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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Long Road to the City Dump A Candy Wrapper Journeys Through An Official Mess

For a piece of litter dropped on a Moscow street to make its way to a city dump during the capital's spring cleanup, it must pass through a bureaucratic maze of overlapping ministries, slipped responsibilities and general uncertainty in the chain of command.


City officials involved in the operation say that this year they are often doing battle as much with each other as with the garbage.


"You can find parks where part is being cleaned by one group and another part is not, because neither group can agree on responsibility", said Nikolai Solnich, head of Moscow's legislative Committee of City Management.


"We are aware that there is a lot of confusion right now".


The confusion reigns on many levels.


Asked whom a person should call to have garbage removed from a sidewalk on Ulitsa Tver-skaya, Anatoly Isachkin, the deputy chief of the organization responsible for cleaning city streets, replied: "I don't know. I think nobody".


Isachkin said that despite the confusion in the city's clean-up apparatus, the annual spring drive to spruce up Moscow was on schedule for a May 31 completion, an assertion confirmed by a drive through the city.


Flower beds in the center are groomed and many parks have been raked and had repairs made to playground equipment.


Still, a weighty bureaucracy complicates the work. Deposit a piece of litter on a Moscow street -- a candy wrapper, for example -- and a bureaucratic chain reaction is launched.


At the beginning of its journey, Isachkin said, the candy wrapper is the responsibility of Mosdor, a bureaucracy responsible for the appearance of city streets.


In the past, Mosdor controlled a fleet of water-spraying trucks, but following reorganization last year, the group lost its trucks and now must order them from regional garages which sometimes do not heed the call, Isachkin said. Some of the garages have even been privatized, making their compliance voluntary.


The spray from these trucks pushes the garbage from the street to the sidewalk.


Once there, it becomes the responsibility of a different group. "We are only responsible for the streets", said Isachkin.


But precisely which group next assumes responsibility for the candy wrapper depends upon whose doorstep it lands on.


If the doorstep is state-owned, then the local REU, Repair and Exploitation Administration, is responsible.


These groups, which oversee Moscow's corps of street-sweepers, are managed by each city district, with every district divided into several dozens of groups.


If the candy wrapper lands on a private or cooperative doorstep, then it is the responsibility of residents to sweep it back onto the street and into a pile where it may be picked up by yet another organization. If a Mosdor spray truck happens to pass by first, however, the process begins anew.


If the candy wrapper should land in a park or city square, then it becomes the responsibility of Moslesopark, a bureaucracy that concerns itself with living things such as trees, flowers and grass. However, if it landed on a walkway in the park then Moslesopark workers would leave it for the local REU.


"Moslesopark is only responsible for things that are green", said Solnich of the Committee of City Management.


Once dutifully swept into a pile with other garbage, the candy wrapper is picked up by workers of the garbage removal department, Ekotekprom, and hauled to one of Moscow's dumps. In March, the city instituted a new monthly garbage pick-up tax of 8 rubles per person to cover this service.


"Pay is too low, the work has no prestige and workers are leaving", Solnich said.


The labor shortage is evident. Beneath sunny skies Wednesday, Sergei Vasilyev and a team of five orange-vested workers raked leaves from the grass along Suvorovsky Boulevard and complained that last year they had 11 workers for the same job.


"Nobody wants to do this work", said Vasilyev, who earns 13, 000 rubles ($15. 80) per month. "I don't. I don't like it at all".