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01 February 2016

No Time to Waste – New Waste Legislation in Slovakia

New Slovak waste management legislation affects virtually all levels of the waste management industry in Slovakia. This article provides basic information on the primary changes brought about by this new law.

New Slovak waste management legislation

After a lengthy legislative process, a new Slovak waste act (“Act”) has been approved. The Act, which came into effect on 1 January 2016, completely replaced the previous waste management and packaging legislative regime.

The new legislation affects all levels of waste management, and thus changes brought by the Act should be considered from the viewpoint of players in the waste management sector, such as producers of certain goods, municipalities, and entrepreneurs active in the waste management industry.

End of the Recycling Fund

Under the previous legislation, a specific fund – the so-called Recycling Fund – was established from obligatory fees imposed on manufacturers and importers, and designed to support the collection, recycling, and processing of certain types of waste. The funds were used for various projects including, for instance, supporting the construction of more effective recycling facilities. However, in practice the specific purpose and target of the Recycling Fund was unclear and thus it became subject to criticism from the waste management industry, primarily from waste producers.

The Act will dissolve the Recycling Fund as of 31 December 2016 and will gradually transfer its obligations and competences into extended responsibilities on waste products. Generally speaking, more effective waste treatment will be funded directly by producers of waste, rather than via another entity. Funds already accepted within the Recycling Fund will be transferred to an Environmental Fund.

Producer responsibility

Under previous waste management legislation, extended producer responsibility was applicable to enumerated types of waste, with specific rules for each type. Under the Act, this responsibility will be imposed in similar ways upon producers (including importers) of electrical appliances, batteries and accumulators, packaging, cars, tyres, and other non-packaging products (such as paper, cardboard, or glass). The Act also creates obligations to distributors of some of these products as well.

Obligations include various duties related mainly to the responsibility to treat waste resulting from a product placed on the Slovak market. Producers can fulfil these obligations:

(i) individually – in such cases producers would be obliged to create their own systems of handling of the relevant waste stream. In particular, they would be required to obtain authorisation for fulfilling their obligations directly from the Ministry of Environment; or

(ii) collectively – by fulfilling producer obligations collectively, through a producers’ organisation. The organisation would have to apply for authorisation from the Ministry of Environment.

As a new feature, the Act provides for the creation of a coordination centre responsible for each waste stream. This feature should provide self-regulation of management of various waste streams.

New regulation on municipal waste

Currently, more than 70 % of waste collected in Slovakia ends in landfills. In order to change this portion in favor of recycling or other treatment of waste, the Act imposes obligations on the producers, entrepreneurs, and on municipalities regarding the separation and recycling of waste and with respect to treatment of illegal landfills. The Act also regulates in greater detail the relationship between producers (or their collective organisation) and municipalities.

Other changes and deadlines for compliance

The Act includes additional changes, which on one hand increases the obligations of producers or distributors of goods which end as waste (in accordance with the main principle of the Act that the originators of waste should pay for it), but also includes provisions which should decrease the administrative burden on them. It remains to be seen whether the Act will be more effective and accepted than the previous law.

As the Act provides for a significant number of changes on all levels of waste management, subjects have various deadlines to comply with its terms. These deadlines come mostly in 2016, however, such as the deadline for applying for authorisation of collective organisation of producers, which falls on 30 June 2016.

It remains to be seen whether the new Act will serve as a more effective basis for the waste management sector in Slovakia.

authors: Soňa Hekelová, Michal Lučivjanský