Eurostat reports that the production of urban waste in the EU is increasing every year. Portuguese nationals each produce an average of 514 kgs of urban waste. That is just above the European average of 505 kgs but below major consumers like Denmark (845 kg) and Luxembourg (790 kg).

On the 17th of May – World Recycling Day – the country didn’t look good, say environmentalists pointing to an excessive failure in the recycling of waste.

In 2020 only 16,1% of municipal waste (8,9% from plastic, paper, glass, and metals; 7,2 % from organic material) was sent for recycling, a long way from the goal set, according to the environmental NGO Zero. This recycling rate even decreased compared to 2019 – when recycling reached 21% – and is far from the EU target of 55% set for 2025.

The same poor result is seen with electronic waste. Only 15 % was collected, less than a quarter of the target! The picture only improved a little for batteries – with 29% collected against a target of 45%.

Zero adds that the drop in the recycling rate ‘contradicts the official line that in a pandemic year there would have been widespread compliance with recycling practices’.

The NGO further believes that the continued focus on selective collection through Eco points (recycling points) – instead of door-to-door collection – explains the stagnation of the recycling rate throughout the years.
There are now a total of 70.000 Eco points compared to 45,000 in 2019.  

The good news, however, is the transformation of waste into hydrogen, which subsequently can be used for public transport and waste collection vehicles.

In November last year the municipality of Cascais – in cooperation with the Portuguese companies Floating Particle (‘technology’) and IPIAC (‘machinery’) started with the installation of a production unit capable of converting 50 tonnes of household waste into 5 tonnes of hydrogen per year.

By investing in this technology with two hundred thousand euros, the municipality is contributing locally to solving two urgent environmental problems.  The management of household waste (eliminating transport costs and the use of landfills) and the use of fossil fuel energies, which are highly polluting and – since the war in Ukraine – increasingly expensive.

The unit – called Stella – is located in the parish of Alcabideche and will only need household waste –plastic, paper, and organic material but not glass or metals – air and a small amount of water, being self-sufficient in terms of energy.

Enjoy the week                     Aproveite a semana      (pic PtRes/Público)

‘This is almost wartime spying’

According to the Portuguese newspaper Expresso, Russians infiltrated the refugee support office of the communist-led municipality of Setúbal. Exhausted Ukrainians fleeing the war were welcomed in Russian and said to be asked questions like ‘where is your husband’ and ‘what is he doing in Ukraine’.

The two Russian nationals are Yulia Khashina and her husband Igor Khashin. Yulia is employed by the town council, her husband not. Yet it is Igor who appears to have been registering personal details of around 160 refugees on the computer in the office.

SIC television news revealed that Edinstvo (the Immigrants association of Eastern European countries) – headed by Igor Khashin – has benefitted 90,000 euros from the town council of Setubal over the last three years.

Early in April, Igor Khashin was also one of the names highlighted by Inna Ohnivets – the Ukrainian ambassador in Portugal – who alerted the media of the risk of espionage in allowing Russians receiving refugees who – in Igor Khashin’s case – are known to have close links to the Russian embassy.

According to Expresso, the 47-year-old Khashin has represented Portugal in Moscow at a world congress of Russian compatriots, where he signed a declaration agreeing with the annexation of Crimea and considering Ukraine’s Maidan revolution to be a coup d’etat.

The town council and its communist mayor Andre Martins, however, deny any irregularity in the registration of personal documents or that confidentiality is broken. Nevertheless, the council removed its Russian employee Yulia from processing incoming refugees until the controversy has been unequivocally settled and called for a full investigation by the Ministry of Interior.

The problem with this story is, that it is set against the PCP’s
(Portuguese Communist Party) support of Russia and its strong negative feelings towards Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Pavlo Sadokha – president of the Association of Ukrainians in Portugal – told CNN Portugal that the infiltration of pro-Putin Russians in NGOs, that support Ukranian war refugees, is not confined to Setúbal; similar reports are also coming out of Aveiro, Montijo, Gondomar, and Albufeira.

This controversy seems to be much more serious than the Russia-related data protection fiasco uncovered in Lisbon last year for which the Lisbon City Council was fined 1.2 million euros. At that time the council had been supplying the Russian embassy – targeted by demonstrations – with the names and contacts of the three dissidents behind the events.

‘In that case, the issue was administrative failing (albeit very serious)’ – says SIC political commentator Luis Marques Mendes – ‘this time it is almost wartime spying’.

Enjoy the week            Aproveite a semana               (pic PtRes/Público)