Many of us often ask ourselves how to properly manage household waste. Do we have an obligation to sort waste? Do we face penalties for improper waste management? And how are municipal waste charges set?
Nobody likes the sight of large landfills, which are not only unaesthetic but also pose a health and hygiene risk and a burden on the environment. Landfilling should therefore be phased out in the European Union by 2030.
The so-called waste hierarchy is used to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. “Most people in the Czech Republic regularly recycle waste, but few know that recycling is only third in the waste hierarchy, which is enshrined in the Waste Act on the basis of European regulations. Prevention and reuse take priority over recycling,” explains Eduarda Hekšová, director of the consumer organisation dTest.
The worst situation would occur if no waste was generated. However, the alternative way of life called “zero waste”, i.e. life without waste, is still an unattainable ideal. Although many people try to move towards this ideal, it can be demotivating when the amount of waste produced is not reflected, for example, in the amount of municipal waste charges.
The municipal waste charge is set by each municipality independently in accordance with the Waste Act and the Local Charges Act. The amount of the fee may vary from municipality to municipality. Only the maximum amount of the fee, CZK 1 000, is set by law. However, a municipality may decide not to levy a municipal waste fee.
The council is able to choose the criteria on which it sets the municipal waste charge. The first criterion may be permanent residence or ownership of property in the municipality. However, this is a very formal criterion which does not take into account the amount of waste produced. The second criterion may be the presumption that the activities of an individual in the municipality generate waste. “If the fee is levied on the basis of the second assumption, it is possible to be exempted from the obligation to pay the fee. However, this requires proof that the person does not produce any waste. It is clear from the decisions of the courts that it is not sufficient to show merely that a person disposes of waste elsewhere. For example, if you own a cottage in a municipality that collects the fee based on the second criterion mentioned above, you cannot avoid the fee by taking the waste to your place of residence, where you also pay the fee,” says Eduarda Hekšová.
Because municipalities can choose their own criteria for collecting the municipal waste fee, there is often a situation where you pay the fee more than once. However, some municipalities provide discounts, for example, for students who can prove that they are in another city where they study for most of the year. So it is always a good idea to check the municipality’s fee ordinance.
The municipal waste fee is not the only thing that a municipality decides in relation to waste. The municipality is obliged to establish a waste management system by ordinance.
If you produce waste, you are required to segregate it and dispose of it in designated places in accordance with the municipal ordinance and the Waste Act. Thus, there is an obligation to segregate waste paper, plastic, glass, metals, hazardous waste and biological waste of vegetable origin. The municipality is then obliged to provide places for the disposal of this waste. “Since the beginning of this year, municipalities must also provide places for the disposal of edible oils and fats, which cause clogging of public sewers and pollution of other waste,” warns Eduarda Hekšová.
Failure to segregate waste can be punished as an offence. To sort waste correctly, it is always a good idea to read the instructions on the container. Some wastes can be disposed of together, for example, beverage cartons are properly disposed of in containers with paper in some municipalities and with plastic in others. At the same time, not all types of paper, plastic or metal can be disposed of in containers.
It can in no way restrict the production of municipal waste by individuals and has a duty to allow all municipal waste to be disposed of. It cannot, for example, set a maximum amount of municipal waste that it will accept.
Specific waste that cannot be prevented is household electrical equipment, tyres or lamps and fluorescent tubes. “In this case, producers and sellers are obliged to take back these products to ensure their further use or disposal,” concludes Eduarda Hekšová.