Sustainability can only be achieved in connected supply chain systems, throughout the chain, not by individual companies and consumers per se, it was made clear at the forum "Green Transformation: Circular Economy and Sustainable Development - People, materials and business models", organized by Enterprise magazine and the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce.
The Deputy Minister of Environment and Water Nikolay Sidzhimov commented that people should learn from nature, giving the example of the cycle of water and substances. European funding in the current program period until 2027 in the field of waste is already fully aimed at introducing various systems and mechanisms for separate collection and recycling/composting of waste and materials, commented Deputy Minister Nikolay Sidzhimov.
NSORB will develop several models for taxation based on the amount of waste generated
The National Association of Municipalities will develop different models for taxation based on the amount of waste generated. Municipalities will be able to choose from among these models and put them into practice, he added.
Our country has a circular economy strategy prepared. The Council of Ministers has created three working groups to work on the realization of the goals set in the document, commented Svetlana Bozhkova, Director of the Waste Management Directorate at the Ministry of Environment and Water.
Our country also implements a program and an action plan to prevent the generation of food waste. The challenge is measuring and reporting along the chain - from production and processing to households, commented Alexander Ivanov, head of the "Household, biodegradable and construction waste" department at the Ministry of Environment and Water. According to Ivanov, in the last ten years there has been talk of separate collection and subsequent treatment of biodegradable waste. However, the work of the European authorities is directed to a new aspect - reducing the generation of waste, with changes in the legislation, he added. Specific commitments of the member states of the European Union (EU) are also introduced to reduce the generated different types of waste for specific periods of time along the entire chain - from production to households.
Mihaela Dotsova, Director of the Legal Directorate at the Ministry of Environment and Water, indicated that the legislation is taking the first steps towards the mandatory introduction of green public procurement. She also commented on the orders for large infrastructure projects, stressing that construction is not treated in the legislation. The European authorities, however
enable contracting authorities to use requirements for environmentally friendly products and actions in technical specifications or in contractor selection and evaluation criteria. The European Commission also suggests that a higher score be given to applicants who propose to put in a higher percentage of reused materials, by-products, etc. depending on the specifics of the objects.
The Fund of Funds will finance various measures related to the circular economy
Daughter Vasileva from the Fund of Funds pointed out that the Fund has more than BGN 2 billion in resources for the new program period. She also presented the programs for financing innovation and the circular economy, as well as gave examples of projects that the Fund of Funds has financed.
She emphasized that loans under a financial instrument are more attractive. Such products will begin to be offered by the banks with which the Fund works from the spring of 2024. Various measures related to the circular economy will be financed, incl. recycling, waste management, own renewable energy installations, etc.
According to another of the Fund's instruments, it will be possible to finance municipalities that implement projects under the "Environment" program, as well as companies that build recycling installations, for example, for construction and textile waste, said Daughter Vasileva.
Tsvetanka Todorova, chairperson of the Management Board of the Polymers Branch Association, pointed out that many companies in Bulgaria import waste raw materials from abroad in order to fill their production. She pointed out that European legislation also poses some challenges - mainly to the plastics sector, for example the shift to reusable products, the packaging waste requirements that are about to be introduced, etc. She summarized that there are many changes pending in the polymer sector, but companies are successfully adapting and coping.
Nikolay Valkanov, the executive director of the Association for Modern Trade, pointed out that the commercial sector in the country is diversified and the upcoming introduction of a deposit system for returning packaging for recycling will be implemented differently for different sites. He underlined that the important thing is for the mechanism to work, similar to the highly efficient deposit systems in Europe, where more than 90% of the materials are collected in places. He added that retailers will play a key role in terms of packaging return points and system management.
Zhana Velichkova, executive director of the Association of Non-Alcoholic Beverage Manufacturers in Bulgaria, presented data for the industry, according to which 171 enterprises operate in the sector, generating over BGN 230 million in added value and BGN 770 million in revenue. Employment in the industry is about a percent of employment in the entire industry of the country. The consumption of soft drinks and water in Bulgaria amounts to over BGN 210 million. Companies invest about BGN 420 million in local resources and generate over BGN 550 million in revenues in ancillary activities (logistics, sales, etc.).
Zhana Velichkova pointed out that the packaging used by the sector is 100% recyclable. She added that manufacturers want to see a deposit system model that closes the loop and packaging can be reused by the industry. At present, however, they are more of a resource for other productions and industries. The sector wants to see a legally legitimate guarantee that it will have access to material collected through the deposit system to generate added value, she said. Velichkova also gave examples of initiatives by the manufacturers of soft drinks and water and the recycling industry to collect plastic bottles in different municipalities and settlements.
The deposit system does not exhaust the process of collecting recyclable waste
Yana Ivanova, executive director of the Food and Beverage Bulgaria Association, comments that the deposit system does not exhaust the process of collecting recyclable waste. She presented an initiative that brings together manufacturers, traders and other stakeholders, one of the aims of which is to identify and find a way to collect problematic packaging. All our companies are working to reduce the volume of plastic packaging thrown away, and another of our goals is to make all plastic packaging recyclable, she added.
Yana Ivanova also pointed out that work is also underway on a project for the recycling of flexible packaging, for example the packaging of various wafers, sweets, etc. She also talked about the possibility of manufacturers getting the material back to close the packaging production circle, as well as the need to inform the population about the possibilities of recycling packaging and other waste. She believes that it is also important to introduce fair taxation on the "polluter pays" principle, because the biggest incentive for people is financial.
Tsanka Milanova, executive director of the Bulgarian Food Bank, pointed out that the legislation, the organizations, the measures are owed to society, which should be better informed. On a European scale, 54% of food that goes to waste is generated at the household level, she cites data. In real numbers for Bulgaria, over 420,000 tons of food for over 2 BGN are wasted in the supply chain for various reasons, she added. This has three imprints - social, economic and ecological, comments Tsanka Milanova.
To have more opportunities and measures to prevent the generation of food waste
Bulgarian Food Bank has introduced a model of systematic effort to keep food safe and in the supply chain, so that more companies from the industry - agricultural sector, processing, traders, know that there is a solution and a reliable system, said Tsanka Milanova. The food banking model is legally regulated, legally recognized, our organization is subject to permit regime and license renewal in a 5-year period. It is thus clear that the food goes to the right place, with an operator that has the capacity to receive, store and distribute food to people in need, she concluded.
Tsanka Milanova pointed out that a third more food is produced than people need. This food must be used in time - over 1.5 million Bulgarians would benefit from this food, as they live below the poverty line (504 BGN monthly income per household member), she said.
According to her, over the years, incentives have been created for donating food instead of dumping it, seeing the sense that the Ministry of Environment and Water should look for more opportunities and measures to prevent the generation of food waste and save more food. She also sees a need to improve the infrastructure for saving food, giving an example of the achievements of the Czech Republic in this field.
Tsanka Milanova gave the example of the small municipality of Mezdra, which has provided free space to the food bank for collecting surplus food to be redistributed to those in need. Few municipalities see this as a good opportunity and investment, she said. Most municipalities look to the food bank as a source of food to fulfill their commitments to people in need through social patronage, she explained.