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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City Hall Vows New Recycling Program

MTA crow picking through a Moscow garbage canister. City Hall promised Monday to start a recycling program instead of pressing ahead with an unpopular plan to build six waste incinerators. Environmentalists worry that the sudden change of heart is populist rhetoric before weekend elections.

Moscow City Hall promised Monday to start a recycling program instead of pressing ahead with an unpopular plan to build six waste incinerators.

But the sudden change of heart could be mere populist rhetoric before this weekend’s City Duma elections, environmentalists said.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov signed a decree in April 2008 to build six new incinerators in the capital, bringing the total number to 10, one in every district of Moscow except the center.

But for the past year, City Hall has faced resistance from residents who don’t want the incinerators in their neighborhoods, and many, including those in Yasenevo in the southwest of the city, have created public interest groups to protest Luzhkov’s decree. The complaints were discussed at a City Hall meeting last week on the capital’s development plans through 2025.

“We are firmly saying to Muscovites that the Moscow government has reconsidered its program for waste management,” Deputy Mayor Pyotr Biryukov said at a news conference Monday.

“We listened to Muscovites’ opinion against the incinerators during the city planning meeting. We will begin garbage sorting first,” he said.

Moscow currently burns about 27 percent of its waste, and the rest is taken to landfills, he said, adding that there was only enough landfill space left for the next three to five years.

In three years, Moscow will open a hydroseparator facility that will be able to sort 700,000 tons of garbage a year in Lyubertsy, a Moscow region town on the southeastern outskirts of the capital, Biryukov said. A hydroseparator sorts light and heavy garbage using water.

The facility will also produce 60 megawatts of electricity, Biryukov said, adding that Moscow needs 10 or 11 such facilities.

He said the city government would approve a recycling program within a month.

But some environmentalists fear that City Hall’s apparent change of heart is nothing but a populist measure ahead of Moscow City Duma elections on Sunday. Alexei Kiselyov, a waste expert at Greenpeace, noted that Luzhkov’s decree ordering the construction of incinerators had not been revoked. Moreover, the technology for the new garbage sorting facility is not entirely clear, he said.

“If toxic waste like mercury or cadmium is not separated before the rest goes into the facility, it will contaminate the water and the organic waste used for energy generation,” he said.

Since Moscow does not have a toxic waste-collection program, household waste also contains batteries and thermometers.

City Hall will discuss the municipal waste management program on Oct. 13, two days after the elections.

Also Monday, Deputy Mayor Sergei Baidakov decried “surrogate technologies” that let people gamble online despite a casino ban that came into force in July. “All of a sudden Muscovites need more Internet clubs, there are new lottery clubs,” he said.

He said City Hall would forbid Internet cafes from giving people access to gambling web sites.