What is organic industrial waste
Recycling of industrial waste promises billions in business
Russia's struggle with the mountains of rubbish has mainly focused on municipal waste in recent months. But while around 70 million tonnes of household waste are generated each year, the volume of industrial waste is much larger. According to the Ministry of the Environment, there is a gigantic volume of over 7 billion tons every year. Of this, however, 94 percent is accounted for by the extraction of raw materials, because the spoil heaps from the coal industry, oil sludge and residual products from ore extraction are also included.
Growing interest in circular economy
Around half of all industrial waste is recycled. Companies are becoming increasingly interested in a circular economy. They want to optimize their costs, anticipate government regulations and respond to customer wishes.
Especially corporations that generate a large part of their sales abroad have to increasingly take sustainability factors into account. "European customers expect their suppliers to meet the so-called ESG factors (environmental, social and corporate governance)," explains Florian Willershausen, board member at the Moscow consulting and investment company Creon Group. This also includes avoiding products that are made exclusively with raw materials that do not contain any recycling.
Raw material companies are the biggest polluters
Therefore, extensive investment programs are running in industrial companies for the recovery of production waste and the use of recycling material. The Russian government's largest polluters include the extraction of oil, gas, ores and coal, thermal power plants, chemical and paper mills, and the metallurgy and building materials industries.
According to the strategy for processing and neutralizing industrial and consumer waste, potential customers for secondary raw materials from industrial waste are:
- Manufacturer of building materials (use of waste glass, wood and metal waste, rubber granulate)
- Agriculture (use of recycled sewage sludge, slag and wood waste for fertilization)
- Civil engineering (crushed rubble, rubber granulate for road construction)
- Metallurgy (use of scrap metal, pressed powder, slag)
- Chemical industry (reuse of processed, harmless organic and inorganic compounds)
So far, the industrial companies have largely organized the disposal and landfilling of their waste themselves. In some cases, they have placed orders with regional specialist providers, for example for the recycling of batteries or mercury-containing lamps.
State holding Rostec is aiming for a monopoly
The state holding company Rostec has long been pushing for a general contract for the disposal of industrial waste in classes III (moderately dangerous) to V (practically harmless). According to newspaper reports, this would be huge business, annual sales are 1.4 trillion rubles (15.3 billion euros, exchange rate of the ECB on October 15, 2020: 1 euro = 91.43 rubles).
Rostec proposes to set up a uniform waste disposal company for this task. The Ministry of the Environment has spoken out against this, because waste management has so far mainly been characterized by small and medium-sized companies. A state monopoly would jeopardize their business basis.
The state-owned company Rostec is already very active in household waste disposal and in the construction of waste incineration plants in Russia through its subsidiary RT-Invest.
Rosatom takes care of the disposal of the most dangerous substances
Russia has already designated a state contractor for the disposal of the most dangerous waste materials of Classes I and II. These categories of waste materials include inorganic salt mixtures, acid waste, items containing mercury, batteries, asbestos and heavily polluted industrial wastewater.
According to the Ministry of the Environment, around 300,000 tons of this type of waste are produced by 40,000 industrial and other producers every year. There are currently no modern capacities for neutralizing and recycling these hazardous substances.
That is why in November 2019 the government commissioned the state-owned company Rosatom exclusively with the collection and disposal of hazardous substances of classes I and II. With its subsidiary RosRAO, the company already has extensive experience in dealing with radioactive waste. Now Rosatom has founded another subsidiary - FGUP FEO - to deal with hazardous industrial waste.
The company is planning seven large processing centers for hazardous substances in Russia, each with an annual capacity of 50,000 tons. Rosatom uses four existing objects for the destruction of chemical weapons and expands them for the treatment of industrial waste. The plants are located in the Saratov, Kirov, Udmurtia and Kurgan regions and are to be converted by the beginning of 2024. The group is also building three new processing complexes near Irkutsk, Kemerovo and in the Leningrad region. Commissioning is planned there for 2025.
FEO is currently developing a monitoring system to monitor the formation and deposition of hazardous substances and to plan their disposal. Monitoring should take place in real-time mode.
The supplement is extremely lucrative for Rosatom. By 2024, the state intends to invest around 36 billion rubles (around 390 million euros) in the development of the recycling system for waste classes I and II. The project is part of the national "Ecology" project.
Russian regions with the highest levels of hazardous substances *)
Volume of hazardous substances in tons (2018)
Share of total volume in%
Autonomous circle of the Khanty and Mansi
The German economy is hoping for new business through Russia's efforts to recycle industrial waste. Some companies took part in a digital business trip to heavy industry locations in the Urals in early October. There, the metallurgy companies in particular are planning considerable investments in environmental technology. Background information in the GTAI report "Industrial companies in the Urals want to recycle more waste".
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