Russians Learn Waste Decision-Making

A three-year project between the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME), Toronto, and the Russian Federal State Committee on Environmental Protection, Moscow, is helping Russian government agents, researchers, professors and private company officials implement an effective waste management plan.

As part of the Russia Canada Cooperative Environmental Decision-making Project, two delegations of Moscovites have visited Toronto within the past year to observe Toronto solid waste professionals making decisions regarding environmental issues. In turn, three CCME-appointed Canadians have presented papers at workshops sponsored by the project in Moscow. Another round of workshops is planned for October.

The $1.6 million project is operating under an agreement with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Toronto, which offers developing countries technical and other assistance. Russia's decision-making process is the opposite of Canada's, says Brian Wilkes, project director.

"All participants [in Canada] come to the table as equals and all [decisions] are made by consensus," he says. "In Russia, they recognize they can no longer control all the decision-making from the center, and that they need alternative habits for more reasonable decision-making."

Attempts to reach two Russian participants via e-mail were unsuccessful.

In Moscow and Toronto, Canadian officials are meeting with delegates to discuss not only how to make decisions on waste management program implementation, but also how to generate funds for programs, says project participant Geoff Rathbone, vice president of technical and market development for Corporations Supporting Recycling (CSR), Toronto.

"They don't have the proper ownership or municipal tax base we enjoy here," he says. "Also, there is some involvement of [the solid waste] industry in Canada, whereas in Russia, there is virtually no industry involvement [in setting up waste reduction or recycling programs]."

The main goal of the project, which is set to end Dec. 31, 2000, is to help Russia adopt a decision-making model similar to Canada's, including an increase in the amount of public consultation, more consensus and communication among government departments, and a clear-cut plan on what to do with the waste generated by Moscow's 9 million citizens, Wilkes says.

"We're taking a situation where solid waste is a serious problem and are introducing an opportunity for them to improve the decision-making around these problems and accelerate finding so- lutions," he says.

The program might sound one-sided, but Canadians also are benefiting, Wilkes adds.

"We are being offered the opportunity to demonstrate our techniques and technologies to Russians, and there may be business opportunities around that," he says. "It also helps strengthen the cooperative relations between the two countries."

The Moscovites also have visited two landfills and examined recycling programs for single-family homes, apartments and public spaces. Apartment recycling is especially important to the Russians because approximately 95 percent of Moscow's population lives in high-rise apartments, Rathbone says.

It is too early to tell how successful the program will be overall, but Wilkes says the enthusiasm is apparent. The Canadian delegation is considering developing a pilot project for recycling and waste reduction in Moscow, he says.

"This project is sowing the seeds. We may not see something come to fruition in the course of the project, but we think it could," Wilkes says. "If it doesn't, at least there is a solid foundation built."