You are on page 1of 3

9/14/2017 Local solutions are sustainable ones inclusive waste management system as chance for informal collectors


( 199791603512096/?





Local solutions are sustainable ones

inclusive waste management system
as chance for informal collectors
Serbia ( August 30, 2017

Photo: Balkan Green Energy News


Authors: Kristina Cvejanov, President of Serbian Packaging Waste Recyclers Association and aklina ivkovi, Balkan
Network Coordinator at European Greens

Warm summer in Serbia became even warmer in the circular economy community because of the
decision that came from public utility company istoa Novi Sad, capital of Serbian province
Vojvodina. This public company hired a private security company to guard municipal waste containers
in this city, which surprised the citizens but also agonized the people who are advocating rights for
collectors of secondary raw materials. 1/4
9/14/2017 Local solutions are sustainable ones inclusive waste management system as chance for informal collectors

The case raised the question of waste management model in Serbia in the light of adopting EU standards and
directives: should all EU countries and the candidate countries just copy and paste solutions that work in the so-
called developed West, or should we respect cultural, social and economic differences, and in that way support
local economy and vulnerable groups.

According to istoa, the main reason for the engagement of the private security is the damage caused by the
collectors of secondary raw materials to the containers, but also the nancial loss caused by the stealing of
recyclable waste. The majority of Serbian citizens do not have the awareness that the waste they throw have some
value, so it was expected that people will be surprised when realized that a utility company takes such a draconian
and from human rights perspective controversial solution, in defending the content of containers, which according
to the Law on Waste Management belongs to the municipal companies that collect waste.

The fact is that current system is not functioning because it doesnt take in the account the actual situation and
speci cities that exist in Serbia. Only 5 percent of communal waste is treated, and in most municipalities, there is
no infrastructure for primary selection of recyclable waste. Investment is urgently needed in this area, but before
that we need a sustainable policy measures.

The expansion of informal collectors as a result of poor economic situation

For decades, the informal collectors of secondary raw materials have outlined the basis of the recycling pyramid in
Serbia. They were present in our society since the 1960s, when the metal industry and the paper production
industry began to develop intensively in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). We buy old washing
machines, boilers, batteries, it echoed through the megaphone mounted on cars and van vans during the years of
Yugoslav socialism. Unlike todays, former collectors did not collect the waste from containers, but they directly took
it from the household and small neighborhood stores, and then sold to companies that dealt with waste

The rst expansion of collectors from containers happened during the 1990s, when a sudden economic downturn
began. In that period, the collectors target was mostly food and old clothes. Former self-managing waste giants
companies that were engaged in the collection and trade of secondary raw materials or their processing were
brought to the edge of survival, so that bankruptcies and privatizations would follow at the beginning of the new

Today the largest part of the secondary raw materials collected and processed in the country originates from the
work of this informal group, which in a legal sense is not regulated by the legislation of the Republic of Serbia.
According to some estimations, there are thirty to fty thousand individual collectors currently working. 70% of the
collectors are members of the Roma national minority who, due to the high unemployment rate, poor living
conditions and ethnic prejudices, nd it dif cult to nd employment in the community in which they live, thus
jeopardizing the basic human right guaranteed by the Serbian Constitution Article 60 right to work. Social aid, on
average 50 euro per household member, is not enough for life above the poverty line, and waste is an additional
source of income for this vulnerable group.

In spite of social bene t of their work, informal collectors are criminalized

An individual collector, daily engaged in collecting waste from municipal containers, collects a maximum of 1 ton of
PET waste per month. To achieve this, their working day lasts from 10 to 12 hours, and they daily cross between 30
and 50 kilometers.

Unfortunately, individual collectors have no legal possibility to regulate their status and gain the bare minimum of
workers rights: right to social, health and pension insurance, although they are a key factor in the development of
the recycling industry in Serbia. According to the Serbian Packaging Waste Recyclers Associations data for 2016,
almost 80% of the total collected PET comes from the private sector, and only 20% of public utility companies, in
cardboard and paper recycling industry only 1% of proceed material in 2016. came from public utility companies.

Having in mind that the private sector amounts most of its waste through the purchase fromnatural persons
informal collectors of recyclable materials, it can be concluded that most of the credit for the development of
recycling business in Serbia and achieving national targets for recycling in accordance with EU directives belong to
the informal sector. 2/4
9/14/2017 Local solutions are sustainable ones inclusive waste management system as chance for informal collectors

This measure from public company istoa is obviously aimed at preventing informal collectors of secondary raw
materials from collecting recyclable waste from municipal containers in the territory of Novi Sad, thus providing
economically the most vulnerable members of our society for basic existence for themselves and their families.
Their work is legitimate and socially bene cial, and therefore, in all aspects, it must become legal.

If this controversial decision becomes a model for the future in Serbia, it will have its impact not only on the lives of
several thousands of workers but also on recycling businesses, that rely on steady income of raw material. Informal
collectors work for the bene t of their community, feed their families, spend earned money in neighborhood stores,
pay electricity, water, educate their children, participate in the economic recovery of their country. These workers
represent the backbone of the circular economy in Serbia, ensuring the creation of new values from the waste and
reducing the indisputable damage caused by its disposal in the environment, so they should be taken into
consideration in creating new Serbian waste management strategy designed to ensure ful llment of EU recycling

TAGS: Chapter 27 (, informal waste collectors

(, JKP istoa
(, Kristina Cvejanov
(, Novi Sad
(, PET (,
recycling (, waste management
(, aklina ivkovi



READ NEXT: Albanian government grants waste management concession to Dutch company

Home ( > News ( > Waste

( > Local solutions are sustainable ones inclusive waste


April 24, 2017
Residues reaching end of life cycle
better development policy than burning
high grade biomass fuel
grade-biomass-fuel/) 3/4