Communities around Moscow struggle with city garbage
Moscow is clean and has well-managed public services, equivalent to many capitals in Western countries; However, the largest city in Russia also produces a lot of waste.
Moscow is home to 12 million people and its residents produce more than 7 million tonnes of waste each year. Russian authorities say it accounts for 20% of all waste produced in the largest country in the world. Industrial waste increases this number even more, note officials.
There is another problem: only a small percentage of all this waste is recycled.
Where does the waste go?
Much of this waste goes to places like Alexandrov, a historic city about 120 kilometers from the capital. It has one of the many landfills set up around Moscow.
But the people of Alexandrov are not happy with it. In recent years, they have seen garbage brought in from Moscow without permission, and it forms a mountain not far from the city.
Vladimir Saunin, 80, moved to the city a few years ago. I come here, and my eyes fill with water and my face becomes puffy, he said.
Saunin said he had hoped to enjoy his retirement by taking a walk in the forest and inside a fortress who briefly housed Tsar Ivan the Terrible.
Instead, my wife cannot leave the house, he said. It is a disaster. Everyone who lives here thinks the same.
Now, every change of wind brings a bad smell.
Some local residents spoke to VOA. They compared smell to radiation.
Alexander Kuyum grew up in the city and remembered that he used to be very beautiful, like a painting, he said.
The worst part is that they have shipped all of this garbage and now want to ship even more, he said.
Growing concerns about the public health risks of landfills have sparked great protests. Last December, approximately 5,000 people called for the landfills to be closed.
Similar protests have taken place in other cities in Russia. Moscow has still not developed an effective way to manage its waste or create recycling programs.
Many Russians are angry with Moscow for forcing the poorest communities to accept its waste. Now they say they have had enough.
I don't want to leave (the city), said Julia Gribnova, a young mother who spoke to VOA. I'm not saying that Moscow should live black misery. I'm just saying I don't want them to ship it here.
However, local activists fighting the landfill say the police only consider them troublemakers because they want clean air.
The story of Alexander Shestun shows how Moscow officials can control nearby areas. Shestun is a former chief of Sepukhov, a region south of Moscow. He joined local residents to oppose the effort to expand another landfill near their homes.
In private meetings with senior officials, he was told that the landfill decision had the backing of the new Governor Moscows. But Shestun recorded their comments for him and posted them online. He said he wanted to document a campaign of pressure against him in an appeal to President Vladimir Putin.
But within weeks, armed agents burst into their homes in Shestuns. He was taken to prison on corruption accusations, which his family and supporters say clearly false.
Shestun is scheduled to be tried in March.
The Russian government is under increasing pressure on the waste.
Putin announced waste and recycling reforms this year. He admitted that there was strong dissatisfaction with this. But it is not clear what will be done.
New government measures call for burning waste instead of recycling it. Environmentalists criticize the method because it causes pollution. In addition, Moscow and St. Petersburg are not required to follow the new measures.
Moscow recently set up blue recycling containers in the waste collection areas near apartment buildings around the city. Although a good sign, the local populations do not know how to use them.
I watch people recycle but don't sort anything, said Natalya, a resident of Moscow.
Sobirator is one of the few places where Muscovites can learn about recycling. It is a voluntary recycling center in one of the industrial areas of Moscows.
Tatyana Vasilyeva works at Sobirator. The problem we face is that there is no confidence in the residents that we can really put recyclables in it, and that they will go where they are supposed to. do, she said.
I'm Mario Ritter, Jr.
And I'm Ashley Thompson.
Mario Ritter Jr. adapted this Associated Press story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the publisher.
Words in this story
to recycle v. to reuse or make a product or substance available for reuse by natural processes
puffy adj. heavy or full size
fortress not. a solid building or structure; a fortress
disaster not. a disaster, a very bad event
black misery not. bad dirty conditions
corruption not. the act of giving money or something else to influence the judgment of another person
apartment not. a room or rooms in a building where many people live
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