Author: Rebeka Božović
Throw-away society, but No-throw-away stove
“Smederevac?” scrap metal dealers were almost puzzled when we interviewed them for the quantities of scrap metal coming from disused solid fuel stoves, “Oh yes, we do get one, every now and then!”
In Šumadija area, in central Serbia, as well as in many rural parts of the Western Balkans, the solid fuel household heating stoves stay in one family for at least 4, 5, sometimes even 6 decades, and when they are no longer in use for the purpose they were originally meant for, they still find a prolonged use in many, often original and creative ways. So, all across the region, one may find solid fuel stoves in detached buildings or sheds, such as even pigsties – to keep the farm animals warm during harsh winters, chicken coops and sheep pens – obviously for the same purpose, sheds by the houses used for the wood/pellet stocking, or wood sheds in the forests and in the plains where the farmers keep their stock during the winter.
Many in the Western Balkans, who built their new households and placed new, more efficient pellet stoves in new houses, kept the old household heating stove in the old house which they rarely ever tear down for some reason. They keep the stoves for “Ne daj Bože” (God forbid) purposes and use them occasionally when preparing preserves – “Zimnica” or rarely when they distil (“bake”, as they say) rakija (the plum and other fruits brandies), when the stove transforms from the disused household heating device, to a monster-like brandy-distillery.
Scarce findings of this type of stove on the scrap metal collection sites, bring us to the conclusion that once the change-out starts, there should either be a very strong financial incentive of at least 50% subsidy for the stove replacement in place, or a strong “old for new” rule with no exceptions for the installation, or, better still – both.
According to the generally accepted and almost identical rules of waste management throughout the region, waste management shall be performed in a manner ensuring the lowest risk to human life and environment, by reducing pollution of water, air and soil, by reducing dangers to plants and animals, as well as risks of accidents, and negative effects to landscape and natural resources.. Therefore, in order to deal with the waste arising from the replacement of disused household heating stoves with new more efficient ones in a responsible manner, we must ensure that disused household heating devices do not have a prolonged use after their substitution. Moreover, they should not appear on the second-hand market after collection and must be replaced swiftly with no room left for the end-users to dump them into the natural environment or do whatever else they used to do with wood stoves in the past – and, unfortunately, the present.
The entire region has issues with thousands of illegal dumpsites. Ms. Lira Hakani, Project Coordinator from EDEN Center claims that: “In Kosovo*, based on the field verification process in the 33 municipalities that reported to Kosovo Environmental Protection Agency, in June 2019, the total number of illegal dumpsites in these municipalities was 2246”. The aim of future change-out, besides other aims, has to be collection and recycling of all replaced devices from participating households.
According to the analysis, there are currently over 3 million solid fuels stoves that await replacement throughout the region, and with over 130.000 newly sold devices annually just over 84% come from two main Serbian manufacturers (see Table 1 below).
This fact puts the largest opportunity but also pressure on Serbian producers, urging them to find solutions for responsible collection, replacement and recycling of their devices. With no dedicated or regulated waste-management fee levied on producers for the devices placed onto the market, this responsibility lies solely on the awareness and enlightenment of producers and end-users.
If one assumes the number of newly sold devices as the potential number of replaced stoves with the average weight of two market leading stoves of around 78kg, and the purchase price paid out by scrap metal collectors of around €24 for the average weighted clean old stove, we see that potential generated waste in the region of the Western Balkans is over 10,000 tons per annum, with an estimated July 2021 scrap metal purchase value of €3,2 million.
Further, our waste management analysis of economic aspects of potential change-out schemes was aided by the calculation of average collection and transport costs by colleagues from “Komdel”, the business association of more than 100 local public waste management companies and related businesses operating in Serbia. According to these calculations, up to a minimum of EUR 155.400 is estimated to be needed for the collection and transport to the recycler, regardless of who the collector shall be: i) a respective waste collection company, ii) a respective local recycler or iii) project-based one-time collection scheme, that is to be decided in the preparation phase of any future change-out programme.
There is clearly a considerable potential for return on investment into design and implementation of a suitably informed collection scheme for old disused devices. Given i) the dangers of old devices being disposed of irresponsibly, ii) the growing price differential between old and environmentally more acceptable, eco-design devices and iii) the obvious need to invest into market education and development with suitably designed communications and marketing campaigns, none of this value should be allowed by future publicly-funded change-out schemes to go to waste.