Interview with Svetlana ZHEKOVA, EU environmental adviser

"The authorities set the goals, but the real driving force is the PEOPLE"

"MD" Magazine: At the end of the 20th century, the challenges related to climate change and the drastic reduction of natural resources irreversibly marked the relationship between Man and Nature. How are EU Member States reacting to the challenge to act green – smart – circular – sustainable?

SVETLANA ZHEKOVA, EU Senior Adviser on the Environment: I completely agree with your statement that in recent decades a new basis for the relationship between humans and nature has emerged. It is true that it depends on the challenges we face, but these challenges are grounded in our behavior, which places enormous demands on the planet. The growth of the world's population by 200,000 people every day and the continued growth of the middle class, which practices the culture of consumption, mean that the demand and supply of resources constantly evolve in opposite directions. Over the past hundred years, global fossil fuel use has increased 12-fold and the extraction of material resources has increased 34-fold. Demand for food and feed is expected to increase by 70% by 2050. These data warn us that if we continue to use resources at this rate, we will soon need more than two planets to support us . We must fully understand this reality and change the ways of consumption and production if we want to change the situation.

Such a change in mindset did not happen overnight – neither globally nor in the EU. Before we behave"green-smart-circular", we had to learn to we develop sustainably, that is, to decouple economic growth from the extensive exploitation of resources to the detriment of the environment. That is how the foundations were laid sustainable development in the 1960s, recognizing that the dimensions economic, ecological and social of it must be addressed together and in synergy. Since then, sustainable development has been at the heart of the European project, but it took more time - until the first decade of this century - for sustainable consumption and production and resource efficiency to gradually become more and more integrated into the new economic model, known as "the green economy". Regarding the concept of “circular economy” – although it was born in the 1970s, it has only recently become one of the core priorities of the EU, addressing the entire life cycle of products and services. And globally, it took decades for the perception of development to change from a more orthodox policy focused on macroeconomic fundamentals, through a more sustainable path based on the Millennium Development Goals approved in 2001, towards a global sustainable development agenda with its concrete Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030), adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015.

This means that changing behavior is a process that can take several generations, and there is no single model for achieving it. The EU has a long history of thinking about sustainable development and is one of the strongest drivers of the Global Agenda 2030. Today, all its fundamental policies are designed to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the necessary legislative and financial instruments are in place to does this thing. However, these tools provide the necessary framework, but each member state must identify its own sustainable development model. The same is happening globally – each country or region has to find its own way, based on its history and economy, and last but not least, based on its culture and mentality. However, the most important thing is to follow the same path so that sustainable development becomes irreversible for the sake of future generations!

"MD" magazine: Europe currently wastes around 600 million tons of waste every year, which can be recycled or reused. In this sense, the European Commission adopted an ambitious circular economy package. What is the value and role of waste in a circular economy and how important is it for low-income countries like Moldova to use waste as a resource?

SVETLANA ZHEKOVA, EU Senior Adviser on the Environment: The linear economy currently relies on large quantities of cheap materials and energy that are easily accessible. But this model reaches its physical limits. From this perspective, the circular economy it is an attractive and viable alternative that the private sector is already exploring. At the same time, this concept is very complex, with multiple potential impacts for the economy, involving numerous actors from the public and private sectors.

Indeed, the circular economy has been high on the EU's policy agenda since 2015. However, precisely because of its complexity, its implementation will take quite some time. On the other hand, correct waste management it is considered a vital element for the orientation of the economy towards sustainability and the efficiency of the use of resources, and in Europe we have all the necessary policy, legislative and financial instruments to continue strengthening this pillar of the circular economy. Due to the availability of these tools, Moldova also has the opportunity to direct its economy on a more sustainable path – it is necessary to choose the right direction when the time is right. You decide!

In this sense, it is important to know that waste management has a value in itself and an important role not only for the circular economy. Solid waste management and recycling offer economic and labor market opportunities. Currently, in Europe, these two industries have a turnover of 137 billion euros and together they have provided 2 million jobs. The recycling process offers the opportunity to recover valuable resources and energy (eg gold and platinum from electronic devices or biogas from decomposing organic matter). Also, recycling leads to the saving of energy sources and raw materials in the production processes. In short, the political, commercial, public health and environmental benefits of effective waste management are already demonstrated by experience. This is equally important for both high-income and low-income countries. It is only necessary to change the mentality to no longer consider waste as a problem, but as an opportunity to recover and convert resources.

"MD" Magazine: In the Republic of Moldova, political, economic and social vulnerabilities are stagnating the segment of waste management and their economic valorization. Does the Association Agreement with the EU provide the necessary tools for efficient waste management and are there any delays in this area?

SVETLANA ZHEKOVA, EU Senior Adviser on the Environment: The situation of the Republic of Moldova does not differ much from the situation of other countries of the same size, level of development or political past. The challenges facing your country are no different from the problems faced by many EU Member States at the time when the new waste management systems based on the standards and requirements of the European legislation were launched. However, the reality and figures in these areas place countries like Estonia and Slovenia in the first places in Europe in terms of differentiated collection and recycling. Overall, the share of urban waste has steadily increased from 17% in 1995 to 44% in 2014. There are a few Member States that deposit less than 1% of the waste they generate. And according to the statistical data of "Zero Waste Europe", the network of implementing cities zero waste strategy increased to 364 (of which 10% are from "new" member states such as Hungary, Slovenia, Romania and Croatia).

Of course, there is still a lot to be done for all EU member states to apply effective waste management, but the trends are clear. These trends are driven specifically by the legislative and policy instruments included in the EU-Republic of Moldova Association Agreement and they can be used effectively.

The first important steps in this regard have already been taken. The new Waste Law introduces the basic European principles – “waste hierarchy" and "the polluter pays”, sets targets for the recycling of the largest waste streams generated by packaging and electronic equipment, and establishes the mechanism extended producer responsibility, that will help achieve these goals. In addition, there is also the strategic framework thanks to the National Waste Management Strategy for the years 2014-2027 and the regional sectoral programs adopted for the 3 development regions (North, Center, South). In addition, 8 feasibility studies are being prepared for the respective waste management areas. There are indeed some challenges, in particular, in relation to the creation of an adequate institutional framework and infrastructure for integrated waste management, which requires more time. In this sense, there are good practices and lessons that have already been learned, which we are ready to share with our partners in the Republic of Moldova, to help them avoid our mistakes and go in the right direction from the very beginning of your country's path to the new approach to waste management.

"MD" magazine: In July of this year, the Government was reorganized and the number of ministries was reduced. What is your opinion regarding the merger of three ministries and the creation of the new Ministry of Agriculture, Regional Development and Environment? To what extent will environmental issues and, in particular, waste management be a priority in the action plan of the newly created ministry?

SVETLANA ZHEKOVA, EU Senior Adviser on the Environment: The general governmental and administrative reforms undertaken by the Republic of Moldova this year must be recognized as necessary steps to optimize public administration, reduce expenses and, respectively, improve public service. As with other reform processes, there are challenges to be overcome, but also excellent opportunities to be seized.

Considering the appropriate linkages and interactions between these three policy areas, it is clear that merging ministries generates more opportunities. The unique political management and administrative organization will facilitate cooperation for policy development and implementation, thus providing the opportunity to a better incorporate environmental aspects in key economic areas. The union of ministries will also contribute to more efficient use of national and foreign funds due to the improvement of project coordination at national, regional and local level. To capitalize on these opportunities, the existing mutual connections must be understood and taken into account when formulating future policies for all three areas. This requires the creation of a common planning system, as well as strong project prioritization and management mechanisms, which will create synergies and complementarities between the three areas and allow more efficient channeling of investments, including in such cross-sectoral areas as environmental protection and climate change. Capacity and institutional strengthening will be essential for the quality and effectiveness of this complex reform process. Therefore, more efforts will be needed to mobilize funding from national and international sources for this purpose.

Regarding the place of the environment and waste management in the new system, I would like to emphasize that these policy areas cannot be a priority only for the public administration, regardless of whether it is a ministry or part of a larger institutional structure. The role and involvement of the whole of society and the business community is essential, but it must be properly considered, properly regulated and promoted. In this context, the entire environmental protection governance system needs to be fully reformed and strengthened to prevent potential conflicts of interest, reduce corrupt practices and involve all stakeholders in the decision-making process. For the effectiveness of this reform, it will be extremely important to reorganize the institutions subordinate to MADRM in the appropriate future, including the creation of the Environment Agency to strengthen the main executive functions in the sector (namely, environmental impact assessment, permitting, monitoring and management of environmental information systems). The sector needs a clear division and distribution of responsibilities to avoid overlaps and gaps, but also to ensure the coverage of all functions derived from the Association Agreement.

That being said, environmental protection policy must be seen from a wider perspective, or it refers not only to environmental protection, but also contains unique opportunities for economic and regional development. In this sense, waste management should not be approached in isolation, but as part of a broader perspective of economic development for the Republic of Moldova. The adoption of green and circular economy models and the application of new technologies can lead to the adoption of a completely new approach, where smart agricultural systems and regional development strategies are effectively integrated into a coherent and sustainable framework.

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"MD" magazine: The Ministry of Agriculture, Regional Development and Environment is the competent authority responsible for waste management. In a circular economy model, the exclusive involvement of local authorities is insufficient, as they face many critical challenges in addressing the growth of per capita waste consumption and generation and the complexity of waste flows. Thus, public-private partnerships (PPPs) represent a key to expanding waste management services of local authorities, which lack financial, institutional and technological know-how. Do such PPPs exist in EU countries and how do they work in the waste market?

SVETLANA ZHEKOVA, EU Senior Adviser on the Environment: The quality of public services is important for the general standard of living. We all want to drink clean and tasty water, have well-developed public transport and waste to be disposed of regularly. Moreover, we want all this to be done at reasonable prices. However, to maintain or improve the quality and accessibility of these services, substantial investment in the respective infrastructure is required. Such investments are not easily made by local or even central public authorities, as public resources for investment are usually limited. One way to reduce this deficit is to combine the resources of the public sector and private operators. This is where we need public-private partnerships.

Conformable the "Dealogic Projectware" database, in the period 2000-2015, 1184 PPPs were created in the EU with a cumulative value of almost 270 billion euros. In terms of investment, the most important sector is transport (150 billion), followed by defense and social infrastructure. PPPs in the water supply and sanitation, and solid waste management sectors have relatively small shares, but have increased over this period. Among the EU member states, the most active PPP markets are registered in Great Britain, Spain, France, Poland and Italy. It is estimated that over 60% of all PPPs are concessions.

PPPs for waste management are relatively new to the market. They emerged in the late 1990s in response to public authorities' obligations to meet increasingly stringent environmental protection standards, to address public health problems associated with waste generation, and to reduce rising costs. Most often, such projects include waste collection, treatment, recycling and waste-to-energy infrastructure. In low-income countries, where waste management costs cannot be covered by payments collected from users, it is more common to contract with several service providers (e.g. for waste collection, operating a waste transit station or a sorting stations) than appointing one large operator to cover the entire sector. PPPs have been used in developing countries not only for large infrastructure projects, but also for decentralized systems involving multiple actors (both for-profit and non-profit) with systemic cooperation and clear coordination by public authorities central and local.

According to data published by Infrastructure Journal, globally, a total of 68 waste management PPPs with a cumulative value of USD 17.3 billion were completed between 2005 and 2013. In this market, the UK is the leader, with 9 plant construction PPPs launched in 2013 alone of waste treatment, which generated total investments of USD 3 billion. Apart from the "traditional" favorites (MB, Spain, France, Italy), some Central European countries (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia) have successfully modernized their waste management systems with the help of PPP. However, such partnerships have faced setbacks, largely due to the unpredictable business and legal environment, when private companies were not on the same terms as public enterprises, or the private partner was not competitively selected.

The main lesson learned from this experience is that PPP waste projects carry unique risks, particularly in the complex environment of an emerging market. The most prevalent challenges are unclear delineation of responsibilities, outdated regulation and unrealistic financial expectations. Even though under the PPP the private company is responsible for designing, financing, building and operating a new integrated waste management system, the public sector will still be responsible for its implementation. If these responsibilities are not clearly understood, the success of any PPP can be compromised. If regulation of integrated waste management systems does not exist or is not sufficient, obtaining public and political support can be an insurmountable barrier to the development of a PPP project. Thus, it is essential that the regulatory framework is in place by the time the procurement process is launched, along with training of civil servants on monitoring and inspecting waste management systems. From a financial point of view, cost recovery from waste collection payments made by households is often insufficient, and private investors usually aim for a return on investment of at least 15% to consider the project financially viable. Therefore, to be publicly acceptable, any PPP must demonstrate clear value (better services) for the money invested.

In conclusion, while the benefits of partnering with the private sector are clear, this arrangement should not be considered the only course of action, as PPPs are very complicated to structure, implement and operate. Therefore, each PPP must be carefully evaluated to compare the public benefits and relative gains to be achieved by different approaches. A stable legislative environment must be ensured for PPP implementation, as well as clear requirements for transparency, non-discrimination and equal treatment.

"MD" magazine: It is estimated that around 3.4 million people in the EU are employed in the circular economy sector, such as waste repair and recycling, rental and leasing sectors. Can the circular economy generate the creation of new jobs in Moldova and what are the steps to follow to achieve such results?

SVETLANA ZHEKOVA, EU Senior Adviser on the Environment: I can go further and mention the example of the goods and services sector, which has been growing steadily for the last 15 years, with 4.2 million jobs in 2014 (despite the economic crisis we have been through). Of course, resetting our economies to the circular model can create new jobs, and if the Republic of Moldova chooses this path of development, it will not be an exception. But let's not forget that the concept of the circular economy encompasses all five stages of the life of products - design, production, consumption, waste management and secondary use of materials (however, it should be noted that not all leasing mechanisms are part of the circular economy) . To cover all these stages and for them to work in a "circular" symbiosis, it will be necessary to invest in public awareness, general and professional education and to launch new technologies during the lifetime of a generation.

Of course we have to start somewhere - it seems the best thing is to stop "wasting our waste" and start extracting income from it. Waste management and recycling not only generate jobs (as mentioned earlier – 200 million people are employed in these sectors in the EU), but are also a powerful tool for increasing efficiency. If you look at the entire process of creating a product from scratch – sourcing the raw material, transporting, processing and manufacturing – goods that contain recyclable materials such as paper, plastic, glass and metal are an important resource and a way to save energy. For example, recycling an aluminum can saves the 95% the energy needed to produce a new can from raw material. Each ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees and 50% of the water needed to produce it. Recycling a bottle saves enough energy to burn a traditional 100-watt light bulb for 4 hours, and so on... The private sector around the world understands and explores these opportunities.

In short - the transition from waste management to resource management is an essential transition for the success of all economies and a "shortcut" to a more sustainable future. It is true that first of all a change of mentality is needed. But after it will clearly understand what the benefits are, the Republic of Moldova will not need much time to follow this path and start contributing to the "green" statistics of jobs. The EU-backed Green Economy Roadmap (currently under public consultation) is a suitable foundation for moving forward – why not start with it?

"MD" magazine: At the end of this year, Law no. 209 regarding waste. In accordance with Article 14 letter (a) letter (b), it is intended to introduce, by the following year, separate collection systems for paper, glass, metals and plastics and, by 2020, to recycle them in size up to 30%. How realistic are these goals?

SVETLANA ZHEKOVA, EU Senior Adviser on the Environment: The common goal of the circular economy package proposed by the Commission is the recycling of 65% from urban waste by 2030, and at the EU level, this goal is 50% by 2020. However, it should be noted that the achievement of these objectives contributes different waste streams, more specifically, packaging waste, electrical and electronic equipment. Some Member States that joined the EU in 2004/2007 (including Poland, Latvia, Malta, Bulgaria and Romania) benefit from transitional periods for these purposes because of their feasibility at the time they were established. However, according to Commission reports (2014), for example, Bulgaria and Romania have already exceeded their packaging waste targets for several consecutive years. It is also interesting to note that the most "recent" member state, Croatia, reported the highest rate (98%) of recycling/reusing small household electrical appliances one year before joining the EU.

Therefore, our experience proves that it is always worth setting ambitious goals! Nowadays they are considered to be an opportunity to capitalize on the potential of each country to develop the market of secondary materials, as well as the prospects of "greening" the economy. Considering that solid waste management (including recycling and recovery of materials) is a collective responsibility, these goals are also an effective tool to involve the private sector in achieving them, for example by establishing extended producer responsibility (EP) schemes. .

The legislative framework regarding waste management in Moldova is flexible enough to allow the development of a functional system that will allow the achievement of the set objectives. There are also provisions for establishing systems for REP. In addition, secondary legislation relating to specific waste streams (packaging, electrical and electronic equipment, batteries and accumulators) is currently being developed and consulted with stakeholders. Therefore, I see no reason why you could not look ahead and prepare for implementation. 

"MD" Magazine: One of the principles of the new Law no. 209 on waste is "extended producer responsibility". Will the application of this principle improve the waste management system and infrastructure at the national level? Could you give some examples of how 'extended producer responsibility' works in EU countries?


SVETLANA ZHEKOVA, EU Senior Adviser on the Environment: Extended producer responsibility is an effective resource management tool whereby producers take responsibility for managing the waste generated by the use of their products. This includes collecting, sorting and treating these products to prepare them for recycling and recovery. In the EU, directives relating to specific waste streams – e-waste, used batteries and accumulators, and end-of-life vehicles – oblige member countries to set REPs for the products they cover. Although there is currently no obligation to establish REP systems for packaging, most countries (25 out of 28) have decided to do so.

Although REP is the must individually of companies placing products on the market, in practice manufacturers often work together to fulfill this responsibility by creating producer responsibility organizations (PROs). This approach is the most widespread in the EU. ORPs are non-profit collective entities created and owned by industry that have an REP obligation under legislation. Their competences are conferred by the competent authorities, usually in the form of accreditation or licensing. In general, ORPs are responsible for organizing the collection of used products and the respective communication campaigns aimed at waste holders – usually together or in close cooperation with local authorities. They also guarantee that the collected waste is treated correctly so as to achieve the respective recovery and recycling objectives.

Regarding the financial aspects, REP schemes collect the necessary contributions (payments) from their members to co-finance the collection, sorting and recovery of used products. Through ORP industry can cover the entire cost of the system or share this responsibility with local authorities. Taxation of packaging, electronic equipment, batteries and vehicles etc. when placing them on the market is widely used as an extremely good tool to support the creation of REP systems (in Moldova these payments are also applied, according to the Law on payments for honey pollution). Some ORPs have a purely public mission and are non-profit, but others, owned by private investors or the waste management industry, actually aim to make a profit. Experience shows that non-profit systems take a more holistic approach to waste management and deal with both waste prevention and recycling.

The REP systems used in the EU are very different and have been gradually developed and adjusted to the needs of different countries. In general, for a REP system to be successful, it is necessary to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved (local authorities, ORPs, producers and consumers) right from the start. Transparent recording, monitoring and reporting procedures are also required for proper implementation. REP systems must be required to submit annual reports on the fulfillment of recycling targets and if the conditions are not met, the penalties applied should range from fines to license withdrawal. And this really requires increasing information and strengthening the capacities of both the private sector and public authorities, but in this field the EU has a lot of experience that we will gladly share with our colleagues from the Republic of Moldova. Even though the REP cannot be a panacea for all potential problems related to waste management, it is considered a "breath of fresh air" for systems in all Member States, providing an additional financial flow, knowledge and efficiency to support recycling and waste recovery. .

"MD" magazine: "Pay-as-you-throw" is an effective tool that stimulates recycling. Recently, the collection and storage fees were increased by 4 lei. Do you think this action can somehow change people's behavior regarding waste?

SVETLANA ZHEKOVA, EU Senior Adviser on the Environment: One measure alone is not enough to change people's behavior. Much more is needed to make progress in our attitude towards the rubbish we produce. On the one hand, we must realize that improperly managed waste, with its impact on our health, the environment and the economy, will inevitably generate much higher costs later than those required for its proper management. On the other hand, we need to inform the population about the profits and employment opportunities that a well-developed waste management system offers to the private sector and society.

A range of economic tools have been implemented around the world through waste policies to help authorities make significant progress. The payment mechanism based on the amount of waste produced is only one of the tools that apply the "polluter pays" principle in a waste management system. There are other tools extended producer responsibility, which we have already discussed, waste disposal charges, product taxes, warranty return schemes, recycling subsidies And so on and are available for application, and are often used in various joints. However, it should be noted that the application of the payment system based on the amount of waste produced or another similar system requires making significant investments, since their common feature is the existence of a well-developed infrastructure to collect, sort and process separately multiple waste fractions. Awareness of environmental issues is also essential for the success of these economic instruments, including the waste payment mechanism – if not, these systems could increase the risk of illegal dumping instead of increasing recycling.

In summary, a mix of measures and a set of tools is always needed to deliver the policy we have set out. However, experience has proven one thing for sure – people are not always willing to pay for services that they consider to be mere "obligations" of local authorities. It takes time and effort to convince them to accept that this is a collective responsibility. However, when they are willing to pay, the quality of the service must convince them to pay the "fair price". This is why any economic tool to be applied within a country's waste management system should not be considered a magic solution in itself, but a piece of a puzzle that must be arranged with the effort of each one of us.

"MD" magazine: What do you think are the crucial factors that led to the crisis surrounding the garbage in the Republic of Moldova?

SVETLANA ZHEKOVA, EU Senior Adviser on the Environment: If we remember the situation a few months ago in Chisinau, it must be said that it is not an exceptional case for Europe or in the world. In my hometown, Sofia, I had the same situation several times in the years 2004-2009. The Greek capital, Athens, suffered the same situation for several months in 2007. In the province of Campania in southwestern Italy, this exceptional situation existed for almost 15 years (1994-2008) due to a persistent waste crisis. The Spanish city of Malaga went through the same situation last March. And I can go on…

The main lesson we learned is that both the authorities and the population need to understand that waste management requires a more complex solution than simply collecting and storing it. No matter how many landfills we build, they will not be enough, if measures are not implemented to prevent waste production, reuse and reduce its volume. Such crises indeed represent a challenge, but also an opportunity to change our way of thinking in this regard and to embark on a more sustainable way of waste management.

I believe that the "situation with the waste" in Chisinau offered precisely this opportunity for the Republic of Moldova, but it can be lost if only measures are taken to liquidate the crisis after such an "awakening". In this situation local authorities as well as civil society organizations have an essential role, because only involvement and joint commitment can transform short-term solutions into a quality public service that benefits everyone, and thus mitigates the risk of future crises.

"MD" magazine: During 2015-2016, the city hall, in partnership with the EU, EBRD and EIB, developed a feasibility study on solid waste management in Chisinau. The project promised to solve the problem of solid waste in Chisinau. Are steps being taken in this direction?

SVETLANA ZHEKOVA, EU Senior Adviser on the Environment: I would like to reiterate the issue of short-term crisis management measures compared to the long-term integrated waste management solutions. The feasibility study developed for the Chisinau region (not only the city of Chisinau) opts for the second solution. In addition to this, the EU also supported the development of 8 such studies, in which technically feasible and economically viable solutions are proposed covering the territory of the entire country with the basic infrastructure for the integrated waste management system.

All these are integral parts of the National Strategy for Waste Management in which this public service is regionalised, as it is cheaper to build and operate regional infrastructure facilities, which have been shown to be more attractive to investors. In addition, an integrated regional approach allows tariffs to be kept at a level that the population in the target regions can afford. Namely, this approach is also applied in the respective sectoral programs of the three development regions in the country.

Therefore, the solutions for Chisinau should be an integral part of the approach that the Republic of Moldova will adopt for its waste management, taking into account that support from the EU and other development partners will be conditional on the sustainability of these decisions and their capacity to bring tangible benefits to all citizens, regardless of the region where they live.

"MD" magazine: What measures should be put in place to sensitize officials / authorities on the importance of recycling and proper waste management?

SVETLANA ZHEKOVA, EU Senior Adviser on the Environment: In the context of everything I said earlier, I would not say that we need to sensitize only "officials/authorities". Only with the support of the local community can sustainable decisions be made regarding this inclusive public service. Therefore, efforts must be focused on raising the awareness of the private sector, businesses and citizens regarding the potential benefits of correct waste management both for the health of the population and the environment, as well as regarding social and economic benefits (recovery of secondary raw materials, efficiency of resource use , new employment opportunities, etc.). Once the importance of proper waste management is understood from this perspective, messages will reach the authorities more easily and then, could be transformed into win-win waste management solutions.

"MD" magazine: For this end of the year, please give us some recommendations and tools that would improve the long-term efficiency of waste management at the national level.

SVETLANA ZHEKOVA, EU Senior Adviser on the Environment: Until recently, the Republic of Moldova lacked the adequate planning and legislative framework necessary to modify its insufficiently developed waste management policy. But as already mentioned, this changed with the adoption of the National Strategy for Waste Management in 2014, and with the long-awaited promulgation of the Waste Law at the end of 2016. As decided by the Association Agreement, the main requirements of EU legislation were transposed into the law and into the respective normative acts that were developed (regarding garbage, packaging, electronic waste, etc.). With the elaboration of the 3 sectoral programs and 8 feasibility studies, we must admit that significant results have been achieved in a few years. The planning and legislative basis is there, so it's time to implement it!

Implementation certainly depends primarily on the availability of some strong institutions with clearly defined policy and implementation functions, who can fulfill their obligations towards the citizens of the Republic of Moldova. This must be ensured through the comprehensive reforms of the public administration undertaken by the Government this year. Once the specific responsibilities of national waste management authorities are defined, they must have the necessary capacity to monitor, control and apply legislative requirements. It will be extremely important that it is set up in a short time appropriate information and reporting systems which will support policy and implementation decisions. One of the immediate measures is to clearly define the rights and obligations not only of the central administration, but also for all institutions involved in the integrated waste management system, including local authorities, the private sector and civil society organisations.

These institutional measures may seem insignificant, but they are indispensable for good governance and the sustainability of investments in the new system. Clarification of the responsibilities of each party involved in the sector will help decision-making on infrastructure investment and capacity building.

The initial investment in an integrated decent waste management system is indeed a problem, but we have to take into account the potential of all the tools discussed here (REP, PPP, payment according to the amount of waste produced, etc.) that can bring money into system. Just applying the basic "polluter pays" principle (ie, taxes on certain products) already produces financial flows that should be reinvested in waste management systems. Let's not forget that the EU and other development partners are willing to help you in these difficult activities, because they will bring tangible results and concrete benefits for the population of the Republic of Moldova. However, for this potential donor aid to be obtained, a clear commitment by the authorities to implement national and regional waste management programs is required.

Waste management is indeed a niche market for the Republic of Moldova, but in which direction should we go? As discussed, there is no "one size fits all" in this area and we need to carefully examine the local context when deciding on options. For example, incineration of household waste is not a viable option when most of the waste is of organic origin and has a high moisture content. According to statistical data, almost 60% of the waste in Moldova is of organic origin with a very low calorific value, and in fact, it might be necessary to consume energy for incineration, not to produce it. At the same time, there are so many unexplored possibilities - composting the organic fraction, recycling electronic or construction waste - real "golden opportunities" for material recovery and efficient use of resources, creating jobs and new businesses.

From this perspective, the local context requires the priority exploration of the options of reuse - recycling - recovery. The implementation of a pilot project would be a tangible step in this direction. There are certain fundamentals for sustainable waste management that follow the same path and address the same issues regardless of country or region (namely, building landfills according to EU standards, organizing waste transportation, introducing separate collection and sorting to encourage recycling and reuse) . You may know that the EU has provided assistance for the development of a project targeting all these elements in the waste management area of Cahul district, which may already be initiated. Why not start with an area where there is support from local authorities and communities and donor commitment (including grants from the EU and the National Regional Development Fund)? I would like to encourage the Republic of Moldova not to miss this opportunity!

In light of all that has been said so far, let me stop and draw a conclusion. Implementing a new waste management policy is usually a long-term process when the authorities set the goals, but the real driving force is the people (the private sector, civil society organizations, every citizen). So, the next, and most important, step in this activity in the Republic of Moldova is to create a symbiosis between political and social will through pro-active public awareness campaigns, so that both the risks and the opportunities inherent in the waste sector are clearly understood. Only in this way can subsequent investment decisions be made balancing the interests of all parties involved and for the benefit of all concerned.