The Czech Republic Needs New Waste Legislation

Alan Levine || Creative Commons

The Czech Republic faces a huge challenge in the form of new waste economy legislation. Two regulations (waste law amendment and a new law concerning products with finished lifetime) are under an approval process at the Government Legislative Council (GLC). The GLC will determine whether the Czech Republic stays a haven for land fillers, or becomes a modern economy with a pressure on better waste utilization.

At the working breakfast organized this week by the Centre for Economic and Market Analyses in cooperation with the Trade-off magazine in Prague, experts were analyzing the needs of Czech waste economy, impacts of new legislation and threats of the status quo. Those experts were Jaromír Manhart (The Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic), Jan Mraček (The Czech Chamber of Commerce), and Aleš Rod (The Centre for Economic and Market Analyses).

Jaromír Manhart pointed out that the main aim of the new waste law is to increase a proportion of both recycling and waste utilization and also increase legal enforceability in waste economy. Almost half of the communal waste in the Czech Republic (2015: 47% of 5.3 million tons of communal waste) ends up every year in landfills. The high proportion of landfilling without any further waste utilization is not in compliance with binding targets of material waste utilization, which is determined by the European Union for all member states. Since 2020, the Czech Republic will have to meet the target of 50% material utilization of communal waste (mandatory recycling target), from which we are still relatively far away (2015: 36%). New legislation should change that.

If the waste management concept is not changed through the adoption of new legislation, the Czech public finance will be threatened with sanctions for not meeting the target in the amount between CZK 160 and 200 million per year. The debate also showed that the changes in the waste management will not add fundamentally to the residents’ waste management fee obligation in small towns and villages. On the contrary, municipalities without new legislation will be endangered by cost hikes associated with waste in 2020. The new legislation aims to prevent it and to increase the applicability of waste as an industrial commodity with a positive market value. The whole system will become more efficient. However, some interest groups protecting their current economic rents try to evoke an opposite public opinion. The legislation is not our invention, but a result of hundreds of hours of discussions with various partners. Of course, we have awoken many sleeping dragons by our activity and they defend their economic interests, stated Jaromír Manhart.

Jan Mraček (the Chamber of Commerce) presented a view of entrepreneurs, who will be affected by the regulations of the prepared legislation. That’s why we are glad to be an intensive partner of the Ministry during discussions about the legislation,” Mraček explained. It is crucial for entrepreneurs that there exists stable and predictable business environment, which will not cause unnecessary administrative burden to the business. New technologies of waste processing generate a high potential for investment projects in the sector, but the transparency and continuity of regulation are important for their establishment.

The new legislation plans to increase landfilling fee in order to motivate subjects to focus on more desired ways of waste management – recycling and energy usage. In the Czech Republic there is a lack of energy usage infrastructure, because investors of waste-to-energy (WtE) plants require guarantees for long-term projects. The Ministry has developed a very interesting concept: municipalities with a future contracts with WtE plants will now pay any increase in landfilling fee, so the investors would have secured business and Czech system will improve the infrastructure towards EU recycling and waste-utilization targets. Land fillers intensively lobby against the new law.

Economist Aleš Rod pointed out that the preservation of the status quo – which means basically doing nothing – could jeopardize the fulfilment of mandatory requirements of the EU towards to the Czech waste management. This would increase costs in a form of sanction payments from public finance and, at the same time, a risk that the needed waste economy infrastructure will not be developed in time. “In the EU, waste management hierarchy, waste prevention and miniming the amount of waste is followed by recycling and then energy utilization. These are the main aims, not landfilling. We sure bear this in mind and I am glad to hear that the prepared legislation considers this fact,” said Aleš Rod. Some say a mechanical-biological treatment (MBT) could serve as a good way  to manage the system. “Totally wrong,” Rod explains and adds: “MBT lacks any economic substance expected from working in favor of subjects participating in landfilling. Everyone who defends MBT as a functional and economically efficient alternative to recycling or energetic waste utilization implicitly or explicitly works in favor of the least efficient way of waste management – landfilling.”

Lucie Cechova