Open letter in relation with the statements of the MEW – declared intentions about suspension of waste import

BACI addressed with an open letter to the President, The Prime-minister and the Minister and Directors of directorates in the Minister of Environment and Water, in connection with the statements of the Minister of Environment and Water – Mr. Asen Lichev with declared intentions to stop the import of waste (according to recent statements – especially of waste imported into the country for recovery by incineration), and given the Minister submitted plan for approval of the draft National Waste Management Plan for the period 2021-2028 in the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria. Those statements raise concerns in us as we are entities recovering waste in our manufacturing process, therefore we ask you to take into account what is stated in the opinion below:

With regard to the intention to ban the import of waste for co-incineration through energy recovery, we consider that it is unfounded, given the following reasons and considerations

  1. The utilization of modified fuels – RDF/SRF is the main way for the cement plants nationwide to ensure compliance with legislation and related restrictions, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in connection with limiting climate change and reducing the carbon footprint of manufacturing activity.
  2. The methods and ways for co-combustion of RDF/SRF are set forth in the current regulations , including they correspond to the best available technologies for manufacturing of clinker and cement and recovery of waste by incineration , as the installations have valid Integrated Permits for this activity, issued under Chapter Seven of the Environment Protection Act, in which the provisions of EU acquis have been transposed.
  3. RDF/SRF recovery facilities do not pollute the environment as they are designed and constructed to ensure an efficient combustion recovery process that does not emit harmful substances above the country’s standards, regulations and restrictions.
  4. For the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, the RDF generated by the existing plants for separation and pre-treatment has quality (low calorific value, high humidity and high content of non-combustible fraction) and particle size not compliant with the requirements for kilns of cement plants, even installations using local RDF can always use it only in a mixture with imported high quality SRF/RDF with appropriate particle size and calorific value . Suspension of imports of quality SRF/RDF will make it impossible to incinerate any amount of local RDF, which will result in the inability to comply with the hierarchy and achieve waste management objectives and, in particular – reduction of landfill quantities.
    Cement plants in Bulgaria have been engaged in cross-border transportation and import of RDF since 2008, in full compliance with the requirements of the environmental legislation of the EU and Bulgaria, as well as the Basel Convention. Over the last 12+ years, the realized cross-border transportation and import of RDF helps to be accepted for recovery by incinerating hundreds of thousands of tons of RDF from separated household municipal waste of a number of Bulgarian municipalities such as Sofia, Varna, Vratsa, Mezdra, Harmanli, Haskovo, Plovdiv, Yambol, Kazanlak, Gabrovo, Sevlievo, Targovishte, etc.
  5. Such a ban will eventually violate regulations of the European waste legislation , and will create a conflict with the policies of the EU acquis on limitation of climate change and of the EU acquis, including:
    • One of the basic principles of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, namely the free movement of goods, will be violated;
    • It will be in conflict with European policies and legislation to limit climate change, according to which the use of RDF and SRF has a significantly lower emission factor compared to traditional fuels: coal, petcoke, etc.;
    • Long-term contracts and agreements between producers of quality RDF/SRF outside the country, product importers and users will be violated, which will result in significant financial losses along the entire chain;
    • The scope of application of effective and valid permits issued under the Environment Protection Act (Integrated Permits) and decisions under the Waste Management Act will be violated and/or limited/suspended (decisions under Article 97, Paragraph 2, Items 1 and 2 of the Law), the annual report of which shows not only that the environmental legislation is not violated due to waste recovery, but rather the companies and installations show a progressive reduction of their carbon footprint, thanks to the use of waste. It is evidence of the environmental and social contribution to this activity, which leads to a reduction in the amount of waste that is land-filled.

Regarding the procedure for approval of the draft National Waste Management Plan (NWMP) 2021-2028:

  1. Regarding the texts in the draft plan related to waste imports: According to the draft of the Ministry of Environment and Water published on the website of the Ministry of Environment and Water 2021-2028 for conducting consultations within the meaning of Article 51, Paragraph 2 of the Waste Management Act, page 36 of the draft plan within less than a page volume features “Analysis of the need to introduce specific measures to limit the import of certain waste at the national level in accordance with Regulation (EC) 1013/2006 and Regulation (EU) No. 660/2014 amending Regulation (EC) No. 1013/2006 on shipments of waste”. According to the analysis:
    • Bulgaria has banned the import of waste for landfilling and is the only Member State that has introduced restrictions on the import of waste for incineration/co-incineration of waste.  It is recommended that restrictions on waste imports be applied for the period of the current National Waste Management Plan 2021-2028.
      In addition to this restriction, it is appropriate to continue to carry out strict controls as before, including before allowing the import of energy-efficient incineration waste to continue to carry out checks on the practical implementation of the specific installation for which the import is intended.
    • In case of need for recovery with energy manufacturing of larger quantities of local waste to introduce an additional restriction on waste import by requiring in the Waste Management Act to first incinerate waste generated from the territory of the country, after to be allowed to import.

      The texts referred to above clearly stated that the conditions that must be met and as to the steps to be taken in order to further restrict the import of waste, namely:
    • Demonstrating the need to recover larger quantities of local waste;
    • Amendment to the Waste Management Act to include such a requirement.

To date, there is no evidence of such a need, no in-depth, expert analysis and evaluation has been carried out, and even more, as described above in paragraph 1.4 of this opinion, local waste does not meet the requirements and criteria for to be utilized in the cement plants’ kilns.

  1. In case the draft NWMP 2021-2028 is amended by the existing texts related to the import of waste, please, before sending the document for consideration and approval to the Council of Ministers, take into account the following points of national legislation , including:
    • Adequate and expert analyses and assessments of the economic impact and impact of these changes, the impact on waste management policy, the impact on climate change mitigation policy should be made for the change of texts in the draft NWMP 2021-2028 ;
    • To ensure compliance with the provision of Article 49, Paragraph 2 of the Waste Management Act, namely – the plan to take into account the economic feasibility and impact on the economy and society .
    • For the changes in the draft NWMP 2021-2028 to carry out the required procedure for environmental assessment under the Environment Protection Act, given that the procedure already conducted and completed refers only to the draft NWMP ‘as is’ – respectively in case of change of the project it is necessary to initiate a new procedure for obligatory environmental assessment, as such amendment of the plan with inclusion of restrictions for import of waste will be significant in the sense of Article 2, Paragraph 1, Item 3 of the Ordinance on the terms and conditions for carrying out environmental assessment of plans and programmes;
    • Please hold consultations again under Article 51, Paragraph 2 of the Waste Management Act;
    • To take into account the provisions of Article 26 of the Law for the regulations, including:
      • To provide relevant evidence to respect the principles of necessity , validity, predictability, openness, coherence, subsidiarity, proportionality and stability;
      • To conduct the required public consultations with individuals and legal entities;
      • The draft plan shall be published on the website of the Ministry of Environment and Water together with the reasons, respectively the report, and the preliminary impact assessment under Article 20 of the Law for the normative acts;
      • After the end of the public consultation, a report on the received proposals should be published together with a justification for the rejected proposals.

We believe that non-compliance with these procedures would lead to the adoption of an illegal NWMP, therefore we are sending this opinion, asking you to take it into account.

In addition to the forefooting, we inform you that the Bulgarian Association of the Cement Industry is open for a meeting with the Minister of Environment and Water and the Prime Minister, if necessary, to present our position on the issues and its discussion.