How to solve the garbage problem in Moscow? Comparison of different utilisation methods and their cost
According to statistics, each person produces about 272 kilograms of garbage per year (the higher the person's income level, the higher garbage he produces). This creates a huge problem for large (and rich) megapolicies - huge volumes of garbage are generated daily, and there are catastrophically insufficient places for burial. In case of poor management, it can lead to a real communal collapse. Today Moscow is close to such a collapse - the Moscow Region polygons are almost completely filled and massively closed, which requires non-trivial solutions. In this article we will tell you what ways to solve garbage crisis exist, what are their pros and cons and how much it will all cost for the Russian capital city.
The largest Europe's city annually produces about 5.5 million tons of municipal solid waste (this term refers to ordinary household waste), not counting all other types of waste (construction waste, biological waste, etc). Historically, the vast majority of this garbage was simply disposed of in landfills. However, over the past few years, a number of landfills near Moscow have been closed (some due to the exhaustion of free space, some under the pressure of public protests). The largest of those that continue to work are in the table below:
|Polygon||District||Km to MKAD||Annual capacity, t||Total capacity, t||% fill||Year of input||Year of output|
|Nepeyno||Dmitrovsky||50||260 000||1,450,000||74%||n / a||n / d|
|Malaya Dubna||Orekhovo-Zuevsky||90||130 000||2 100 000||83%||1959||2020|
|Astapovo||Lukhovitsky||130||40,000||n / a||96%||1996||n / d|
|Bravely||Mozhaisk||120||28,000||n / a||20%||2007||n / d|
The annual total capacity (the amount of waste that the landfill can take during the year) of landfills in the table is less than the amount of garbage that the capital produces in a year. On many of them - the percentage of filling is close to critical, and the landfill is about to be reclaimed. The distance of the objects to the Moscow also speaks - many landfills that are open today are too far from Moscow.
Where to find a place for new landfill facilities? Generally speaking, this is a non-trivial task. Like any old megapolis, Moscow is surrounded a large number of cities and towns. Wherever you stick on the map - people live everywhere. Somewhere there are more people, somewhere less - but the inhabitants of even small towns and villages have the right to clean ecology. If noboly lives on the proposed site, it is likely that there is a river or a nature protection zone, and it is still impossible to store garbage there.
Moscow city is a separate province of the Russian Federation (Moscow region is other province), ant its status exacerbates the garbage problem. This status, on the one hand, brings additional income to the city budget - residents of the Moscow region pay taxes to the Moscow city budget), but government services are provided by Moscow region budget. But this plus works in the opposite direction. The city authorities will not be able to bring their garbage in the suburbs with a simple decision-making - they need to agree garbade location with the leadership of the region. And those have a lot of their own garbage - and there is not enough space for its placement too. The question is not easy to solve even with money - the political risks of accepting alien rubbish are so high that poor local government in neighbourhood Orel Region refuses Moscow city government . To agree terms with relatively rich Moscow region goverment is more difficult. Draw your attention on fact - a waste handling complex for sending Moscow city garbage to the Arkhangelsk region is planned to be built on the territory of Nekrasovka - this is territory of Moscow city, not Moscow region.
Another limitation is financial. It becomes unprofitable to carry garbage for tens of kilometers (even for the bottomless budget of Moscow). This growth leads not only to an increase in fuel costs, but also to a reduction in the number of daily trips of garbage trucks - which means that you need to invest in expanding the fleet and employing more drivers.
There is a problem that these costs are very difficult to pass on to include in tariff. A recent question to the president’s direct line: “why tariffs were raised and garbage is still rarely removed”. It clearly emphasizes that the population don't want pay for long truck routes. People are ready to pay for clean yards and they are not very worried about how many tons of kilometers it will be necessary for garbage trucks to travel and how much diesel fuel it will take. And in general, the authorities are accustomed to be very careful when it comes to raising housing tariffs.
Total: there is a lot of garbage in Moscow, there is no place for it and it is expensive to carry it. Does the problem have a solution? Below we consider the most realistic options for action that the Moscow authorities can choose. Let’s say right away that we don’t simply repeat populists ideas “it is necessary to develop separate collection of garbage, sort, recycle”, and we will try to look at the situation as objectively as possible and take into account all the limitations and economic justifications.
In modern realities, the garbage industry, both in Moscow and in other russian cities, operates according to an extremely simple business model - a garbage truck arrives at the container, loads the garbage and carries it to the landfill. There, the waste simply falls into a heap and nothing further happens with them. In this scheme, the costs of garbage disposal consist of two large components - these are the actual costs of removal (most of the expenses for fuel and drivers' salaries) and the cost of disposing of garbage at the landfill - other costs can be neglected due to its insignificance.
As already mentioned, Moscow produces about 5.5 million tons of garbage per year. There are three waste incineration plants in Moscow - in total they are capable of processing 0.8 million tons annually. Everything else is buried at landfills.
By the way, we do not reliably know actual landfill's names. For obvious reasons, this information is quite confidential - knowing the volume of annual garbage production and the capacity of the largest landfills, it is easy to find that part of the garbage seems to dissolve in the air - most likely, it settles in illegal landfills or just in the forest. But this is story for separate investigation.
In 2017, during the president direct line, the Kuchino landfill in Balashikha was closed (according to various estimates, it was collected about 25% of Moscow waste). After the Kuchino was closed, Timokhovo dump became the largest landfill for Moscow - it can accept just over 1 million tons of garbage per year. According to a number of indirect signs, it can be assumed that Moscow garbage also falls into the landfills of Torbeevo, Kulakovsky, Khrabrovo, Aleksinsky quarry and Lesnaya (total annual capacity of about 1.5 million tons). Thus, Moscow is faced with the task of disposing of 5.5 million tons of garbage per year. How much will it cost if in the old fashioned way to continue to carry garbage to a landfill? Hereinafter, we try to build on the real cost of work - it doesn’t matter how much (with what rate of return) the municipality pays for it, how much of this money will be collected from the population, and how the costs will be distributed between various contractors within the garbage chain. Knowing the capacity of an average garbage truck, the price of fuel and the rates of landfills for garbage collection, it is possible to estimate with certain degree of accuracy the costs of the functioning of the garbage system depending on the distance of the garbage landfill from the Moscow:
|Distance||Fuel costs, million rubles||Salary of the driver, million rubles||Landfill rates , million rubles||Total, million rubles|
|20 km||412.5||451.3||8 250||9 114|
|40 km||687.5||752.3||6 977||8 417|
|60 km||962.5||1 053||5 500||7,516|
|100 km||1 512||1 655||4 400||7 568|
|150 km||2 200||2 407||3 850||8 457|
It is rather problematic to estimate the costs of moving garbage trucks inside the capital itself - their route involves a detour of many container sites, the engine idling. Accurate statistics on how much it all costs are available only to garbage operators and the Moscow authorities. In our reasoning, this is not so important - for any option of waste disposal (landfill, burning, briquetting and even recycling), this costs should appropriate and relatively stable. So, they can be omitted in comparison. We also proceeded from the option that garbage flows move in radial patterns - in other words, garbage from the east of Moscow goes towards Balashikha and Noginsk (east of Moscow region), and from the south - towards Serpukhov and Chekhov (south of Moscow region). We suppose that there are no situations when garbage from the west of Moscow falls drive east of the Moscow region. In practice, this situation may arise due to the disproportionate location of the landfill facilities. Also, various overhead costs were not taken into account. Finally, with an increase in the duration of the route, it is necessary to increase the fleet of garbage trucks, since their turnover is reduced - this effect was also not taken into account.
Nevertheless, despite all the simplifications, the table below demonstrates several important conclusions. In particular, it is clearly seen that the burial costs in the overall structure weigh much more than the costs of logistics itself. And although, as the distance from the center increases, the cost of fuel and drivers' wages will increase, but at the same time, the cost of littering will decrease (the farther from the center, the lower the average landfill tariff). As a result, until some point it will be more profitable for the garbage operator to carry the cargo as far as possible - it will increase costs for relatively “cheap” logistics costs, but at the same time it will save on relatively “expensive” burial costs.
This, in fact, explains well why near and modern landfills are not always popular with Moscow garbage collectors.
The same Timokhovo (Noginsky district, about 45 km from Moscow), by Russian standards - a relatively civilized rubbish landfill. Garbage is buried according to schemes thought out by engineers, there are facilities for sorting. But the whole problem is that this leads to an increase in landfill costs and, as a consequence, the tariff. As a result, it is more profitable to bring garbage to a place where there is a cheaper tariff. Therefore, it should not be surprising that among those working with Moscow rubbish there are landfills 70-120 kilometers away from the Moscow.
By the way, another useful figure is the cost of the annual Moscow contract for the disposal of garbage is 8,600 million rubles. This is very close to the numbers we received - the contract for Moscow rubbish was imposed on the understanding that it would be transported to landfills and to landfills with a diameter of 40-100 kilometers from the Moscow Ring Road. “Hartiya” (the operator responsible for garbage collection from the east of the capital) feels quite well when taking garbage to its own landfill in the city of Petushki, Vladimir Region (120 kilometers from Moscow).
But 150 kilometers from the Moscow is a watershed - the burial rate ceases to decline, and fuel and salary costs continue to rise according to the linear law. As a result, disposal costs are starting to rise again. Carrying further 150 kilometers by road is unprofitable.
Thus, when choosing an option to bury at landfills, the task is essentially simple. It is necessary to find a suitable landfill within a radius of 150 kilometers from the Moscow. Many neighboring subjects fall into this radius. Therefore, it is not surprising that periodically in these regions there is news that Moscow garbage will be brought to them. The governors, however, are trying to disown it - they say, of course, thanks for the money, but Moscow better manage it itself.
In the short term, the huge Malinki landfill under construction (1 million tons per year, comparable to Timokhovo and Kuchino) can mitigate the Moscow garbage problem. Fortunately, it is located on the territory of New Moscow - which means that you don’t even need to negotiate with the Moscow region. The landfill is actually ready to start accepting garbage even tomorrow - but the ongoing environmental protests forced it to temporarily freeze.
In general, burying at landfills is a cheap and understandable option, and not even the worst from an environmental point of view (household waste usually has a low hazard class for the environment). However, everything is disturbed by one single factor - there is no place. The option is suitable in the short term, but even in the medium term - this scheme has a huge number of disadvantages.
Overloading garbage is useless
The option with landfills can be slightly modified by adding garbage transfer stations to the chain.
In Moscow, this option is used rather weakly today. There are only four transshipment stations in the capital with a total capacity of about 800 thousand tons per year. Garbage handling allows garbage operators to manage their costs - removal from yards is carried out on compact cars, the fuel mode of which is optimal for low speeds and long-term idling of engines. And garbage removal from the transfer station to the landfill is already carried out on high-capacity vehicles - which is better suited for trunk transportation. In Moscow, preference is given to garbage trucks of large capacity (for example, the KO-440 series of heavy trucks from the Arzamas Plant Kommash is especially popular), which take garbage from containers directly to the landfill, bypassing the garbage transfer station.
The logic of utility companies in this case is well understood. We have already shown above that the cost of fuel and driver wages in modern economic realities is not the biggest problem. But every extra garbage transfer station (and the aromas accompanying it) will provoke the discontent of residents - since it is quite difficult to find a place for them far from residential areas and green areas.
Garbage burning option
The second, also quite obvious way is to develop garbage burning. The main costs of the plant are the costs of reagents, the purification of emissions into the atmosphere and the costs of utilizing the ash generated from burning. But there is a definite plus:
Garbage burning primarily solves the problem of lack of space for landfills
From one ton of garbage, only 300 kilograms of ash is formed at the exit. Therefore, it is not surprising that there is such a high demand for this technology in Europe - an incinerator can be found even on the banks of the Seine near Paris, and on the roofs of such plants in Austria there are even cafes. The figure below clearly shows that many countries in Europe are building their garbage industry around this method.
In addition to saving on land lease, incineration involves the use of labor of a fairly small number of employees - this is capital-intensive technology. In European conditions (with high salaries and high rental rates), this leads to a situation where the disposal rate at the plant is lower than the rate of landfills. We emphasize that such a difference is formed in the natural economic conditions.
In Russian realities, the economy works out a little differently. We have cheaper labor, and the cost of fuel and free land is still more. As a result, it turns out that the incineration rate in Russia is usually higher than the rate for a simple landfill. So, burning garbage at the Moscow burning garbage plant №4 costs 3,300 rubles per ton, while the maximum cost of burial at the landfill does not exceed 2,000 rubles per ton (if you wish, you can find 700-1000 rubles tariffs).
Unfortunately, financial data are not available for all garbage burning plants in Moscow, as they are part of the Ecotechprom company. This company combines several related businesses (garbage collection, territory maintenance, etc.). The company prepares single financial statement, it is impossible to understand how much of the cost falls directly on waste incineration. However, there is a pleasant exception - garbage burning plant №3 in Biryulyovo has been allocated as a separate legal entity, since it was created as a joint venture of the Moscow and Austrian investors. It is clearly seen from his financial statements that the plant operates with stable financial loss - the garbage burning tariff are lower than incineration costs (it is impossible to increase it due to competition with landfills).
Now let's imagine that all Moscow garbage will be burned in plants like Biryulyovo. How much will it cost?
|Calculation method||Costs per year, RUB million|
|Based on the tariff for garbage incineration at plant №4||18 500|
|Based on the actual cost of burning at plant №3||11 500|
Now, recall a couple of interesting numbers. Moscow City Hall annually pays for the disposal of garbage in the amount of about 8,500 million rubles. An amount of about 2,000 million rubles a year is collected from the population as “garbage removal tariff”. The transition to waste burning means a fantastic increase in costs and, possibly, tariffs for the population. This amount is not absolutely unachiveable for Moscow (the annual budget of the city of Moscow is 2,739,000 million rubles), but it is expensive even for the richest russian city. Additionally it will require capital cost to build new burning capacities.
Moscow authorities were analyzing possibility to construct additional burning facilities many years ago. As former city manager Yuri Luzhkov said, it is at least 6 burning plants necessary. Possible locations - Naro-Fominsk, Solnechnogorsk, Noginsk and Voskresensk districts of Moscow region. But the idea of building factories in remote areas of the Moscow region destroys their most important competitive advantage over landfills - saving on occupied space and fuel costs (as a rule, most large megapolicies locate such plants in the city or close to it).
This is only the economic side of technology. Environment side is questionable too. Landfills bury garbage in relatively safe form (hazard class 4-5), but burning plants bury ash in more dangerous form (hazard class 2). Such ash cannot be buried at a regular landfill. By the way, in the Moscow region there are no landfills for the reception of such waste. Nobody knows where moscow burning plants buries its ash. During burning process a number of harmful substances are also formed, including dioxins - carcinogens that do not have a minimum exposure threshold and even a small amount of them can lead to the formation of cancer. However, dioxins are also formed during the burning of the most ordinary household fire - and this is unlikely to scare anyone. One way or another, practice shows that people come out to protest against landfills - and they are ready to protest against the burning plants even more strongly.
As a result, in moscow reality the incineration means an increase in costs with a simultaneous increase in environmental problems and protests, without any noticeable positive aspects.
The method of garbage briquetting (with subsequent transportation by railway transport and disposal at remote landfills) is used in the world and Europe, but is not the most common technology. Briquetting garbage can be useful where logistics requires the movement of waste over relatively long distances. Most often this is due to the high population density or actively developed agrarian complex in a given territory.
It seems that this tenchology fully response Moscow case. We figured out that incinerators are too expensive, there is no place for burial at landfills, and it is economically unprofitable to drive farther than 150 kilometers from Moscow by road. One of the unwritten laws of logistics is as follows:
At distances of up to 100 kilometers, it is most advantageous to transport by road, at distances from 100 to 1000 kilometers - by rail, then either by sea or by rail.
In this rule, threshold values may vary slightly (they depend on the cost of labor and fuel in a particular place), but the common rule is usually correct. Therefore, if the task involves transportation over a distance of more than 100 kilometers, it is absolutely logical to involve Russian Railways in the spheme.
The story of the Shies landfill in the Arkhangelsk region led to extensive protests. Specifically, in Shies, the problem was that the construction of the landfill was done secretly, without public consultation and the necessary permissions. It was obvious attempt to hide the situation from the public. But in this article we need to know only whether briquetting technology is economically viable.
Information on the exact tariff at which Russian Railways is going to transport Moscow rubbish in Shies is not available. But railways tariff is regulated under russian law. We know that garbage was planned to be assigned to the second tariff class (that is, the tariff will be higher than, for example, for coal, but lower than for finished products, which are attributed to the third, most expensive class - and at approximately the same level with grain, oil and oil products and a number of other commodities). According to experts, published in Kommersant, the figure will be 1862 rubles per ton. In addition, the Moscow authorities will have to pay for the rental of cars - the figure can vary greatly along with market conditions, in our calculations we used an estimate of 500 rubles per ton. It is also quite difficult to assess how much the garbage overload from trucks on rails will cost (we assume that this will be a relatively insignificant amount). The cost of final disposal at landfills will obviously be much lower than in Moscow, but it is unlikely that it will drop below 500 rubles per ton (a typical level of rates for landfills in poor russian regions).
So, we’ve roughly calculated how much it will cost to recycle all Moscow rubbish by loading it on rail, depending on the distance of transportation:
|Distance||Railway Tariff, mln rubles||Tariff of the polygon, mln rubles||Total, mln rub|
|150 km||1,521||2 750||4,271|
|300 km||3 042||2 750||5 792|
|500 km||5 071||2 750||7 821|
|700 km||7 099||2 750||9 849|
|1000 km||10 141||2 750||12 891|
|1200 km||12 169||2 750||14 919|
This table clearly answers the basic questions. The railway tariff almost doubles the cost of transportation costs for medium distances than the transportation of similar goods at the same distance by road. As a result, the cost of transportation does not grow so fast with increasing distance - and this makes it possible to fully enjoy the benefits of low landfill tariffs in the Russian outback. Actually, Moscow garbage is not the first to be loaded onto rails - there was information in media reports that St. Petersburg plans to transport its garbage by rail to the city of Slantsy, Leningrad Region (distance of about 200 kilometers).
It is also worth recalling that it was not Moscow who came up with the idea of taking their garbage to the Shies station. The initiative belongs to Russian Railways, who saw this as an opportunity to get expensive cargo and make more efficient use of the Northern Railways, which are not used to full capacity in the current economic realities. Actually, in the Shies project, all the main transshipment stations are planned to be built on areas owned by Russian Railways, which also well emphasizes who is the initiator in this initiative. Therefore, it is possible (and such information was circulated in the media) that Russian Railways will give a “special” tariff for rubbish, or more simply, a discount, which will make this story even more attractive for the Moscow authorities.
However, there are a number of limitations. It is obvious that briquetting technology requires that the landfill for the final disposal of garbage be located in close proximity to the railway tracks. Otherwise, another transshipment and transportation by road will be required (with a corresponding rapid increase in costs, devaluing all the benefits). It is also obvious that not any railway is suitable, but one where there are reserves to increase freight traffic. Obviosly the final training ground should be removed from the places of settlement of people, nature protection zones, etc. In total, it seems that Russia seems to be large and there is a lot of space for garbage, but a number of strict restrictions greatly reduce the choice of potential sites. Obviously, Russian Railways also wanted to use their own land assets in this project - to earn more money and eliminate other approvals from project.
Actually, the fact that the Shies station was chosen as the final destination (the distance from Moscow is about 1200 km) is very indicative in itself - closer, apparently, they did not find sites that would meet all the stated requirements.
The fact that only 500 thousand tons are planned to be loaded there annually is indicative too - this is a small part of Moscow garbage. Turning to the table above, it is easy to understand why - even for the Moscow budget this is a rather expensive story, and the cost of disposal becomes higher than with incineration. If you find a site closer - the alignment may change. Therefore, Shies is considered, rather, as a pilot project, on which they want to test technology, the economy, and also test the reaction of residents of the recipient regions. But on the whole, this way of solving the problem can be fairly positively evaluated - despite obvious shortcomings, it remains fairly inexpensive and environmentally friendly.
Separate collection, recycling and reuse
We intentionally put this option for solving the Moscow garbage problem in last place in our analysis. No, of course, we are also “for everything good and against everything bad” and in the long run this is really the most optimal way that the capital is simply obliged to go. But such a path is a radical reformatting of the entire industry, a change in the philosophy of food producers and the population. The population can confidently say that it is ready to share the garbage, but how will it relate to the fines for getting the wrong garbage in the wrong basket? In any case, this is hardly a way that can solve the Moscow problem here and now.
I just wanted to draw attention to a few important points. We are well aware of the structure of garbage by type of waste, the approximate cost of useful fractions in the secondary market, and the potential recovery factors of useful fractions are known. You can calculate the order of the amounts that the city can gain from the sale of recyclables. The calculations are shown in the table below:
|Waste||Share in trash||Recovery factor||Price, rub / t td >||Revenues, RUB million|
|Large home appliances||10%||-||21,000||-|
|Rags and textiles||4%||-||-||-|
This is a very crude calculation. Food leftovers can be composted and sold to agricultural enterprises. Large household appliances contain many rare metals. But if you recall where Russia is now (only 5-10% of garbage is recycled), then you need to abandon excessive illusions. For our country, the most realistic way is to start recycling plastic, metals, waste paper and glass. For these fractions, it is easiest to organize separate garbage collection; production facilities are available for these types of garbage (many of them are underloaded with raw materials). But even if all this is done (which is not so simple) and extended to the whole of Moscow, then you will earn only 2 billion rubles.
There is nothing to be done about it - scrap is a fairly cheap raw material and its sale does not bring a lot of money, and prices often tend not to increase, but to decrease.
The income from the sale of scrap must be adjusted to the cost of sorting and processing itself. Whoever says anything, but sorting garbage (even separately collected) is largely a manual process. Yes, something can be sorted out using magnets and optics, but ultimately, human participation in the production process is necessary - a substance that is too heterogeneous enters the input. It’s not so easy to calculate exactly what the profitability of this business will be in Russian conditions, if everything is organized correctly. In any case, the net profit from the entire project is unlikely to exceed several hundred million rubles (if at all there will be profit). Again, recall the size of the Moscow budget - to rebuild the entire system from beginning to end to get ridiculous profits - how much is it economically feasible?
Obviously - and this is how it works in a prosperous Europe - processors should not earn on the income from the sale of recyclables, but on the collection for garbage disposal.
And since the income from garbage processing does not significantly affect the overall economy of the garbage industry, everyone still decides on the cost of recycling, especially recycling tariffs. This is what can manage garbage streams and redistribute them from one channel to another. When tariffs become such that it will be more profitable to process, rather than bury, garbage processing and waste sorting complexes will appear, they will organize separate collection, etc. Moreover, this may not even require some directive actions - the market will work itself, as it is now working in favor of landfill. No matter how sad this may sound, the problem of Russia is not in some kind of conspiracy against it, but in the abundance of cheap land and cheap labor, low transport tariffs - in fact, all this stops the advancement of capital-intensive and advanced technologies. Of course, the state can also influence the redistribution of garbage flows - by taxing some channels for utilization and subsidizing others (as well as by regulating land rental rates) - but this is not always the level of russian regions (even such as Moscow), this is central authorities level.
Instead of a resume
The conclusions in this article were, perhaps, overly pessimistic than originally intended. One way or another, it is obvious that primitive burial at landfills is a thing of the past. The main reason, perhaps not even economic, but political - namely, active garbage protests throughout the landfills.
Now it is difficult to say exactly what will replace landfills. Economic reasons speak in favor of the fact that you just need to carry garbage further and pay a little more. There are not so many economic reasons for processing, but the political highlight of this option is extremely positive. Therefore, it is not completely clear what will win in the long run. In any case, it is Moscow inevitably become the locomotive of the garbage industry (including separate collection and processing) in Russia - in other regions there are more land and less garbage, salaries are lower, which means that there is even less motivation to change something.
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