Recycling: how to reduce the number of landfills

During Soviet times, the pioneers collected and handed over waste paper and scrap metal. But these phenomena did not have a mass character. In those days, there was a tradition to throw garbage into a ravine near the nearest forest. Fifteen or twenty years ago, it was easy to find places for receiving dishes and hand over beer bottles for one and a half rubles. Now in Russia there is no tradition of sorting garbage, there are only single points of such a collection and several companies processing plastic, waste paper and old car tires.

What happens with garbage in Japan, the United States and other countries? How effective are incinerators? How to give a second life to plastic bottles, aluminum cans and cardboard? How much garbage is recycled in Russia?

Frame from the film "Wall-I"


The high population density in Japan is due to its small size - by 370 thousand square kilometers, which is slightly more than 2% of the territory of Russia, live more than 126 million people. For comparison, there are 146 million people living in Russia. And 70% of Japan’s territory is mountains, so it would be illogical to spend space on landfills. Moreover, the Japanese have found a way to increase their archipelago due to waste - they have been building islands of garbage for more than 15 years.

Sorting garbage is required for all residents of the country. Depending on the day of the week, the townspeople expose a certain type of garbage, which is collected by waste collection services. “The garbage disposal system in Tokyo itself is designed in such a way that the residents have no other way to get rid of garbage, except for separate ones. If you put up unsorted waste on the day of burning debris, they will simply not be picked up and they will attach a warning sticker, ”said the head of the Tokyo Department of Ecology Management in an interview with Russia-1 . Failure to comply with the rules leads to fines. An illegal garbage dump is punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years and a fine of 10 million yen - more than 5 million rubles for March 2018.

More than 90% of all plastic bottles in the country go to the processing and production of new products - including bottles and new fabrics, for example, for the Manchester United football uniform. They try not to add new petroleum products to the turnover. Instead, almost all bottles produced in Japan are made from granules obtained after recycling.

Garbage in Japan has been burned since 1924 - then the first incinerator appeared and the tradition of separating waste into burning and non-burning began to emerge. It is so safe that such plants operate even in the city of Tokyo near schools, residential buildings, parks and golf clubs. More than 2.4 thousand filters of the plant ensure the purity of production, while there is no smoke visible. The energy obtained from incineration provides electricity to the production and allows profit to be derived from the sale of surplus to energy companies.

“At meetings with residents every six months, we show all the indicators on gas emissions. We tell both the good and the bad, and what problems the plants have, breakdowns. And we have our own standards, which are several times stricter than government indicators, ”said the director of the Tokyo Waste Management Association, the head of the international communications department, Motoaki Koboyashi, in 2017. At the same time, Andrei Vorobyov, the governor of the Moscow Region, promised to build factories in the region using the same technology.

Tokyo Waste Disposal Plant
Katsushika incinerator, Tokyo. A source

Tokyo grows on its own garbage. The crushed non-burning garbage along with the ash from the incinerators serves as material for the construction of artificial islands. Each year, about 50 thousand tons of recycled waste is poured into the sea, then a layer of earth is brought to the island, planted trees, and parks are laid out.

In 2020, the XXXII Summer Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo. On the island of Yumanosima will hold competitions in water polo, swimming, diving and synchronized swimming badminton, basketball, archery and equestrian sport. This island was built from garbage for more than 10 years.


In the United States, a single-stream system: citizens do not sort recyclable garbage — this is done by special organizations, the link between the garbage sources and the recycling companies. But they have to pre-divide recyclable garbage from waste with which nothing can be done - separate food waste from others, put garbage in several types of tanks and put them on certain days, throw out clothes and shoes in special containers in the city. For self-delivery of aluminum cans and plastic bottles, you can get money at automated receiving points.

20 minutes of work of different garbage machines

Sorting recyclable waste occurs in several stages. First, the trash is manually picked up the garbage that will go to the dump - these are children's toys, cloth bags, clothes. In the next step, lightweight paper is separated from harder waste, such as cans and bottles, using air streams. Steel debris picks up one magnet, paramagnetic aluminum is pulled out with the help of another magnet. After this stage, plastic containers remain on the conveyor: they are sorted using an optical sensor that detects various density and thickness of plastic. The necessary waste is separated by air flow. All the raw materials obtained are then sorted into briquettes that are sold.

Aluminum banks are one of the main sources of income for waste recycling companies. Aluminum is reused; new cans, bicycles, parts for automobiles are made of it.

Sorting garbage, the work of one of these companies in the US


At the state level in Austria, a garbage sorting program was adopted, involving the collection of glass, metal, paper, organic waste, plastic and other types of waste.

But even here, it has not been possible to achieve unity - for example, in some cities there is a division of glass bottles into dark and light.

Six garbage trucks drive according to their own schedule. The Austrians, like the Japanese, keep garbage in their homes. In order not to have extra livestock or to lose the sense of smell, all the garbage is washed up, that is, it lies in special places in the house in its purest form. Bottles from drinks can be exchanged in special items for a discount on the purchase in the store.

The main volume of garbage containers is under the ground and reaches 600 liters. Vacuum pipes of garbage collection machines empty these tanks in half a minute.

Half of the garbage in Austria is burned, in Vienna - four such plants. Below is one of these plants.

The architect Hundertwasser’s garbage burning plant looks like a fairytale multicolored castle, windows of various sizes are painted on its walls, red hearts, circles
Waste incineration plant (District Heating Plant Spittelau, Spittelau, Austria). A source


In Russia, 3.5 billion tons of waste are “produced” in the year, of which 40 million tons are household waste. About 10% of this garbage is disposed of: 3% is incinerated, 7% is recycled. The remaining 90%, or 35 million tons of household waste, ends up in landfills.

The composition of household waste allows you to use 60-80% of it as a raw material for industry or for composting. This is hampered by the lack of separate collection of garbage and the low level of development of the waste recycling industry as a whole. Instead of sorting garbage by briquette and selling it for production, contractors of company managers take out garbage to landfills, sometimes to closed or illegal ones. Not so long ago, it was normal to throw away broken cabinets, car parts, batteries and milk cartons in the nearest ravine - the same practice was practiced not only in Russia, but also in Austria, one of the most advanced countries in the world in terms of sorting and recycling.

In Russia, there are companies that are engaged in recycling. The only plant in the whole country, which, like in Japan, makes granulates from old plastic bottles for the production of new ones, has been located in Solnechnogorsk, Moscow Region, and has been operating since 2009. At the factory previously organized excursions. One of the participants noted a not very pleasant smell: bottles are brought from all over the country from garbage cans, and in Russia it is not customary to wash waste.

Bottles are transformed first into PET flakes (polyethylene terephthalate) and then into granules from which bottles are made. “Plarus” sends granules for quality control to the plant of CJSC “Plant of New Polymers“ Senezh ”, the manufacturer of the primary production of PET, which is part of one corporation.

PET flakes. A source

In Gus-Khrustalny there is a RBgroup plant: it sells PET flakes and polyester fiber, from which they make “sintepukh” for stuffing pillow toys for children and “balls” for children's furniture and armchairs.

PET granules. A source

PET granules are used for the production of packaging for automotive chemicals, cosmetics, containers for beer and soft drinks, milk, water, oil and juice, bags, jackets and other clothing, pallets for confectionery, containers, cans of household goods and electronics.

The “bottle” segment in Russia is one of the key ones . Baltika, one of the companies directly connected with it, invested 20 million rubles in separate waste collection in 2017 and installed 2.5 thousand special containers in 20 cities of Russia, transferring 914 tons of PET for processing.

Blank for plastic bottles. A source

Waste paper in Russia is also processed, including in the remaining production since the USSR. The League of Waste Paper Recyclers unites 60 companies, which account for 80% of all recycled paper in the country. Law No. 458 “On Production and Consumption Waste” helps the companies: it provides for the obligation of manufacturers of any products to recycle 20% of the packaging, otherwise it is necessary to pay ecological collection.

Each ton of waste paper costs about 10 thousand rubles, while for the year it is taken to the garbage dumps for 60 billion rubles. Recycle 3.3 million tons of 12 million tons, which are formed during the year. The processing capacity of the processors is capable of “digesting” 4.15 million tons, so they are experiencing a shortage of raw materials. The “League” in 2016 had to lobby a ban on the export of waste paper so that this waste would not be removed from the country for 4 months.

Lack of raw materials leads to the closure of projects. “The Germans, who own the Knauf plant in St. Petersburg, are shocked by what is happening in our country. The plant was supposed to increase the volume of production for processing raw materials by 50%, but because of the lack of waste paper, the project was frozen. We decided to carry out modernization only, as a result of which in 2018 the volume of waste paper recycling will be 290 thousand tons per year, and could process 400 thousand tons. But the paper is rotting at the landfills, "- said the representative of the" League of waste paper recyclers "Denis Kondratyev.

To change this situation could be the establishment of separate collection of garbage throughout the country and the desire of producers of goods to make a positive contribution to the ecological state of the country. Manufacturers believe that the state should be responsible for the separate collection, and in the case of increasing standards for packaging processing they will have to raise the cost of goods.

The volume of the waste paper market in Russia. A source

The process of recycling waste paper includes several stages: collecting, sorting, receiving waste paper, removing impurities and cleaning - after which the material enters the production of paper or paperboard.

Diagram of the process of recycling waste paper in the general cycle of production and consumption of paper products. A source

Batteries, light bulbs, smartphones, mercury thermometers in Russia most often end up in a landfill. In order not to throw toxic and hazardous garbage into ordinary containers, you can sort it at home and then take it to collection points located in various shopping centers and stores: Ikea, LavkaLavka, “VkusVill”.

Items for donating whole or damaged mercury thermometers can be found at the link . In case the thermometer broke, call the Ministry of Emergency Situations. Energy-saving light bulbs also contain mercury, so they cannot be mixed with ordinary garbage: on the Open Data Portal, you can find addresses where they can be handed over in Moscow.

In the following articles we will talk about how hazardous waste is disposed of, how African countries fill up with electronics, how copper is extracted from monitors, and gold from smartphones, and how batteries are recycled.


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