Bulgarian MPs passed on second reading on June 28 the Refuse Management Act, bringing to conclusion a legislative process that started more than a year ago and drew the ire and infringement proceedings from the European Commission.
The law is meant to transpose European Union law concerning refuse management, but the main reason for debate and delays have proven the provisions regulating the activity of scrap yards in Bulgaria.
Metal scrap collection is one of the major sources of income for many members of Bulgaria’s Roma minority. Not always, however, does it occur entirely lawfully – Bulgarian media is rife with stories of stolen electricity cables and covers of sewerage access shafts; Roma are usually blamed, sometimes with good cause, but also the owners of scrap yards who routinely accept such items without much concern as to their provenience.
Scrap yard owners were among the most vocal opponents to the law – in particular to a provision that required scrap yards to be built in areas with an approved general urban plan, which most municipalities in Bulgaria do not have, meaning that a great many scrap yards would have to close down. The Constitutional Court was asked to rule on the matter and declared the provision unconstitutional.
Under the new law, scrap yard owners will have to apply for new permits within six months of the law coming into force. They will also be required to make payments only via bank transfer, not in cash, and maintain constant video surveillance, with recordings being kept for a period of at least one year.
Other provisions of the law require municipalities to recycle biodegradable and construction refuse. Municipalities with a population of more than 10 000 people will be required to recycle at least half of the household waste generated by their residents by the year 2020, thus reducing in half the refuse now being stored in large refuse pits throughout the country.
(Overflowing rubbish bins remains one of Sofia’s big problems, not least because the city has largely exhausted its own storage capacity. Photo: Klearchos Kapoutsis/flickr.com)