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Hazardous waste management: Challenges and solutions in Serbia

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Hazardous waste, characterized by its explosiveness, flammability, toxicity, and infectiousness, poses significant environmental and health risks. Kristina Cvejanov, a waste management expert, emphasizes the prevalence of hazardous waste across various sectors, including agriculture, medicine, industry, and mining.

The Environmental Agency’s data reveals that Serbia generates approximately 80,000 tons of industrial hazardous waste annually, excluding mining waste. However, specific information on the environmental and health impacts of this waste remains limited.

One notable case highlighting the adverse effects of hazardous mining waste on human health occurred in the village of Zajača, where lead contamination from an antimony mine led to elevated lead levels in children’s blood.

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Despite these challenges, some progress has been made in hazardous waste management. Serbian industries, particularly in electrical and electronic waste and battery recycling, have processed around 80,000 tons of hazardous waste annually. However, a considerable amount of hazardous waste from households and businesses still ends up in mixed municipal waste, contributing to environmental pollution.

Exporting hazardous waste for treatment, primarily to Austrian and German facilities, costs the Serbian economy millions of euros annually. This reliance on foreign treatment facilities, coupled with high export costs, increases the risk of illegal dumping and underscores the need for domestic hazardous waste treatment facilities.

Although efforts have been made to establish such facilities, progress has been hindered by public opposition and bureaucratic challenges. However, initiatives like the hazardous waste power plant project by the Elixir Group offer hope for sustainable waste management solutions.

In addition to legal waste disposal methods, illegal practices, such as burning waste oil or dumping hazardous materials into the environment, persist. Addressing these issues requires not only the development of the domestic waste industry but also improved inspection control and public education on proper waste management practices.

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Despite the challenges, companies like Set Reciklaža, Remondis Madison, and Ekotane are making significant contributions to hazardous waste management in Serbia, demonstrating the potential for sustainable solutions in the future.

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