeting the new official standards) </span></span><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">need to be closed by 2023, and dumpsites need to be closed and remediated by 2020. Alternatively, new modern landfills with transfer systems or modification of exiting landfills in accordance with EU standards need to be established by 2025. Overall, we are working on many changes to come in the upcoming years.</span></span></p> <div align="left"><strong>Does the government also have any plans connected to recycling?</strong></div> <p class="western" align="left"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">The country also moves in the direction of waste separation and recycling and targets to recycle 30% paper, 20% glass, 70% metal and 30% plastic by 2020.</span></span></p> <div align="left"><strong>Few weeks ago, the first spot for waste separation in the country was opened, namely in Hypermarket Goodwill in the Didi Dighomi district in Tbilisi. And as I understand WMTR was one of the initiators of that. Does it mean that separation program is already starting in Georgia? </strong></div> <p class="western" align="left"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">The Goodwill Recycling Corner is the first in Tbilisi, but not last. The waste separation is an obligation under the Waste Management Code that enters into force in 2019. So everything that will be done before 2019 will contribute to establishment of the waste separation system.</span></span></p> <p class="western" align="left"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">By initiating the recycling corner in Goodwill, we hope more commercial sector representatives like retail stores will be interested in replicating the initiative on voluntary basis.</span></span></p> <div align="left"><strong>Personally, I have seen a lot of trash in the nature during my travels here. It seems that trash is everywhere - in the rivers, forests, along the roads and even at the high points of the mountains. And it looks like nobody cares. Is it more about low public awareness and environmental education, or is it a responsibility of the government?</strong></div> <p class="western" align="left"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">The problem exists because of multiple reasons. Of course, one of them is low awareness and insufficient environmental education. But also, in most cases, the cause of heavy littering and illegal dumpsites is nonexistence or inefficiency of waste collection service, lack of infrastructure, such as lack of garbage bins. The problem must be tackled by working on expanding waste collection service coverage areas and parallel raising awareness and developing environmental education.</span></span></p> <div align="left"><strong>There is no possibility to recycle our rubbish yet, and it seems that all of the work is in the hands of government. But how can an ordinary citizen contribute to improvement of the situation with waste?</strong></div> <p class="western" align="left"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">They can help spreading the information. They should not ignore when they see someone else littering. There are many ways, starting from changing our own behavior to initiating community activities. It is our environment and if we do not take care of it, nobody will do it for us. That is the key point that every citizen should realize.</span></span></p> <div><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: large;"><b>Everyone can do something! </b></span></span></div> <p class="western"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;">At the end, here are few easy tips for reducing our waste production and helping the environment:</span></span></p> <p class="western" align="left"><span style="color: #333333;"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;"><span lang="cs-CZ"><b>1. Say NO to plastic bags.</b></span></span></span><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;"><span lang="cs-CZ"> Almost in every shop in the country, even when you buy just one small thing, the shop assistents put it into the plastic bag. As a result, thousands of plastic bags go to the landfills every day. </span></span></span></span></p> <p class="western" align="left"><span style="color: #333333;"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;"><span lang="cs-CZ">Next time, when a cashier will be putting all your goods into the separate plastic bags, say no. Even better, take your own bag. It is so simple and you can significantly help the environment.</span></span></span></span></p> <p class="western" align="left"><span style="color: #333333;"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;"><span lang="cs-CZ"><b>2. Buy only as much as you can eat.</b></span></span></span><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;"><span lang="cs-CZ"> Tons of food are transport to the landfills every day. According to Draft National Waste Management Plan (2014), 42% of the waste composition in the Georgians landfills is food. Buy just what you can eat, you can also compost your unused food. Many types of food scraps, along with leaves and yard trimmings, can be combined in your backyard compost bin.</span></span></span></span></p> <p class="western"><span style="color: #333333;"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;"><span lang="cs-CZ"><b>3. Choose the products that are returnable, reusable, or refillable over single-use items.</b></span></span></span></span></p> <p class="western" align="left"><span style="color: #333333;"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;"><span lang="cs-CZ"><b>4. Shop at second-hand stores.</b></span></span></span><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;"><span lang="cs-CZ"> Great fashionable pieces of used and unused clothes and other goods can be found in numerous second-hand stores. They are both low cost to you and the environment. </span></span></span></span></p> <p class="western" align="left"><span style="color: #333333;"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;"><span lang="cs-CZ"><b>5. Sell or donate unwanted items.</b></span></span></span><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;"><span lang="cs-CZ"> Reduce waste by donating unwanted items to family, friends or neighbours. You can even sell your possessions on the streets or bazaar and earn some extra cash.</span></span></span></span></p> <p class="western"><span style="color: #333333;"><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;"><span lang="cs-CZ"><b>6. Get involved.</b></span></span></span><span style="font-family: Calibri, serif;"><span style="font-size: medium;"><span lang="cs-CZ"> Visit pro-recycling sites, think about it and talk to the others in your community about the benefits of reducing solid waste – your family, friends and neighbours. If you start to make a difference, maybe others will follow in your footsteps</span></span></span></span></p>
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