Waste management in the Czech Republic: subsidies in billions of CZK did not effect a change, landfilling still plays a crucial role
Press release on Audit No. 21/06 of 6 June 2022
The Supreme Audit Office (SAO) carried out an audit of the Ministry of the Environment (MoE) and the State Environmental Fund of the Czech Republic (SEF), in order to verify how the subsidies helped to the waste prevention, to the proper waste management and to achieving other set goals.
The auditors focused on subsidies from the 2014-2020 Operational Programme Environment (OPEn), from which the MoE distributed CZK 9 billion by the end of 2020, as well as CZK 600 million of national subsidies from the “National Environment Programme”. During the audit, the SAO detected major problems in waste management in the Czech Republic. Although national and European strategy documents indicate that landfilling is the least appropriate way of managing municipal waste, landfilling remains the most widely used method in the Czech Republic. Waste production is not declining either, although this is a priority objective of national waste policy together with the waste prevention. European subsidies helped neither to increase the recycling capacity nor to modernize or build facilities for energy recovery of other waste.
In 2020, 48 % of municipal waste in the Czech Republic ended up in landfills, 39 % of the waste was recovered, i.e. reused or recycled, and only 13 % of the waste was used for energy. However, the priorities of the Czech Republic are set in the opposite direction: efforts to prevent waste come first, followed by reuse and recycling. Below is the energy recovery, and only the last place is the landfilling itself. The practice in the Czech Republic is therefore just the opposite, the SAO experts have found.
The situation was supported by the fact that the landfill ban was postponed from 2024 to 2030 and that the landfill fee remained unchanged for 12 years at CZK 500 per tonne of waste. Since 2021, it has risen to CZK 800. However, the exemption in the law allows municipalities to deposit a substantial part of their waste at the original rate until 2029. This effectively favours landfilling over other forms of waste management. By comparison, the energy recovery of one tonne of municipal waste cost on average CZK 1,799 in 2021. The MoE does not expect a similar price for landfilling until 2028 — that is, only two years before its total ban. It should be added that between 2016 and 2020, the capacity of landfills for municipal waste in the Czech Republic increased by 17 %.
The SAO’s audit also detected that the production of hazardous waste in the Czech Republic increased by 23 % between 2016 and 2020. However, only 7 % of hazardous waste transported to landfills was charged with an increased, risk fee of CZK 4,500 per tonne. The state lost at least CZK 2.6 billion in these years alone.
The auditors also focused on European subsidies for the prevention and management of waste. With their help, the landfilling of municipal waste was significantly reduced. Increasing waste recycling capacity or building or modernising existing waste recovery facilities failed — by the end of 2020, the two monitored indicators were met in the order of few percent, so it is clear that the Czech Republic will not reach the target values.
The transposition of EU waste management directives into the Czech legal order, as well as the fulfilment of their objectives, proved problematic. The Czech Republic was obliged by mid-2021 at the latest to adopt laws that would restrict the use of disposable plastic products. So far, no such legislation has been adopted. In another case, the Czech Republic should have ensured that the share of biodegradable municipal waste deposited in landfills was reduced. This had not been achieved by the end of 2020.
In checking a sample of 11 projects supported by the OPEn, the SAO found deficiencies, which it assessed as a suspected breach of budgetary discipline. The problems related, for example, to discrimination against tenderers, bookkeeping or reimbursement of ineligible expenditure.
An interactive annex to supplement the Audit Report from Audit No. 21/06 is available here: https://www.nku.cz/scripts/detail.php?id=12406 (only Czech).
Supreme Audit Office
- Audit report No. 21/06 (pdf, 545 kB)