Neither medical nor hazardous waste will be incinerated in Sveti Nikole

Photo: Active fire at the municipal landfill in Sveti Nikole photographed by the auditors; Source: Audit report for PUK "Komunalec" of the State Audit Office

The construction of the regional landfill has been going on for ten years. The process is long and constantly exceeds the amount of misinformation, which is why it is created in the public, especially among the residents of Saint Nikole and exists, and the implementation has been continued many times so far in certain stages. Fake news is shared mostly on social media, by individuals or groups with different interests

The construction of the regional landfill has been ongoing for a dozen years. The process is long and always burdened with disinformation and building public resistance, especially among the citizens of Sveti Nikole and the region. Consequently, the implementation of specific phases was prolonged many times. Fake news is usually disseminated on social media by individuals or different interest groups


No type of waste will be burnt in the regional landfill in village Meckuevci in the Municipality Sveti Nikole. The facility, which should represent the first landfill fulfilling European standards in the country, will have just two installations for the secondary selection of paper, plastic, glass, wood, and metal, thereby treating and depositing municipal waste. The landfill in Sveti Nikole will not even treat medical waste from these two regions. As is the case now, this waste classified as hazardous, will be collected by licensed companies, and taken to the landfill “Drisla” in Skopje. 

The construction of the regional landfill has been ongoing for a dozen years. The process is long and always burdened with disinformation and building public resistance, especially among the citizens of Sveti Nikole and the region. Consequently, the implementation of specific phases was prolonged many times. Fake news was usually disseminated on social media by individuals or different interest groups. Political parties were also active in spreading fake news because stalling the process scores political points without considering the harm caused. The resistance towards the regional landfill could have been noted in the work of the local institutions – the Mayor, the Municipality of Sveti Nikole, and the Municipal Council. Subsequently, the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning adopted a Decision to revoke the competencies of the local government in April last year. 

Usually, the fake claims about the regional landfill were related to medical and hazardous waste treatment, thereby identifying Sveti Nikole with Chernobyl. The post on the social network Facebook, shared on the 22nd of April 2022 by Igor Andonov, inter alia, claims the following: 

“Today someone decided to turn that nature into a regional landfill that will collect and burn waste from all over Europe, especially medical waste. You should know that due to the wind and the rain, all that poison will cover the entire region of Ovce Pole. The price of a ton of waste is 100,000 euros. Do you know why that is the price? To attract the greedy landlords of this so-called state and to put their children in the hands of the devil for a handful of silver coins. We became victims of limited intellect with limitless power. Sveti Nikole must not become Chernobyl of the Balkans! 

Furthermore, in another post shared on the 16th of October 2023 by Aleksandar Simonov, an advisor from the political party Levica in the Council of Sveti Nikole said the following: 

“Behind closed doors within the Ministry of Environment, without the presence of the media and full exclusion of the public, the constitutional session establishing the Executive Board of the joint (regional) public enterprise “Ecco East – North-East” took place thereby adopting the Decision on a draft-Statute of the enterprise that will be submitted to the Councils. 

As previously reported, the draft Statute of the enterprise (Article 10) specifies the ACTIVITY of the enterprise as Collecting HAZARDOUS WASTE and TREATMENT AND DISPOSAL OF HAZARDOUS WASTE! 

The regional sanitary landfill for the Eastern and Northeastern planning region will be built per the latest contemporary European standards and will be located in the MeckuevciArbasanci villages area explains the Ministry of Environment. The landfill is expected to improve waste management significantly in the two regions and the Municipality Sveti Nikole, with better collection, selection, treatment, and recycling of waste, including its safe disposal. Its impact on the environment and social aspects are determined in an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Study, including recommended measures for mitigation, prevention, reduction, or removal of these effects. 

“This document defines measures for preventing the impact on the quality of air, soil, and the occurrence of unpleasant smells. The regional landfill will be located in an unpopulated place within the area, it will be fenced, and a green barrier will be created along its perimeter to prevent wind littering and to improve the views from the regional road. To protect air quality and prevent smells, active loading, and unloading of waste will be carried out on a minimum area, and waste will be compacted and covered with soil. To reduce dust emissions, the wheels of the trucks will be washed, and the roads will be sprayed with water during the Summer months. To protect the soil and ground waters, a system for collecting and treating leakages will be installed”, says Ana Karanfilova-Maznevska, Head of the Sector for Waste Management within the Ministry of Environment. 

She believes that with the construction of the regional sanitary landfill conditions will be created for good and controlled waste management, as a solution for the current environmental and health problems stemming from the dozens of illegal dumps and one uncontrolled landfill that is constantly on fire. 

“The landfill was constructed for 18 municipalities taking into consideration the number of the population and the quantity of produced waste. Other municipalities, from other regions must not dispose of their waste there. No kind of waste – including medical waste – will be burned in the regional landfill. Instead, a secondary selection of paper, plastic, glass, wood, and metal will be carried out there”, says Karanfilova-Maznevska. 

The Study, particularly the part describing the waste management system of the new landfill, clearly specifies that it will consist of six local and one central facility in Sveti Nikole. There will be transfer stations, composting plants, and collection points for mixed and separate waste of the citizens in the local facilities in Berovo, Makedonska Kamenica, Vinica, Stip, Rankovce, and Kumanovo. This waste consists of construction waste and rubble, bulky waste such as mattresses, furniture, carpets, and the kind, metal objects such as scrap metal radiators, and waste from electrical and electronic household appliances. 

The only waste mentioned in the Study that, in compliance with the law, is deemed hazardous, but produced by every household is municipal hazardous waste. This waste consists of paints for furniture or wood, medicines used by family members, as well as household cleaning products that are currently disposed of together with the rest of the municipal waste produced by every household. 

In the circular economy, waste is a precious raw material, however, its treatment and reuse incite public fear of pollution – justified to a certain extent – and that is one of the reasons for the big resistance to projects like regional landfills. 

For example, a post shared by the civic initiative STOP the construction of regional landfill Sveti Nikole, published on the 17th of April 2019 on Facebook claims the following: 

“This will be a landfill that will stack waste because there is only one landfill in entire Europe that fully recycles waste. All the rest is dumping waste and that will pollute the environment, most of all threatening the health of the inhabitants of the Municipality Sveti Nikole as well as the farmers who are inclined towards organic production. We will not allow a regional landfill in Sveti Nikole! 

Professor Dame Dimitrovski from the Faculty of Machinery believes that consumerism has taken over the world, along with individual packing practices, the speedy development of new technologies making the old ones obsolete, the need for building new facilities, maintaining technological processes, machines, and substitute elements produces enormous quantities of waste. The waste produced by the Macedonians is similar to that produced by the average European citizen. 

“The construction of modern waste management plants and sanitary landfills as their integral part is related to the issue of whether we want to live in a clean environment or we want to be surrounded by dumping sites and rubbish. The quantity of municipal waste produced is from the 21st century, while the way we manage municipal waste remained in the 19th century. The fear that you are explaining is not a Macedonian syndrome, nor is it unknown in Europe at a time when good waste management practices are being developed. “Not in my backyard” was the motto of some of the projects in their initial phase when the local population was not well informed about the project, the technology used, and the protective measures”, says Dimitrovski. 

He stresses that one of the challenges that need overcoming during the first construction of such a project is sensitizing the local population or regularly presenting the project, equipment, and experience from similar facilities and systems with the environment. That will help the inhabitants accept these projects and participate in their implementation so as to achieve the desired resultEuropean waste management practices. 

“The need for sensational news and negative stories in some of the media is not substituted with positive stories and good practices happening around us. The work of public media and releasing information is accountable for creating public opinion therefore reporting sensational information instead of a comprehensive outlook bears responsibility for stalling implementation of green projects”, stresses professor Dimitrovski. 

After the construction and start of the operation of the first such project in Macedonia, he expects the next centers to be sensitized much easier and faster, bearing in mind the positive experience from Sveti Nikole. Dimitrovski explains that experience from other countries shows that building a landfill for every municipality is not an appropriately applicable solution. Such a solution brings about more investment, higher operational costs, and greater environmental impact. Theoretically, for a country like Macedonia, the number of waste management centers that have landfills should be eight at the most, meaning each planning region would have its center or smaller planning regions would have a common waste management and disposal center. 

The disinformation disseminated about this major project affects not only environmental but also economic and social aspects, especially by claiming that the additional pollution will ruin villages struggling with declining population. 

Hence, the post of the local branch office of the political party Levica in Sveti Nikole, published on the 20th of April 2022, demands a referendum concerning the construction of the regional landfill, because, as it specifies: 

“We think that the implementation of this project will not only harm the bio-sphere, ecco-sphere, and the entire quality of life of the inhabitants of Sveti Nikole, but it will also increase the immigration trend that will continue even more intensively leading to full destruction of this small town. A referendum is one of the last legal mechanisms that will allow us to oppose this decision. We are obliged to leave a town with a healthy environment for future generations!”

Blaze Josifovski, President of the civic organization “Bidi Zelen” (Be Green) deems that the construction of the landfill in Sveti Nikole with European standards will not only bring about significant improvements in waste treatment, protection of the environment and health but will also open new opportunities for the young people in these regions. 

“The development, construction, and operation of the landfill demands a diverse scope of skills and expertise. Young people can find job opportunities in the various sectors such as engineering, construction, waste management, environmental monitoring, administration, and maintenance”, emphasized Josifovski. 

He says that with a landfill fulfilling European standards, not only the town, but the entire region will secure better disposal and waste management, prevent illegal dumping and burning waste in open spaces, reduce potential health risks, and protect public health thereby improving living conditions and potentially attract young people to return instead of leaving the region. 


(This article was developed with the support of Journalismfund Europe)



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