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UNDP supports innovative solutions to the ‘waste of war’ in Ukraine

According to authorities, the war has affected more than a quarter of Ukraine’s territory and caused large-scale destruction of buildings, leaving behind thousands of tons of debris, creating a huge problem that will take decades to resolve.

In most communities, this waste is not properly classified, leading to the formation of “spontaneous landfills”.

Equipment and training

UNDP dismantled rubble from demolished buildings and introduced a waste management system. The agency, with support from the European Union (EU), recently helped establish a treatment station for accumulated waste in Bucha, located in the Kyiv region.

Russian troops occupied the city for nearly a month during the early stages of the war, committing many of the atrocities that emerged after the city’s liberation, including the massacre of dozens of civilians.

UNDP and the EU have provided equipment such as crushers and mobile excavators to the waste management site, in addition to training human resources. The Bucha city government in turn allocated a 4-acre plot of land for this facility. This is the first UN project in Ukraine and plans are underway in other regions of the country.

Thousands of houses were damaged

“Ukraine has never seen destruction on such a scale before so there is no need to deal with such waste, there is no system,” said Roman Shakhmatenko, UNDP Environment Portfolio Team Leader. .

“This landfill was formed immediately after the liberation of Kyiv region. The initial destruction waste was not sorted here – then it was necessary to clear the settlements as soon as possible so that people began to return. Now we need to do something about it. In general, the current problem in the Kiev region is huge – thousands of houses are damaged.”

Bucha Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk agrees. He said any discussion about restoration and rebuilding must begin with an understanding of the need to dismantle and remove what has been destroyed.

He noted that more than 4,000 buildings including high-rise apartments were damaged in Bucha alone.

“In the first stage, more than 500 private houses destroyed by fighting have been dismantled and relocated,” he said.

Mayor Fedoruk recalled that the large landfill there, including equipment and more than 200 cars, existed for a long time without a decision on proper disposal.

“Then people started coming back and bringing all their household waste there, and this became a big problem – a spontaneous landfill was formed. Thanks to UNDP’s first private sector cleanup program, we were able to clean up the area. Currently, the volume we need to process is still very large,” he said.

“We have accumulated 75,000 cubic meters of disposal waste. We need to sort it all, process it and recycle it. And residues that cannot be recycled must be treated according to European standards. This is a complex process but we intend to fully organize all landfills by the end of the year.”

Innovation in Bucha

Mr. Shakhmatenko explained that the heart of the operation is a mobile crusher that processes waste so that it can be reused later, for example in new construction projects.

“This machine can process 80 cubic meters of waste per hour. For example, a large truck is 15 cubic meters. That is, the crusher processes five such vehicles per hour. This will be sufficient for the needs of the region.”

From left to right: Bucha Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk, Buchaservice utility company director Serhii Mostipaka, UNDP Energy and Environment Portfolio Team Leader Roman Shakhmatenko, and UNDP Communications Specialist Anastasia Shapran.

From left to right: Bucha Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk, Buchaservice utility company director Serhii Mostipaka, UNDP Energy and Environment Portfolio Team Leader Roman Shakhmatenko, and UNDP Communications Specialist Anastasia Shapran.

The waste treatment station is divided into many areas. Serhii Mostipaka, head of the utility company “Buchaservice”, said the first phase includes clearing the rubble and sorting wood, plastic and glass.

“What has been transported to the second site will be processed by the crusher – it can crush concrete and bricks into a variety of sizes, from the largest to the smallest,” he said.

“This is a virtually zero-waste production – waste is sent to landfill, sorted, processed and reused. Only waste containing asbestos cannot be recycled and treated.”

Asbestos problem

UNDP said a special laboratory will be installed at the facility to detect asbestos – both in waste and in the air where work takes place – according to international standards. Exposure can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, laryngeal and ovarian cancer, asbestosis or pulmonary fibrosis, based on World Health Organization (WHO).

Mr. Shakhmatenko described asbestos as “a separate big problem” because it can be found in slate roofs and various insulation materials.

“Worldwide, this problem started to be solved in the 70s and it was very expensive. We just started working on this. The production of asbestos has just been banned, but what to do with that waste is a very difficult question,” he said.

“We need special places for burial and separate technologies to process it. For ourselves, we have developed appropriate procedures for handling asbestos – we package it up and take it for temporary storage in specially designated places, where it will stay until when there are special places to handle it.”


Sign “Beware of landmines” in Ukraine

Mayor Fedoruk said before any work can begin in the occupied territories, demining must take place and this is a difficult and long process.

“I am not exaggerating when I say that wherever there are Russian troops, all territories need professional inspection by special forces. There are a lot of ‘surprises’,” he said.

“A month ago, we started manually sorting waste exported here. Unfortunately, we found the remains of what the Russian army left behind – many explosive objects. Mindfulness is very important.”

Horrible “discovery” surface

“There are other terrible ‘discoveries’,” added UNDP’s Shakhmatenko.

“While cleaning up the rubble, we recently discovered the body of a man with his eyes and hands covered. This happened when we were dismantling one of the houses in Bucha. What remains of the body is essentially a mummy.”

Mayor Fedoruk said today, 76 people in the city – men, women and children – are still considered missing.

“We know that some of them are in Russian custody, but the whereabouts of the rest are unknown. This example makes us understand that we will be able to find some missing people while clearing the rubble.”

Dismantling war-torn buildings in Ukraine.

Dismantling war-torn buildings in Ukraine.

Support from the UN system

The Mayor praised the support received from the United Nations Country Team in Ukraine, describing it as “a true partnership”.

Sharing the same praise, Mr. Mostipaka of utility company Buchaservice said that practically all of their equipment was almost destroyed due to the war.

“This project with UNDP has truly given a second life to our utility,” he said.

Today, “Buchaservice” is engaged in the maintenance of apartment buildings, road surfaces, sidewalks, lighting systems and even cemeteries, as well as garbage removal in 12 settlements in the region.

“We have operators who can work on the new equipment,” he added, noting that a number of women have joined their ranks as some men remain to serve in war.

Dismantling war-torn buildings in Ukraine.

Dismantling war-torn buildings in Ukraine.

Post-war plans

The UNDP project also addresses longer-term issues, such as recycling, as waste accumulates.

“Even in peacetime, there is always a need to recycle bricks, concrete, foam concrete – there is always construction waste because the city is constantly under construction,” said Mayor Fedoruk.

“It is important to set up a service so that people know that there is a place where you can always take your trash and where it will always be received, selected, sorted, processed and disposed of properly. way.”

He said it was no coincidence that UNDP chose Buchaservice “because even before the war we tried to handle waste properly” and the recycling program was like “a second life” for the company.

“Not only did they help us deal with all the rubble and waste from the demolition process, but they also helped us develop the utility to European standards.”

Dismantling war-torn buildings in Ukraine.

Dismantling war-torn buildings in Ukraine.

Local leaders criticized

UNDP plans to establish similar projects in other regions of Ukraine, such as Chernihiv and Kharkiv.

Mr. Shakhmatenko said the volume of rubble in the country is so large that no one knows exactly how much.

“We understand that this is an issue for many years to come. And if we can solve it in the way it is organized now in Bucha, it will be very good,” he added.

“However, we must remember that 60% of the work in this case was done by the local government and the power company and UNDP helped. A lot depends on local leadership.”


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