Russia fails to fulfill Zero Waste commitments for the Sochi Olympics

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Feature story - 21 March, 2013
Greenpeace Russia has sent a statement to the International Olympic Committee on Russia's non-compliance with the Zero Waste requirements. Russia committed to Zero Waste principles in the Sochi Bid Book.

12 December 2006

© Greenpeace / Евгений Усов

Preparation for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi contradicts responsible approach to environmental issues recorded in the Olympic Charter. Currently, Russia's commitments of the Sochi Bid Book are not met. Greenpeace experts came to these conclusions, having analyzed the latest version of the General Cleaning Scheme of Sochi, an official strategy for dealing with municipal waste.

The Sochi Bid Book refers to the willingness of the Sochi-2014 Committee to achieve zero waste production. The Zero Waste principle involves separate collection of municipal waste and recycling in order to save resources and reduce emissions and energy expenses. The principle of Zero Waste clearly prohibits incineration of unsorted waste: while burning, mixed waste may contain or form toxic substances. The official website of the Sochi Olympic Games still has a description of Zero Waste.

“While preparing the Olympic Games, the Zero Waste principle has been greatly distorted, turning rather to «zero waste to landfill», and even «out of sight, out of Sochi», – says Ivan Blokov, Program Director of Greenpeace Russia. “For example, a decision was taken to remove waste from the Olympic zone to Belorechensk landfill outside Sochi, or simply burn it. "

Sochi mayor Anatoly Pakhomos understands Zero Waste in a specific way: recently he boasted that in accordance with this principle, Sochi closed all municipal waste landfills, and now all the collected waste is sent to a landfill in Belorechensk, outside the city.

All the more, territory of the Sochi National Park is used as a landfill for soil and waste resulting from the construction of Olympic facilities. Such a dubious practice is recommended by an official document signed by the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and the Deputy Governor of Krasnodar region. For one of the landfill sites in the National Park, an old-growth forest was cut, resulting in an extensive landslide of a mountain slope.

Separate collection of waste, which is the basis concept of Zero Waste, is mentioned in the new version of the General Cleaning Scheme of Sochi, but is found inappropriate. Combustion of unsorted municipal waste in an incinerator is declared instead “the best emerging technology that should be recommended for use in the city of Sochi to address solid waste management and environmental problems.” Meanwhile, incineration of unsorted waste clearly violates the Zero Waste principle, as it leads to air pollution by toxic substances and turns relatively inert waste into toxic slag and ash (about 30% by weight), which needs to be buried in a special hazardous waste landfill.

An incinerator had been already built in Sochi in early 1990s. It had not worked long and was closed as its smoke covered much of the resort city, and a lack of funds for maintenance.

The General Cleaning Scheme of Sochi approves incineration of sludge, mentioning that such a scenario “corresponds with the Zero Waste principle and allows Russia meet its Olympic commitments”. Meanwhile, anaerobic (methane) digestion is a far more responsible technology of sludge treatment, it is used, for example, at wastewater treatment plants in Moscow. The General Cleaning Scheme does not even mention this technology. The requirement to consider alternatives to sludge incineration was prescribed by an Order of the Russian President in 2011.

Greenpeace Russia believes that preparation of XXII Olympic Winter Games resulted in significant violation of the stated principles in waste management and this situation should be identified and corrected immediately. Otherwise we would have to testify a breach of  responsible approach to the environment declared by the Olympic Movement.

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