20. 9. 2017

Presented at the Circular Economy Conference 2018

The conference entitled The Future of Waste Management in the EU, organised by the European Movement in the Czech Republic, brought together representatives of institutions, organisations and other stakeholders involved in the implementation of the principles of circular economy and related changes, especially in waste management. Unfortunately, a representative of municipalities was absent.

The conference was intended to provide answers to these questions:

What challenges does the adoption and subsequent implementation of the new waste legislation pose for Czech industry, state administration, municipalities and Czech entrepreneurs? Are the principles of the circular economy in mind in Czech laws, what changes can we expect from Czech legislators and what developments can we expect in the Czech circular economy in 2018?

It is certainly positive that the speakers clearly linked the circular economy with the Czech Republic's raw material self-sufficiency.

There was a criticism of the media, but also of politicians - i.e. of their own ranks - from MEP Kateřina Konečná, who said that the circular economy remains closed in professional circles, while journalists and elected representatives are not very interested in this topic. Yet, compared to the rest of Europe, the Czech Republic is not in a situation of "five minutes to twelve" in implementing the circular economy, but for the twelfth time.

The lack of adequate waste legislation, namely the 10-year-long anabasis of adopting a new Waste Act, which neither the current Minister of the Environment nor his three predecessors managed to push through, has not escaped criticism. According to Kateřina Konečná and others, it is unfortunately not realistic to approve the current form of the draft law before 2020, and it is therefore desirable to push through at least a quick amendment to the law. Representatives of the Confederation of Industry and Transport and the Duha Movement, among others, agreed on the need for at least partial changes, while Petr Havelka from ČAOH, a representative of waste companies, mostly landfillers, expressed his support for further waiting (and thus maintaining the landfill status quo).

The contradiction between economic advantage and regulation, or in other words between positive motivation and regulation, was discussed throughout the conference. With few exceptions, the speakers agreed that the cornerstone is a clear direction (ending landfilling in favour of modern waste recovery technologies) given by legislation, followed by incentives such as tax breaks for recyclable products, green procurement, or subsidies for research and innovation. However, doubts have also been raised about the effectiveness of incentives, which can always to some extent either distort the market or be counterproductive in the case of ambiguous specifications.

Several times during the conference, the myth of sorting was mentioned, which is unfortunately still widespread in the public consciousness. The concepts of recycling and sorting are often confused. However, sorting is not yet recycling, and unfortunately, even though the Czechs are good and happy to sort, these sorted materials are not used in the desired way. On the contrary, they often end up in landfills:

Kateřina Konečná: "Sorting does work, but only 30% of the sorted waste is actually recycled."

Jiří Koželouh: "We recycle only 35% or less of our waste (in Germany it is 60%)

Recycling a tonne of plastic saves up to 12 barrels of oil."

Milan Chromík: "No more than 50% of waste plastics are recycled from the yellow container. The rest often ends up in landfill, at best in solid alternative fuels intended mainly for cement plants."

Milan Chromík presented the position of the Confederation of Industry and Transport clearly formulated in the increase of fees for landfilling. He described the current situation as unacceptable and going directly against the principles of the circular economy and the waste management hierarchy - if landfilling is the cheapest option, there is zero incentive for more advanced forms of waste recovery.

Milan Chromík also presented the myths promoted by interest groups that are not interested in the introduction of circular economy principles. He considers the biggest myth to be the ban on landfilling from 2024, because if the landfill fee is not increased, then the desired change will not take place.

The conference also mentioned positive Czech examples of real recycling (not just separation) and the implementation of the circular economy. One of them was the plastics recycling plant of SUEZ in Němčice nad Hanou.

When asked by the moderator Jan Vitásek whywe do not have more recycling technologies, Jan Mraček and Milan Chromík, representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and the Confederation of Industry and Transport, answered in agreement: there is no basic framework, i.e. at least the Waste Act, which would give a clear signal to investors and create such conditions that recycling would be profitable and would not pay off as it has been so far by burying waste in the ground - i.e. landfilling.

Speakers at the conference included:

Special guest: Lana Žutelija, European Commission Directorate-General for Environment, Eco-innovation and Circular Economy

 Keynote speakers:

  • Vladimír Špidla, European Movement in the Czech Republic
  • Pavlína Kulhánková, Ministry of Industry
  • Jan Maršák, Ministry of the Environment
  • Štěpán Černý, Government Office of the Czech Republic
  • Martin Kolovratník, MP
  • Jitka Seitlová, Senator of the Czech Republic
  • Jan Mraček, Chamber of Commerce
  • Jan Koželuh, Rainbow Movement
  • Milan Chromík, Confederation of Industry and Transport
  • Roman Haken, European Economic and Social Committee              
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