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Waste management

The problem of waste generated from both municipal and industrial sources is becoming the most urgent environmental issues of our times.

Inappropriate waste management has a negative direct impact on the quality of all elements of the environment, thus the state of ecosystems and human health. Leaks from improperly organised landfills may pollute water and soil. Landfills may also cause air pollution through emission of odours and methane, contributing to climate change. Additionally, dumping waste contributes also to the loss of land and lowering the aesthetic quality of landscapes. Unreasonable waste management may be a symptom of ineffective use of resources from the viewpoint of environmental protection.

The Polish and EU law has introduced priorities, according to which waste generation should be prevented or limited in volume by re-using, and if waste has been generated, it should be recovered or disposed. The final way of procedure is its landfilling.


The following issues are considered most important with reference to waste management:
1. increasing the level of recovery (including recycling) of industrial waste through tax policy and a system of charges for using the environment,
2. creation of the basis for modern municipal waste management to ensure an increase in recovery to decrease the volume of waste disposed by landfilling by at least 30% until 2006 and by 75% until 2010 (compared to 2000)
in: „The National Environmental Policy for 2003-2006 and Its 2010 outlooks”


In 2008, 124.97  million tonnes waste was generated in Poland. 92% of it was industrial waste – 114.94 million tonnes. The volume of industrial waste was decreasing in 2002, then an increase in generation of industrial waste attributable to economic recovery was observed, the volume of waste was remaining at a similar level from 2004 to 2007. A fall in generated industrial waste took place in Poland in 2008 (Fig. 5.3.1.).


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Fig. 5.3.1.Industrial waste generated in Poland in the years 1998-2008 (source: CSO)

Fig. 5.3.2. Waste generated in Poland in 2008 by type, excluding municipal waste (source: CSO)

The main sources of industrial waste are: mining (in particular hard coal mining – 30% of total generated waste), industrial processing – production of metals (mainly copper – 24%), production of foodstuffs and beverages (ca. 7%) and production of chemical products (5%), as well as production and distribution of electricity (almost 13%). The greatest share in generated waste is accounted for by waste from flotation enrichment of non-ferrous metal ores (ca. 30%), waste originating from rinsing and cleaning minerals (ca. 29%) and slag and ash mixtures from wet removal of furnace waste (over 7.4%) (Fig. 5.3.2.).


Fig. 5.3.3. Dynamic of changes in generation of industrial waste against GDP in constant prices (1998=100%) (source: CSO)

What is the main factor determining the volume of generated waste is economic development, which affects both the intensity of production and the level of individual consumption and consumption patterns. Analysing the dynamic of changes in generated waste in relation to GDP changes, one may notice a positive tendency – with a constant GDP growth, the volume of industrial waste has remained at a similar level for the last ten years, which may be considered an effect of actions undertaken to rationalise waste management in Poland (Fig. 5.3.3.).

In 2008, 10.03 million tonnes of municipal waste were collected. In the years 1998-2005, a constant fall in the volume of collected municipal waste was observed. It was the result of both limitation of the generation of that waste, and handling it in an inappropriate way, such as dumping into the forest or incineration in household furnaces. In the years 2006-2008, an increase in the volume of collected municipal waste was observed. It is assumed that it is a result of the process of tightening of the municipal waste collection system, among others, the requirement to have a waste collection and removal contract (Fig. 5.3.4.).


Fig. 5.3.4. Volume of municipal waste collected in Poland in the years 1998-2008 (source: CSO)


Fig. 5.3.5. Dynamics of the changes in the volume of collected municipal waste against changes in private consumption in constant prices of 1998 (1998=100%) (source: CSO)

The volume of generated municipal waste is closely connected to the level of individual consumption and its patterns. Analysing the dynamics of the changes of both indicators, one should notice that the private consumption index increased by almost 60% in the years 1998-2008, whereas the volume of collected municipal waste decreased by ca. 15% in the analysed period. Over the last three years, a growth in the volume of municipal waste has been observed, but its dynamics is much lower than the dynamics of the changes of the consumption index (Fig. 5.3.5.).

Calculated per capita, the average of 524 kilograms of municipal waste is generated during a year in the European Union countries. In Poland, the indicator reaches a much lower level and amounts to 322 kg (Fig. 5.3.6.).


Fig. 5.3.6. Volume of generated municipal waste calculated per capita in 2007 in EU countries (source: CSO/Eurostat)

The National Environmental Policy sets increasing recovery of industrial waste as one of the objectives in the scope of waste management. It results from the data presented by the CSO that there was taking place a progressive increase in the share of industrial waste undergoing recovery in the years 1998-2005 with a simultaneous fall in the percentage share of landfill waste. In the years 2006-2008, there took place a decrease in the share of waste undergoing recovery from 76.83% in 2006 to 76.38% in 2007 and 74.93% in 2008. There was observed a percentage increase in the share of landfill waste from 13.41% in 2005 to ca. 15% in the years 2006-2007 and 17.65% in 2008 (Fig. 5.3.7.).

Of the total volume of waste generated in 2008, 75% underwent recovery, 18% was disposed by landfilling, 4% was disposed otherwise than by landfilling, and 3% was landfilled temporarily.


Fig. 5.3.7. Management of industrial waste in Poland in the years 1998-2008 (source: CSO)

The higher values may indicate that the actions undertaken to increase the volume of recovered industrial waste are not sufficient.

Disposal by landfilling still remains the main method of waste management in Poland. In 2008,  8,693.2 thousand tonnes of municipal waste were landfilled, which accounts for 86.6% of all collected municipal waste. The share of landfill waste is decreasing from year to year, but it still remains high.

Achievement of the designated recycling levels for particular types of package waste is one of the objectives of the National Environmental Policy. Analysing the levels of recycling achieved in particular years 2002-2008 with the standards designated in the regulations and the National Waste Management Plan, one should stress that the levels were achieved, which indicates implementation of the objective set in the National Environmental Policy (Fig. 5.3.8.).


Fig. 5.3.8. Annual levels of recycling of package waste required and achieved in Poland in the years 2002-2008 (source: CSO)

What is a trend observed since the moment of Poland’s accession into the structures of the European Union is a growth in the number of applications to the Chief Inspector for Environmental Protection for a consent to trans-border movement of waste (in 2008 – 543 applications). Of the applications, the greatest number was accounted for by applications concerning import of waste to Poland, i.e. more than 70%, including mainly scrap ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

In 2006, European Union legislation was introduced in the scope of management of waste electronic equipment. The available data demonstrate positive tendencies in the treatment of the „electric scrap”. In comparison to 2007, there took place an increase in the collection of waste electronic equipment in 2008 (Fig. 5.3.9.). In 2008, a level of collection of waste electric and electronic equipment of 10% was achieved, while the level of collection of equipment from households amounted to 6.46%. Calculated per capita, there was collected 1.48 kg waste equipment (assuming the population in 2008 of 38.135 million – source CSO).


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Fig. 5.3.9. Collected waste electrical equipment in Poland in the years 2007-2008 (source: CIEP)

Instruments that support rational waste management include: the National Environmental Policy and the waste management plans. The waste management plans are prepared at the national, voivodeship, poviat and gmina level. Thus, the role of local government in creation, and then implementation of the principles of reasonable waste management is crucial. The system of reports from implementation of waste management plans, covering the period of two calendar years, motivates particular administrative units to make every effort both at the stage of developing plans (as realistic assumptions as possible) and at the stage of their implementation.


It should be noted that, with a constant growth of the GDP, the volume of generated waste remains at a similar level, which might indicate positive trends in waste management.

Data concerning the volume of recovered waste quoted in the report might suggest that the actions undertaken to increase the volume of recovered industrial waste are insufficient.

The achieved recycling levels of package waste were higher than the legally required ones in all years under analysis. It testifies to the implementation of the objective set in the National Environmental Policy.