Czech waste often ends up in landfills, despite European subsidies

Billions of euros in European subsidies have not changed how municipal waste is managed in the Czech Republic. Landfilling remains the most used method, even though it is the least appropriate. The country has also failed to increase waste recycling capacity or build or modernize waste-to-energy facilities. The Supreme Audit Office (SAO) said that waste production has not declined.

The SAO audited the use of state and European Union funds in this area between 2018 and 2020. Auditors focused on subsidies from the European Operational Programme Environment 2014-2020. The ministry has distributed CZK 9 billion until the end of 2020 and CZK 600 million in state subsidies from the National Environment Programme.

In 2020, almost half of municipal waste in the Czech Republic ended up in landfills, 39 percent of waste was reused or recycled, and only 13 percent of waste was recovered for energy use. According to the auditors, the Czech Republic’s priorities are opposite to current practice.

The fee has remained the same

The described situation was supported by the fact that the ban on landfilling in the Czech Republic was postponed from 2024 to 2030, and the landfill fee remained unchanged for 12 years, i.e., at CZK 500 per tonne of waste. It was only increased to CZK 800 from 2021.

However, the auditors pointed out that an exception in the law allows municipalities to landfill a substantial part of their waste at the initial rate until 2029, effectively favoring landfilling over other forms of waste management. For example, the energy recovery of one tonne of municipal waste costs an average of CZK 1,799 in 2021.

“The Ministry of the Environment does not expect a similar price for landfilling until 2028 – just two years before its complete ban. It should be added that between 2016 and 2020, the capacity of landfills in the Czech Republic intended mainly for municipal waste increased by 17 percent,” the SAO said.

The SAO audit also found that hazardous waste production in the Czech Republic also increased by 23 percent between 2016 and 2020. Yet only seven percent of dangerous waste taken to landfills was charged an increased, risky fee of CZK 4,500 per tonne, which the audit office said cost the state at least CZK 2.6 billion in those years alone.