There are no conditions for separate waste processing in Russia

The Russian Reporter magazine conducted an experiment: they stopped throwing batteries, plastic and glass bottles into the garbage chute. We decided to try recycling. Empirically, it turned out that in order to regularly hand over all your garbage for processing in Russian conditions, you must be: a) unemployed, b) crazy. 

Our cities are choking on garbage. Our landfills already occupy 2 thousand square meters. km – these are two territories of Moscow – and every year they require another 100 square meters. km of land. Meanwhile, there are already countries in the world that are close to waste-free existence. The turnover of the waste recycling business on planet Earth is $500 billion a year. Russia’s share in this industry is catastrophically small. We are among the wildest peoples in the world in terms of our ability—more precisely, our inability—to deal with garbage. Instead of earning 30 billion rubles annually from waste recycling, not counting the environmental effect, we take our waste to landfills, where it burns, rots, leaks and eventually returns and hits our health.

Russian Reporter special correspondent Olga Timofeeva is experimenting. She stopped throwing complex household waste down the garbage chute. For a month, two trunks have accumulated on the balcony – the neighbors glance with condemnation. 

Olga paints her further adventures in colors: “The garbage can in my yard, of course, does not know what separate waste collection is. You’ll have to look for it yourself. Let’s start with plastic bottles. I called the company that recycles them. 

“Actually, they are transported to us by wagons, but we will also be glad for your small contribution,” the kind manager replied. – So bring it. In Gus-Khrustalny. Or to Nizhny Novgorod. Or Orel. 

And he very politely asked why I did not want to hand over the bottles to vending machines.

 “Try it, you will succeed,” he encouraged me in the voice of a doctor from Kashchenko.

The nearest machines for receiving bottles were next to the subway. The first two ran out of change – they did not work. The third and fourth were overcrowded – and also did not work. I stood with a bottle in my hand in the middle of the street and felt that the whole country was laughing at me: LOOK, SHE IS RENTING BOTTLES!!! I looked around and caught only one stare. The vending machine was looking at me – another one, across the road, the last one. He worked! He said: “Give me a bottle. Opens automatically.

I brought it up. The fandomat opened the round door, buzzed and issued a friendly green inscription: “Get 10 kopecks.” One by one, he swallowed all ten bottles. I folded my empty bag and looked around like a criminal. The two guys were looking at the vending machine with interest, as if it had just popped up out of nowhere.

Attaching glass bottles and jars proved more difficult. On the Greenpeace website, I found the addresses of Moscow container collection points. In some phones they did not answer, in others they said that they would accept after the crisis. The latter housed an insurance agency. “Bottle collection point?” – the secretary laughed: she decided that this was a hoax. Finally, in the back of a modest grocery store in Fili, in a brick wall near the ground, I found a small iron window. It was ajar. You had to almost kneel to see the receptionist’s face. The woman made me happy: she takes any glass – it goes to pharmacy vials. I fill the whole table with containers, and lo and behold, I have seven coins in the palm of my hand. Four rubles eighty kopecks.

 – And it’s all? I wonder. The bag was so heavy! I barely got her.

The woman silently points at the price list. The people around are the poorest class. A wizened little man in a washed-out Soviet shirt—they don’t make them like that anymore. A woman with a lined lip. A couple of old people. All of them suddenly unite and vying with each other teach: 

You brought the cheapest. Do not take cans, liter bottles too, look for Diesel beer – they cost a ruble. 

What else do we have on the balcony? Buy energy-saving lamps – save nature and your money! After all, they consume five times less electricity and last eight years.

Do not buy energy-saving lamps – take care of nature and your money! They serve no more than a year and there is nowhere to turn them in, but you can’t throw them away, because they contain mercury. 

So my experience came into conflict with progress. In two years, there were eight burned-out lamps. The instructions say that you can return them to the same store where you bought them. Maybe you’ll have better luck – I didn’t.

 “Try to go to DEZ,” they advise in Greenpeace. – They should accept it: they receive money for this from the Moscow government.

 I leave the house half an hour early and go to DES. I meet two janitors there. I ask where you can donate mercury lamps. One immediately holds out his hand:

 – Let’s! I give him the package, not believing that everything was decided so quickly. He takes several pieces at once with his big five and raises his hand over the urn. 

— Wait! SO don’t!

I take the package from him and look to the dispatcher. She advises waiting for an electrician. The electrician comes. Send to the technician. The technician is sitting on the second floor – this is a woman with a bunch of documents and no computer. 

“You see,” she says, “the city pays for the disposal of only those mercury lamps that we use in the entrances. Such long tubes. We have containers only for them. And those lamps of yours don’t even have anywhere to put them. And who will pay us for them? 

You have to be a journalist and write a report about garbage to find out about the existence of the Ecotrom company, which is engaged in the processing of mercury lamps. I took my ill-fated bag and went on a date with the director of the company, Vladimir Timoshin. And he took them. And he said that this is not because I am a journalist, but simply that he also has an environmental conscience, so they are ready to take lamps from everyone. 

Now it’s the turn of the electronics. An old kettle, a burned-out table lamp, a bunch of unnecessary disks, a computer keyboard, a network card, a broken mobile phone, a door lock, a handful of batteries and a bundle of wires. A few years ago, a truck drove around Moscow, which took away large household appliances for recycling. This Moscow government paid for transport to the Promotkhody enterprise. The program is over, the car does not drive anymore, but if you bring your own electronic garbage, you will not be refused here. After all, they will also get something useful out of it – metal or plastic – and then they will sell it. The main thing is to get there. Metro “Pechatniki”, minibus 38M to the stop “Bachuninskaya”. Projected passage 5113, building 3, next to the impound lot. 

But two piles of read magazines did not have to be carried anywhere – they were taken by a charitable foundation that helps the nursing home. I had to attach large plastic bottles (only small vending machines take), sunflower oil containers, containers for drinking yoghurts, shampoos and household chemicals, cans, iron lids from glass jars and bottles, a whole bag of disposable plastic bags, plastic cups from sour cream and yogurt, foam trays from under vegetables and fruits and several tetra-packs from juice and milk. 

I have already read a lot, met with a lot of people and I know that the technology for processing all this stuff exists. But where? My balcony has become like a garbage can, and the ecological conscience is holding on to the last of its strength. The company “Center for Environmental Initiatives” saved the situation. 

Residents of the Tagansky district of Moscow can be calm about their garbage. They have a collection point. In Broshevsky Lane, on Proletarka. There are five such points in the capital. This is a modernized garbage yard. Neat, under a canopy, and it has a waste compactor. Drawings hang on the wall: what is useful in the garbage and how to hand it over. Nearby stands a consultant Uncle Sanya – in an oilcloth apron and huge gloves: he takes bags from environmentally concerned people, dumps the contents on a large table, habitually and quickly selects everything for which there is a market. This is about half of my package. The rest: cellophane bags, fragile plastic, tin cans and glossy tetra-packs – all the same, they will go to rot at the landfill.

Uncle Sanya rakes it all into a heap and dumps it into a container with a rough glove. Of course, I could return it all and go again to look for someone who learned how to process it. But I’m tired. I have no more strength. I’m over it. I understood the main thing – in order to regularly hand over all your garbage for processing in Russian conditions, you have to be: a) unemployed, b) crazy.

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