For stray dogs and scavenging birds, Landfill No.5 outside the Ukrainian capital Kiev is a treasure trove of trash, but the mountains of overflowing and noxious garbage are plaguing residents.
Nina Popova, a 73-year-old retired accountant who lives in the nearby village of Pidgirtsi, says life there is a misery.”It reeks. We’re all sick. We have heart problems and difficulty breathing,” Popova told AFP outside her modest brick cottage.
Thirty years after Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union, it lacks a functioning waste management system and requisite resources to tackle a garbage crisis that is perpetuating public health and ecological concerns.
Breathing heavily, she added that her children “suffocate” when they come to visit.Covering 63 hectares (156 acres), the sprawling dump outside Kiev is one of the largest in Ukraine and part of network of more than 6,100 landfills.
The president’s office concedes that most landfills are overflowing and fall short of safety standards. It estimates some 33,000 illegal dumps have proliferated throughout the country.
“It’s not a secret to anyone that Ukraine is drowning in garbage. And every day, every minute the situation is getting worse,” then-deputy head of the presidency, Yulia Svyrydenko, warned in September.
UN Environment Programme executive director Inger Andersen in May said reducing methane was “the strongest lever we have to slow climate change over the next 25 years”.To address the problem, Kiev introduced a law in 2018 requiring households to sort waste to aid recycling efforts.
Kiev shells out less than 10 euros ($11) to process a ton of waste compared to 100-170 euros in Western European countries, explained Svyatoslav Pavlyuk, executive director of the Ukrainian Association of Energy-Efficient Cities.”This sum isn’t enough to actually treat waste. It only covers its transportation to a field and its placement in the ground,” Pavlyuk said.
Ultimately, said environmental activist Kostiantyn Yalovyi, what was needed is a drastic increase in funding to better handle waste. Even though that investment would be likely to fall on Ukrainians and trigger protests, the stakes of doing nothing were much higher.
Yevgeniya Aratovska, a 42-year-old economist, took matters into her own hands six years ago, launching a small sorting site in Kiev called No Waste Ukraine.Analysts added that authorities should do more to raise awareness among Ukrainians about the impact their waste has on the environment.