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Effectiveness of Waste Management in Kazakhstan: New Environmental Code “Quo vadis”

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published on 7 April 2021 | reading time approx. 10 minutes

 

Effective waste management is one of the most typical environmental issues, especially during the quarantine measures taken due to the threat of spread of Covid-19. Based on the World Bank1, the waste generation will increase from 2.01 billion ton in 2016 to 3.40 billion ton in 2050 in the course of urbanization, economic develop­ment and population growth in the countries and cities. Currently at least 33 per cent of this waste is recycled in the wrong way around the world.

 

 

In Kazakhstan the waste management problem is no less critical. The government is taking various actions on the way of solving this problem. Thus, development of the efficient waste management system is one of the fundamental principles of the Concept for Transition of the Republic of Kazakhstan to “Green Economy”2. According to this Concept, by 2030 a part of waste recycling should have been increased to 40 per cent, and to 50 per cent by 2050. According to the “Business Roadmap 2025”3, list of the priority sectors of the national economy covers the field of waste collection, recycling, disposal and utilization.
   
This publication highlights some specific measures arranged by the government in order to improve the situation; successfulness of their practical implementation, main reasons for their ineffectiveness and the latest trends of development and modification of the Kazakhstani environmental legislation, including introduction of the new Environmental Code4. For the purpose of this publication, the term of “waste” generally refers to the solid domestic and industrial waste.
 
 

Current Situation

According to the studies held by KB Strelka5 based on the Report “What a Waste 2.0: A Global Snapshot of Solid Waste Management to 2050” prepared in 2018 by the World Bank, in comparison with the developed countries, Kazakhstan is ineffective in terms of the waste utilization.
 
In the dissertation of A.G. Bekturova6 it is written that the volume of the solid domestic waste (SDW) in the country was approximately 5-6 million ton, and by 2025 the figure could reach 8 million ton according to the data of the Waste Management Department of the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan as of 2018.
 
According to the Report of the Minister of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources, M. Mirzagaliyev on the accomplished work, as of 2019 the volume of waste accumulated was 125 million tons of the SDW in Kazakhstan. Over 5 million tons of the SDW is generated per annum.7
 
According to the Association of the Environmental Specialists: “There are 3,000 landfills used in the country, where 620 landfills which make 18 per cent of them comply with the sanitary requirements, and 82 per cent do not comply with the sanitary requirements of Kazakhstan”.8 Generally a great deal of waste is buried, this does not solve the problem of their utilization or removal (disposal), and it only postpones and accumulates the existing volumes of waste. Urgency of the problem is clearly demonstrated by the statistics published by the Committee on Statistics of the Ministry of National Economy of the Republic of Kazakhstan9 (see Fig. 1). 
 
Reference: Ministry of National Economy of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Committee on Statistics, Final Waste Disposal, June 1, 2020;

In the presentation of the Association of Environmental Specialists it is pointed out that 8618 unauthorized landfill sites have been found in 2018 in Kazakhstan, 4321 illegal dumping sites of which are still in use10.
 

Legal Control of Waste Management in Kazakhstan

Issue of the waste handling and management in Kazakhstan is regulated by the legislative and regulatory acts of various levels. The Environmental Code of 200711 and from July 1, 2021 – the Environmental Code of 2021 adopted on January 2, 2021 are the main regulatory legal acts in this area as of the date of this publication. For the purposes of this publication, the “Environmental Code” (undated) means the regulatory legal act as such. The Environmental Code guides and governs all stages of waste handling, including their detection and burial. Main issues in terms of the waste management and handling regulated at the legislative level are provided below.
  

Ownership of Waste

Ownership of waste and its transfer are guided and governed by the Articles 283-285 of the Environmental Code (2007) and Articles 339-340 of the Environmental Code (2021). Issues of the ownerless hazardous waste as of the date of this publication are guided and governed by the Rules for the control of the ownerless hazardous waste recognized by the court decision as received into the republican ownership12. In addition, these Rules for the control of the ownerless hazardous waste will be approved in the new revision in the nearest time due to adoption of the Environmental Code as of 2021.

 

Waste Classification

Waste classification according to the Environmental Code of 2007 is envisaged by the Articles 286 and 287. Moreover, the Waste Classifier which determines a hazard level and coding of waste is envisaged by the Order issued by the Minister for Environment of the Republic of Kazakhstan dated May 31, 200713. Waste classifier is intended for use in the waste handling system, including the accounting, control, rationing when handling the waste, licensing of the relevant types of activities, issue of permits for transboundary movement and emplacement of waste, designing of the environmental structures and implementation of the environmental measures, assessment of the social, economic, resource-and-material risk and damage in case of accidents and disasters. According to the Environmental Code of 2021, waste classification is regulated by the Article 338. Due to adoption of the Environmental Code of 2021, approval of the new revision of the waste classifier is also expected in the nearest time.
 

Extended Producers Responsibility

As well as in some other countries, for example, in Russia, an institution of the extended producers (importers) responsibility (“EPR”) has been introduced in Kazakhstan from January 1, 2016 which is meant to be the responsibilities of producers (importers) ensuring the collection, transportation, recycling, neutralization, use and (or) disposal of waste generated after loss of the consumer attributes of certain products. In the Environmental Code of 2007, EPR and their implementation methods are regulated by the Chapter 41-1; and by the Chapter 31 in the Environmental Code of 2021.
 
In the context of the Environmental Code of 2007, the List of the EPR covered products (goods) is approved by the Order issued by the acting Minister of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan dated December 4, 201514. From 2016 the EPR requirements are applicable for the motor vehicles and vehicle components; from 2017 for paper, cardboard, metal, glass and combined package, as well as for the electrical and electronic equipment; from December 23, 2019 for the farming equipment. In the context of the Environmental Code of 2021, the List in the new revision is not yet approved as of the date of this publication.
 
Responsible organization, Operator ROP LLP (“Operator”) has been established by the Governmental Decree of the Republic of Kazakhstan dated December 30, 201515 in order to implement the EPR principle. This organization is reporting to the Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The Operator is responsible to establish the unified system of the integrated waste management of products (goods) and involve these wastes into circulation as secondary raw materials, promote the infrastructural development of the waste recycling industry with an extensive business involvement.
 
The EPR Strategy is implemented as follows: producers or importers of the EPR-covered goods shall sign an agreement with the Operator and pay to the Operator’s bank account for arranging the waste collection, transportation, recycling and (or) disposal. Amount of fee is determined in accordance with the Calculation Methods16.
 
Pursuant to the Article 285-2 of the Environmental Code of 2007/Article 338 of the Environmental Code of 2021, the Operator transfers the funds received at their account to compensate the individuals and legal entities for the costs of separate collection and recycling of waste from the products (goods), compensation to producers of the food staples, as well as to encourage production of the environmentally friendly motor vehicles in Kazakhstan, for example by financing the use of energy resources by the producers or research and development, design and experimental developments and performance of the products testing.
 

Waste Burial and Requirements for Landfills

Requirements for the landfills area and durable waste dump are set in the Chapter 43 of the Environmental Code of 2007. “The List of waste to be disposed at landfills  of various categories”17 has been approved by the Order issued by the acting Minister for Environment of the Republic of Kazakhstan dated August 2, 2007. Moreover the Sanitary Rules for Design and Maintenance of the Solid Domestic Waste Landfills18 have been approved by the Chief State Health Inspector of the Republic of Kazakhstan. In the Environmental Code of 2021, landfill requirements are regulated by the Chapter 25. It is also planned to approve the new revision of the List of waste to be disposed at landfills of various categories.
 

Tariffs for Collection, Removal, Disposal, Recycling and Burial of the Solid Domestic Waste

Area of waste handling is regulated with the tariffs determined by the local executive bodies (Akimats) and the Operator in accordance with the “Methods for Calculating the Tariffs for Collection, Removal, Disposal, Recycling and Burial of the Solid Domestic Waste”19. Tariffs calculated are finally approved by the local representative bodies (Maslikhats). Individual tariffs are provided for each regional center and city of national status.
 

Waste Generation and Calculation

Procedure for calculation of rates for the generation and accumulation of the household waste in settlements is regulated by the Order issued by the Minister of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan dated November 25, 201420. For the purpose to account the waste, users of natural resources and entities involved in the waste collection, removal, disposal, recycling, storage and placement or discharge operations must submit the Waste Inventory Reports on annual basis to the regional offices of the Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan in accordance with the Order issued by the acting Minister of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan dated July 29, 2016.21
 

Measures for the Green Space Conservation and Protection

Issues on the green space maintaining and protecting, as well as the land improvement are regulated by the Rules for the Maintenance and Protection of Green Spaces, the Rules for the Improvement of Territories of Cities and Towns.22
 

Scope of Problems of the Waste Handling 

For the purpose of reducing the volume of waste, Kazakhstan aims to more rarely resort to the landfill depositing and increasingly use such alternative methods of waste disposal, such as for example waste recycling. A matter of recycling is one of the most complex and critical missions in the waste management system. 
 
In the most part of the developed countries, waste recycling is such a profitable business, that some countries are not only successfully coping with the waste recycling locally but also buying waste from the other countries. However Kazakhstan started practicing it relatively recent and, as for now it may be said that Kazakhstan is still at the initial stage of development.
 
According to the Report issued by the Minister of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources, Mr. M. Mirzagaliyev on the work done in 2019, 125 million tons of the SDW have been accumulated in the country, over 5 million tons of the SDW is generated annually. In Kazakhstan, the capacity of landfills is insufficient, and 83 per cent of landfills do not comply with the environmental and sanitary standards; but as a matter of fact they are just unauthorized dumping grounds.
 
According to the Information on the waste reduction, recycling and reuse published on the official website of the e-government, since approval of the Concept for Transition of the Republic of Kazakhstan to “Green Economy”23, Kazakhstan has achieved the results in terms of the SDW recycling, which include but not limited to the following:
 

Improvement of the legislative and regulatory framework

  • From 2016, it is prohibited to bury (dispose) the mercury-containing lamps and devices, scrap metals, used oils and liquids, batteries and electronic waste at landfills;
  • Prohibition for burial of the plastic, waste paper, cardboard and waste paper, as well as glass is effective from 1 January 2019.
     

Recovery of expenses for collection, transportation and recycling of the secondary raw materials

In 2016-2018, more than 50 enterprises have been compensated for a total amount of about KZT 7 billion; volume of the vehicle components collected and recycled was 100,553 tons.

 

New enterprises

  • 1 enterprise of used antifreezes disposal based in Almaty, capacity of 5.4K tons/year;
  • 1 enterprise of used accumulator battery disposal based in Pavlodar, capacity of 3K tons/year;
  • 2 enterprises of used oils disposal based in Nur-Sultan and Karaganda, total capacity of over 20 K tons/year;
  • 8 enterprises of used tires disposal based in Taldykorgan, Almaty, Aktobe, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Shymkent, Nur-Sultan, as well as in Atyrau and Karaganda regions with the total capacity of 16 K tons/year. 
     

Waste Management Infrastructure

  • 9112 containers, where 346 containers are for collection of the electronic and electrical waste, 2321 containers for collection of the mercury-containing lamps and chemical power sources have been installed in a number of regions and cities of Kazakhstan, including the cities of the national status; 
  • 99 stations for collection of the secondary raw materials, and 39 stations for collection of the electronic and electrical waste have been established; separate collection of waste at various stages has been implemented in 51 cities and regions out of 204; waste sorting has been arranged in 30 settlements;
  • Waste sorting station of capacity of 50K tons/year has been launched in Mangystau Region; sort-line of capacity of 100K tons/year was constructed in Ust-Kamenogorsk city, and a waste sorting plant of capacity of 100K tons/year was launched at the SDW landfill in Uralsk city.
 
The mentioned measures allowed increasing a share of the SDW recycling from 2.6 (2016) to 11.51 per cent (2018). However, this figure is still significantly lower than in the developed countries, where a share of recycling exceeds 30 per cent.
 
There are many reasons why the share of recycling in Kazakhstan is still low nowadays and the waste management system is ineffective. All of these reasons are closely related to each other in any case. Such problems may be distinguished as major ones, as (1) low tariffs for the SDW collection, removal, disposal, recycling and burial; (2) lack of proper sorting of waste; (3) lack of the industry financing; (4) absence of a competitive environment; (5)  underdeveloped market of the secondary raw materials, and (6) a systemic issue.
 

Low tariffs for the collection, removal, disposal, recycling and burial of the solid domestic waste

As pointed out above, field of the waste management is regulated by the tariffs approved by the local representative bodies (Maslikhats).

 

Tariff plan for waste removal services in the main regional centers and cities of the national status in Kazakhstan approved for 2020 is shown on the Fig. 224.


Reference: Association of the Environmental Practitioners, “Household Waste Management System in Kazakhstan”, 2020;

 

Charges paid by the population according to the established tariffs are the main compensation for the costs of waste removal companies for removal and disposal of the solid domestic waste. As of today, these tariffs as shown on the Fig. 2 are inadequately low, and generally they do not cover even the costs for the waste removal and disposal. This does not encourage the growth of interest to this field of activities on the part of business operators.

 

Lack of proper sorting of waste

To achieve high performance in the waste recycling in the country, first of all it is necessary to arrange the proper sorting of waste and institutionalize a separate collection of waste. According to Sergei Luschinsky, Director of LS-KOKSHETAU LLP, a company that arranges collection, transportation and recycling of the secondary raw materials24, when a pre-sorted waste is delivered to the waste sorting plant, it can be recycled to 50 per cent; in the absence of pre-sorting, the waste recycling indicator is only 5-7 per cent.

 

According to Kazinform with reference to the Press Service Office of the Ministry of Energy: “Currently, a separate collection of waste at various stages has been introduced in 51 settlements out of 204 cities and towns throughout the Republic; sorting is arranged in 28 settlements (11 sorting lines, 17 manual sorting at the SDW landfills)”25. Nevertheless, despite the installation of containers for the separate collection of waste, informational work with the population, and generally the environmental consciousness of the population in the country still remains at a low level.

 

According to the Article 505.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses26, an administrative liability in the form of warning or a fine for the individuals in amount of 20 MCI and from 30 MCI to 100 MCI for legal entities subject to the category of business entity is envisaged for violation of the Rules for improvement of territories of cities and towns, as well as destruction of the infrastructure facilities, destruction and damage of green spaces in the cities and towns. Violation of the Rules for improvement of territories of cities and towns includes the dumping of waste in a wrong place, without limitations. Since nowadays there is no mechanism for fixing these offenses, as a matter of practice the standard is either not efficient enough or just not working at all.

 

According to E. Nehring, 2020, lack of the environmental education makes a waste sorting ineffective in Kazakhstan: schools do not pay enough attention to the problem of waste sorting.27 A lack of automated sorting is due in no small part to the ineffective sorting of waste: since people are not sure if the waste they throw away will eventually be recycled or sent to an “illegal dumping landfill”, many of them find no sense in separating the waste dumped.

 

Lack of the industry financing

It is obvious that at this stage in terms of the waste recovery, Kazakhstan cannot compete with the developed countries without the foreign investments. However, despite the significant volume of waste and secondary raw materials for recycling, at this stage the foreign investors are not ready to invest in the Kazakhstani waste recycling industry.

 

According to Mr. Egor Zinger, the co-founder of the “Garbage Business” in Kazakhstan, the problem is that there are no preferences provided, in addition to the low tariffs for the business operators in the “garbage business”; and the governmental support for the environmental business projects is just of the declaratory signification. Thus, in his interview, Mr. Zinger states: “Think for instance of loans. Today the rates of Kazakhstani banks are 12 per cent per annum, while in the Scandinavian countries these rates do not exceed 3 per cent. But if it is about the environment related projects, and then their loans are given at a rate of 0.5 per cent !There are no such figures in our banking system; no financier will give you a loan at such a minimum rate!”28.
 

Absence of a competitive environment

As has been demonstrated by the European experience, high performance in the field of waste recycling are generally and mainly achieved by means of private companies. According to the Report of DAMU RG Research Group LLP, a field of waste management in Kazakhstan is mainly directly or indirectly owned by the government, a private initiative is very limited; this hinders the development of natural competition at the market.29 According to researches by the Association of the Environmental Specialists, a share of waste recycling is higher in the large cities of Kazakhstan, since among other factors, there are more private structures30 involved in the collection of waste and their further recycling.

 

Underdeveloped market of the secondary raw materials

Among others, supply and demand at the secondary waste market is one of the most important factors driving the development of the waste recycling sector. According to the Report of DAMU RG Research Group LLP, nowadays many recycling companies in Kazakhstan encounter a problem of selling raw materials formed after the waste recycling. It is stated in the Report of DAMU RG Research Group LLP that: “...currently various mechanisms of influence – requirements for the mandatory use of recycled materials when releasing new products (in percentage terms) and concessional lending to these enterprises are used in the developed foreign countries”29. Perhaps, the use of these measures could bring the positive results in Kazakhstan.

 

A systemic issue

Currently, the governmental regulation of the waste management issues in Kazakhstan are governed by several ministries such as the Ministry of National Economy, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources, Ministry of Industry and Infrastructural Development, etc. It is stated in the Report of DAMU RG Research Group LLP that: “...each and every activity in the European counties related to the solid domestic waste management is carried out by the Environmental Agencies”29. In many cases, assignment of issues for regulating the waste management system between several ministries that are not particularly related to each other complicates the process of the effective regulation.
 

Trends for Development and Amendment of the Environmental Code

Since the country has started actively developing the issue of waste disposal relatively recently, the Kazakhstani environmental legislation, including those for the waste management issues is under continuous finalization and improvement. Among the most significant recent amendments, it is relevant to distinguish the amendments for introducing the “Waste-to-energy” Principle adopted in the Environmental Code and other legal acts on 9 November 2020 and entered into force on 21 November 202031.

 

An opportunity of the energy (power) disposal of waste is provided by the modifications in the form of their heat treatment in order to reduce the volume of waste and subsequent energy generation. Only those wastes that are not included in the list of waste not subject to energy disposal will be subject to incineration.

The guaranteed purchase of electrical power generated by the combustion plants by the Accounting and Financial Center Supporting the Renewable Energy Sources established at KEGOC JSC is envisaged as a mechanism to support the direction of energy waste management legislation, by analogy with other countries. It is expected that the Accounting and Financial Center will purchase the amount of energy (power) generated at the plant at prices determined in the course of trading. In this case, prices are adjusted according to index on annual basis based on the consumer prices and exchange rate of KZT. The auction ceiling prices for electrical power generated by the energy disposal of waste, the Rules for their determination and the list of waste not subject to energy disposal must be also be approved by the competent authorities in the near future.

 

In order to reduce the negative environmental impact of activities of the waste incineration plants, a number of requirements have been established for these plants based on the European standards. These provisions have also been incorporated with adoption of the Environmental Code of 2021, particularly in the Article 324 of the Environmental Code of 2021.

 

As expected, the adopted amendments and modifications will allow reducing the number of solid domestic waste and landfills in the country, and will have a general positive effect on the environment and economy of Kazakhstan.

 

New statutes of the new Environmental Code of 2021 are more focused on the environmental pollution, emissions, environmental permits and introduction of the latest technologies by the enterprises. The following major changes are provided in the area of waste management without limitation: delimitation of waste management organizations from other entities in order to establish the special requirements for the first ones, introduction of the principle of the waste hierarchy for the purposes of their separation at the source of generation, increase of the storage and accumulation life of certain types of waste, clarification of the concepts of waste “sorting” and “treatment”, as well as the time of transfer of ownership of waste to the waste management organizations.

 

The envisaged modifications should have a positive effect on the existing environmental problems in Kazakhstan, which consequently will positively affect the population security and health, the environmental enhancement, and cultural development of an attitude of care towards nature, as well as development of the national economy.


1The World Bank Group;
2 Concept for Transition of the Republic of Kazakhstan to “Green Economy” approved by the Presidential Decree of the Republic of Kazakhstan No. 577 dated May 30, 2013;
3The State Program for the Business Support and Development “Business Roadmap-2025” approved by the Governmental Decree of the Republic of Kazakhstan No. 968 dated December 24, 2019;
4Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan No. 400-VI dated January 02, 2021 “Environmental Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan”;
8Association of the Environmental Practitioners. Association of the Environmental Practitioners, “Household Waste Management System in Kazakhstan” July 14, 2020;
9Ministry of National Economy of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Committee on Statistics, Final Waste Disposal, June 01, 2020;
10Association of the Environmental Practitioners, “Household Waste Management System in Kazakhstan”, 2020;
11Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan No. 212-III dated January 09, 2007 “Environmental Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan”;
12Order issued by the Minister of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan No. 229 dated March 20, 2015 “On Approval of the Rules for the Control of the Ownerless Hazardous Waste Recognized by the Court Decision as Received into the Republican Ownership”;
13Order issued by the Minister for Environment of the Republic of Kazakhstan  No. 169-p dated  May 31, 2007 “On Approval of the Waste Classifier”;
14Order issued by the acting Minister of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan No. 695 dated December 04, 2015 “On Approval of the List of Products (Goods) Covered by the Extended Producers (Importers) Responsibility”; 
15Governmental Decree of the Republic of Kazakhstan No. 1137 dated December 30, 2015 “On Determination of Operator of the Extended Producers (Importers) Responsibility”;
16Order issued by the Minister of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan No. 762 dated December 25, 2015 “On Approval of the Methods for Calculating the Fee for Arrangement of the Waste Collection, Transportation, Recycling,  Neutralization, Use and (or) Disposal”; 
17Order issued by the acting Minister for Environment of the Republic of Kazakhstan No. 244-p dated August 02, 2007 “On Approval of the List of Waste to be Disposed at Landfills of Various Categories”;
18Sanitary Rules for Design and Maintenance of the Solid Domestic Waste Landfills No. 3.01.016.97 dated April 29, 1997 approved by the Chief State Health Inspector of the Republic of Kazakhstan;
19Order issued by the Minister of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan No. 404 dated September 01, 2016 “On Approval of the Methods for Calculating the Tariffs for Collection, Removal, Disposal, Recycling and Burial of the Solid Domestic Waste”;
20Order issued by the Minister of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan No. 145 dated November 25, 2014 “On Approval of the Model Rules for the Calculation of Rates for the Generation and Accumulation of Household Waste”;
21Order issued by the acting Minister of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan No. 352 dated July 29, 2016 “On Approval of Form of the Waste Inventory Report and Completion Guidelines”;
23Information on the waste reduction, recycling and reuse;
24Association of the Environmental Practitioners, “Household Waste Management System in Kazakhstan”, 2020;
26The Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan of Administrative Offenses No. 235-V dated July 05, 2014;
27E. Nehring, “If the Garbage Sorting Effective in Kazakhstan?”, September 09, 2020;
29DAMU RG Research Group LLP, Report of the Marketing Research Results “Implementation of the Integrated System of Solid Domestic Waste Management in the Republic of Kazakhstan”, 2018;
30Association of the Environmental Practitioners. Association of the Environmental Practitioners, “Household Waste Management System in Kazakhstan”, July 14, 2020;
31Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan No. 373-VI dated November 09, 2020 “On Amendments and Additions to Some Legislative Acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan Concerning the Energy, Transport and National Awards”.
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