Looking for Green Space

After spending time in Western Europe or North America, you feel guilty throwing a glass bottle into the trash or sweeping a pile of newspapers from your desk into the garbage bin. Unfortunately, in Moscow there are few other options.

Although Russia's biggest metropolis is overflowing with trash, there is no infrastructure for recycling. Some companies are starting to introduce energy-efficiency measures into the office in an attempt to save the company budget as well as the environment. But even at the offices of environmental organizations, this is a daunting task.

"We had to sort the paper ourselves and then take it to a collecting site when the pile got too high," said Svetlana Belova of the World Wildlife Fund.

There are many such sites in every Moscow district for those willing to make the effort, with 12 in the Central Administrative District alone; some are operated by the city and others by private companies. But unfriendly infrastructure is just one of the problems with encouraging recycling in Russia. A bigger issue is the lack of awareness about the connections between waste, recycling and the environment. "Many people support our environmental initiatives because it's cool and trendy, but there is not an understanding that personal habits are connected with the environment," Belova said.

When making an office more eco-friendly, it is easier to start from scratch than to work within pre-existing parameters. When Coca-Cola moved into its new office in January, the place was already equipped with sensor lights, energy-efficient computers and light bulbs, and recycling bins, said Maria Landekhovskaya, the company's Environmental Programs Specialist. To make employees actually use the recycling bins, Coca-Cola organized an exhibition that showed postconsumer products like rulers made from worn-out banknotes and clothing partially made from plastic bottles.

"I saw the result of our efforts when people started not only throwing bottles into recycling, but removing labels and caps, and even bringing paper and plastic from home so that it could be recycled as well," Landekhovskaya said.

In Moscow, it is often easier to introduce environmental standards at work than at home, since the servicing of residential buildings is dependent on the city, while offices hire private companies. Although there are firms that provide recycling containers to offices and transport sorted trash to recycling facilities, Moscow city officials are not so eager to engage these companies for apartment buildings.

"Unfortunately, most of household recycling in Moscow is done by bums who sell glass and aluminum at municipal collection points," said Igor Podgorny, project manager of Greenpeace's energy-conservation project. "Our studies show that Russians are more than happy to recycle if they are provided with the means to do so, but city government officials would rather build garbage incinerators, which pollute the atmosphere even more," he added.

Vladimir Filonov / MT
Recycling bins exist in Moscow, but locating them requires some dedication.

Ecobridge is one company that picks up paper products, in addition to receiving them at their main office in north Moscow. Ecobridge will even pay to take away your trash. Depending on the location of pickup, the amount of trash and the quality, Ecobridge will pay up to 8,000 rubles per ton. For a company with significant paper waste, recycling can actually save money, since trash collection prices are going up every year.

L&T Services, an eco-management company based in Finland, has recently started a joint program with the World Wildlife Fund to encourage office recycling. L&T will install recycling containers for white office paper and take the paper to a recycling facility for free.

"All the office worker needs to do is set aside unneeded paper during the day, and then just grab it on the way out to put into the container," L&T's Vladislav Potapenkov says. The company's long-term goal is to make office-paper recycling a required procedure, possibly supported by Russian legislation, Potapenkov said.

Other ways to cut down on office costs are to install energy-efficient equipment, print on both sides of a sheet of paper, install a water meter and turn off electrical appliances when not in use, said Greenpeace's Podgorny.

So far, Moscow offices that have environmental standards are mostly international firms with their own policies based on Western legislation.

"In Finland, companies are required to recycle 3 different kinds of paper, printer cartridges, plastic and food scraps, otherwise they face penalties," Potapenkov said. In light of these standards, Moscow still has a long way to go.


BMR, 177-9711, 201st Graivoronovsky Proyezd
Picks up and recycles metal waste.

Ecobridge, 456-01-51, 105-61-31,8 Zelenogradskaya Ul.
Picks up paper and textiles, pays 900 rubles and up.

L&T Services, 792-59-04
Provides containers, picks up and recycles office paper for free.

Vtorr, 952-21-33,81st Roshchinsky Proyezd, 952-21-33
Picks up paper in Moscow from 1 ton, pays 1,200 rubles and up.

Vtorsyryepererabotka, Georgiyevsky per., 692-11-04, 692-11-06
Has 50 collection points in the city, picks up sorted recyclables and sells recycling containers for offices and other facilities.

Moscow's recycling collection points: