30. 10. 2017

Environmental contamination and the circular economy

Prof. RNDr. Ivan Holoubek, CSc.

"Contamination of the environment and living organisms by various chemicals and their mixtures poses a high and often long-term risk to human health and the natural environment. The question is whether this issue is being addressed in the Czech Republic in a long-term and conceptual manner with clearly defined priorities, financial support and a defined implementation plan."

 We often define the circular economy by the changes needed and the challenges for the future - whether in legislation or in our thinking in general, and therefore we associate the circular economy with the future. At the same time, however, it is important to recognise that there are environmental burdens of the past that need to be addressed and not to repeat the mistakes that caused them. However much environmental legislation is tightening up, there are still many activities that create 'new old' environmental burdens, new, often very problematic environmental pollution.

This is why I am dealing with ecological burdens or, more generally, environmental contamination in connection with the topic of the circular economy. In addition to environmental burdens that date back to before 1989, there are unfortunately various unfair practices by which the generators of hazardous waste try to circumvent the regulations. An example of this is the issue of landfilling of hazardous waste. While the price for landfilling hazardous waste exceeds CZK 6 000/tonne under the current legislation, the basic fee for landfilling other categories of waste is set at CZK 500/tonne. This difference can lead to a very problematic practice and in fact illegal dumping of hazardous waste and create a problem for the future. One of the features of the new draft Waste Act from the Ministry of the Environment is, in addition to preventing the disposal of recoverable raw materials in landfills, to reduce the above-mentioned price disparity as a prevention against efforts to save money on hazardous waste disposal, against unwanted environmental contamination and against the creation of future environmental burdens.

Prof. RNDr. Ivan H O L O U B E K, CSc. is Professor of Environmental Chemistry at Masaryk University in Brno. From 1990 to 2013, he was the Director of the Centre for Research on Toxic Substances in the Environment (RECETOX) and the Director of the National Centre for Persistent Organic Pollutants of the Czech Republic and the Director of the Stockholm Convention Regional Centre on POPs for Central and Eastern Europe. Currently he is also Head of the Department of Atmospheric Fluxes and Long-range Transport of Substances at the Institute of Global Change Research of the CAS (CzechGlobe) In his professional life he combines chemistry and environmental technology. In addition to his own research activities in the field of environmental effects of chemicals, he is a lecturer in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at Masaryk University. He is involved in a number of international projects and is the author of dozens of scientific and professional publications and a member of a number of scientific organizations and institutions. Since 1991, he has also worked as an expert within the United Nations, particularly on issues related to persistent organic pollutants.

In the section "Environmental contamination" on the website of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prof. Holoubek decided to elaborate the topic in several blocks, in which he focuses on the sources of hazardous chemicals, materials and wastes in the environment, what happens to them in the environment and living organisms and what problems they can cause. Finally, a polemic on how these problems are being addressed and not addressed or poorly addressed nationally and internationally.

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