In Serbia, the field of waste management has not been regulated by any strategic document since 2019. In 2020, within the framework of the project implemented jointly with the European Union, the Ministry of Environmental Protection prepared the Draft National Waste Management Strategy, which was intended to regulate this field after the Waste Management Strategy for the period of 2010–2019 expired, but this Draft has never been adopted.
Earlier this year, the Programme for waste management in the Republic of Serbia for the period of 2022–2031 was adopted and, according to intention of the Ministry, it should be used instead of new Strategy, although its scope is narrower and programmes themselves typically elaborate specific goals of strategies. It is irresponsible to adopt such document before setting up an adequate legal framework for this field, i.e., before adopting amendments to the Law on Waste Management, currently still in drafting procedure.
Nevertheless, substantial change in the Law on Waste Management is not renaming of the strategy, but rather reduction of period of its application to only three years. So far, strategies were under review every three years, and now there is a plan to adopt an integral strategic document that will apply only three years, which is not enough time for implementing long-term strategic objectives, and in practice, it could happen that the period of drafting up the programme lasts longer than the period of its application. The Law on the Planning System provides for adoption of strategic documents for periods of 5 to 7 years, and a programme is a strategic document, regardless of its title.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection demonstrated that compliance with regulations and procedures is not its priority when it unequivocally denied RERI the right to efficient participation in the procedure of development of this programme. On that ground, RERI requested the competent authorities to impose disciplinary sanctions against responsible persons.
“The report on public hearing related to amendments to the Law on Waste Management is not published yet. On the other hand, the Programme for waste management in the Republic of Serbia for the period of 2022–2031 was adopted earlier this year”, emphasized Hristina Vojvodić, legal adviser at RERI. “However, not only did the Ministry not provide particular statement of reasons for taking or not taking our comments into account, but it didn’t include those comments in the records of the public consultations report either.”
The new Draft Law introduces a new modality for obtaining a permit for storage, treatment, and recovery of hazardous waste. It is planned for plants engaged in those activities to request a building permit from local competent authority of the City of Belgrade and not from the Ministry of Environmental protection. That leads towards two different arrangements for obtaining permits within the territory of Belgrade and the rest of the territory of the Republic of Serbia, and introduces legal uncertainty into the filed of hazardous waste management.
According to the Programme, Serbian industry as a whole should work towards finding a way of use of hazardous waste in industrial processes that results in production of energy, while it should also consider incineration of hazardous waste in plants like cement manufacturing facilities or thermal power stations.
“In order to carry out such activity so as to minimize impact on the environment and human health, it is necessary to determine beforehand, by means of by-laws, permissible limit values for pollutants emissions into the air and water during waste incineration”, stated Vojvodić.
The only act which determines limit values of pollutants emissions from plants for thermal treatment of waste is Regulation on types of waste for which thermal treatment is performed, conditions and criteria for determining the location, technical and technological conditions for the design, construction, equipment, and operation of plants for thermal treatment of waste, and treatment with residues after the incineration from 2012. It is not clear from the Draft Amendments of the Law on Waste Management what regulations will be used to determine emissions limit values for thermal treatment of waste before the adoption of the necessary by-laws, so the only remaining conclusion is that the mentioned Regulation would apply, which is not appropriate since it is obsolete. Furthermore, it is necessary to ensure an adequate monitoring of emissions from waste incineration, primarily emissions of dioxins, which are highly carcinogenic.
Without the possibility for competent authorities to monitor the level of pollution from incineration of such waste, it is unacceptable even to consider thermal treatment of waste in a way provided for in these acts.