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Moscow, Russia’s sprawling capital of 12.36 million, has a waste problem. The city has no recycling system: all the city’s waste goes to landfills. Rubbish sent to landfills has increased by 30% over the past ten years. These landfills were originally located outside of Moscow, but due to encroachment are now within the city’s borders.

Residents of Moscow’s suburbs and outlying areas are fed up with the unsightly landfills and the stench they produce. In March, before Russia’s presidential election, thousands turned up to protest in towns around the capital. They demanded the government close down the overflowing landfill sites, abandon plans to build incinerator plants, and introduce a recycling program.

As discussed in an article in Open Democracy, now that waste disposal has become a political problem for Russia’s capital, city and federal authorities are looking to transfer waste to other regions by creating new landfills in Arkhangelsk and Yaroslavl oblasts, north of the capital.

In 2013, there were 12 landfill sites serving the Russian megapolis, and the Moscow region authorities planned to close them down and create facilities to sort and incinerate refuse. Andrey Vorobyev, the Moscow region’s governor, assured the public that the waste sites were closing down as planned. Now, in 2018, however the greater Moscow area’s detritus is providing work for 15 sites, a third of which have plans for expansion; three more are at the planning stage.

The authorities claim that the landfill sites and heaps are safe, and that the stink is a temporary inconvenience, but people don’t believe them. They say that the rubbish isn’t sorted, so toxic waste (batteries, medicines and paints and varnishes) end up in landfill. Rotting food waste also produces liquid effluent that leaches into the soil and contaminates ground, water and nearby ponds and rivers.

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