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© Photo credit: www.360minutes.ru

Who Will Save Baikal from Waste

The problem of recycling industrial and household waste in our days is becoming more acute due to the fact that the volumes of waste are increasing, while the recycling rate is incomparably slow.

As a result, the entire planet has accumulated billions of tons of solid waste to be recycled and neutralized.

Russia, like the rest of the world, faces the challenge of preserving both the nature as a whole and its individual unique objects.

The ecological situation around Lake Baikal generates a lot of discussion and criticism. The lake is threatened by many problems: in addition to industrial enterprises polluting its waters, and poachers hunting the rare Baikal endemics and illegally cutting down the forest, tourists leave their own mark on Baikal. 

According to various sources, the lake is visited by 500 thousand to a million people each year, and this number is constantly growing.

Tourist sites inevitably become littered with garbage. There is no organization that is directly responsible for keeping the coastal areas clean. And with the increasing flow of tourists, garbage becomes an increasing problem.

However, it is possible to correct the situation through joint efforts of concerned citizens. It became clear when teams of volunteers were formed to clean up the area.

The problem was first discussed by Greenpeace activists. In 2001 and 2002, the organization held international events on Lake Baikal. In just a couple of months, participants collected a total of about 6.5 thousand bags of sorted waste by type of waste, and more than 14 tons of scrap metal. It was also found that most of the tourists and locals leave plastic bottles and utensils behind, which is 35% of the collected waste. 15% - glass bottles, 15% - cellophane, 5% - cans, 5% - paper. Most of the collected waste was sent for recycling. The Baikal events of Greenpeace became a good example for the companies and organizations of Irkutsk. Some travel companies began to collect and remove garbage on their own.

The idea behind ​​the annual Clean Coast project is reduction and prevention of pollution, conservation of ecosystems of coastal areas of the lake, and encouragement of responsible attitude to the environment. In 2014, about 340 cubic meters (4000 bags) of garbage were collected and transported to a solid waste landfill just over two weeks.

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“360 Minutes" is the biggest all-Russian ecological marathon. Each year, volunteers collect garbage and clean up the protected areas for 6 hours with the purpose of conserving natural scenic places. Over the five years of ecological marathon, volunteers collected more than 3 thousand tons of garbage. After the event, the waste is disposed of and partially recycled. In 2016, new types of work for volunteers were added. For example, activists used a tractor and a truck with a crane to remove heavy metal and concrete structures near the visitor center of the Baikal Nature Reserve.

Unfortunately, in today's Russia, industries involved in the disposal and recycling of solid waste are given far less attention than in Soviet times. There are 50 waste sorting facilities, 10 waste incineration and 243 waste recycling plants in the territory of the country. This is clearly not enough to be able to cope with grand volume of solid waste generated in the country.

The root of the problem of recycling waste in Russia is not the constant increase in the volume of solid waste, but rather the inability to properly dispose of it. 

Data from Russian Technologies shows that at least 40% of all accumulated waste in Russia is a valuable raw material for recycling. However, only about 7-8% of household waste is recycled, while the rest is simply transported to landfills.

Today, investment in waste processing is a very promising type of business, as demand for secondary raw materials obtained through recycling is quite high. The infrastructure is underdeveloped, therefore each new waste processing plant in Russia will have a good return on the investment.

The Irkutsk region with its rich natural resources that include the deepest and cleanest lake in the world has a distinct need for new facilities that handle solid waste. There is a bit of progress in the area already - a waste recycling plant will be built in the Baikal region, and the construction will be handled by Rostec. There is also a project for a waste recycling facility in Angarsk Technopark.

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