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Waste Management System in Uzbekistan: Framework for Foreign Investors and Current Reforms

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published on 20 November 2020 | Reading time approx. 7 minutes


The Republic of Uzbekistan is currently making considerable efforts to solve environmental problems, in particular waste management, and is reforming its legislation in this area. In April 2019, the President of Uzbekistan adopted a “Solid Waste Management Strategy for the period 2019-2028” (further “the Strategy”). Its aim is to create an effective system for the treatment of waste. The reform will affect all companies that generate waste, including those in the life sciences industry. This new, long-term strategy of Uzbekistan also opens up great opportunities for potential investors to implement various projects in the field of waste management.



Competent public authorities

The Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan is the supreme competent body to approve State programmes for waste management and to establish sectoral procedures. The following four national authorities are specifically responsible for regulating waste management:


State Committee (Authority) of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Ecology and Environmental Protection

  • compliance with environmental legislation;
  • setting standards for the storage of waste and requirements for waste facilities;
  • determination of waste storage areas.


Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan

  • monitoring of compliance with defined hygiene standards;
  • assessment of sanitary and hygiene standards at the request of waste management operators and granting of appropriate permits;
  • setting hygiene standards for products produced from waste and issuing a hygiene certificate.


State Agency “Kommunchizmat”

  • development of investment projects involving international financial and economic institutions, e.g. Asia Development Bank;
  • participation in the work of foreign state financial organisations in the field of housing construction and municipal services.


State Committee (Authority) for Occupational Safety of the Republic of Uzbekistan

  • control and supervision of the storage and disposal of waste from the mining and manufacturing industries;
  • control of the radiation safety of radioactive waste.


Waste transport and disposal as well as the operation of garbage containers or collection points in the capital city of Tashkent are handled by the state-owned enterprise “Makhsustrans”. The state-owned enterprise “Tozakhudud” is responsible for the disposal and treatment of waste in the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan and other regions of Uzbekistan. Since 1 August 2018, private companies have also been allowed to provide waste disposal services in Tashkent and the regions. State contracts are awarded through an electronic tendering system.


Implementation of the waste management strategy

The implementation of the strategy is divided into two phases:


First phase (2019-2021):

This phase involves the reform of the legal framework and the principle of economic regulation in the waste management sector. It also aims to strengthen the payment morale of the Uzbek population with regard to waste management and to provide support in terms of methodologies and information regarding the development of an information system for the population in the field of waste management.

To date, a number of regulations have been adopted to implement the strategy. These are mainly instructions for the planning of the construction and operation of landfills for solid waste, as well as rules for the transport of waste.

However, the implementation of the first phase of the strategy so far has been considered unsatisfactory, first by individual experts and then by the government.


Uzbekistan continues to produce more than 7 million tonnes of waste per year. Only 19 per cent of this is treated. Waste management services are not yet available in all Uzbekistan's cities. In addition, the volume of waste is increasing as the country's economy is generally growing. Therefore, it is planned to set up special landfills for construction waste and the manufacturing industries in large cities such as Samarkand and in other regions of the country. In addition, a total of 221 landfills (household waste) will be adapted to meet sanitary and environmental standards. Good opportunities arise here for German companies in the area of advising the Uzbek government and companies on implementing the planned measures.


Second phase (2022-2028)

During the second phase it is planned to attract foreign investment to develop waste infrastructure in the field of waste separation. Investment will also be attracted for the construction of interim storage and waste treatment facilities, the improvement of integrated waste management and the development of solid urban waste treatment facilities.

The following objectives are to be achieved:

  • nationwide collection of 100 per cent of municipal and household solid waste;
  • treatment (e.g. waste separation) of at least 60 per cent of existing municipal solid waste;
  • increasing the amount of certain types of municipal solid waste (waste containing mercury, car tyres, batteries, waste oils, packaging waste, etc.) to be subject to treatment by up to 25 per cent;
  • reducing the volume of municipal solid waste dumped in landfills by up to 60 per cent;
  • ensuring that landfills comply with legal requirements and, in particular, ensuring full soil remediation in landfills;
  • increasing the use of alternative energy sources in waste facilities by up to 35 per cent;
  • supervision of landfills (control of groundwater status and air quality).


In a bid to improve infrastructure, the government plans to optimise the collection and disposal of organic, recyclable and non-recyclable municipal solid waste and to build transfer stations equipped with special compaction units (waste compactors) for remote areas with municipal solid waste. In addition, it is planned to build new fleets of vehicles for 57 specialised state waste management companies and to establish 13 regional service centres for the technical maintenance of specialised vehicles of waste management companies throughout the Republic. For example, new opportunities could open up for German companies to successfully enter the Uzbek market in the field of equipping vehicles with specialised technology.

In order to reduce the volume of solid waste between 2022 and 2025, it is also planned to introduce a separate waste collection system alongside the household waste system, based on five differently marked waste containers:   

  • recyclable;
  • organic;
  • non-recyclable;
  • hazardous waste; and
  • glass.


In addition, preparations for the introduction of a deposit-refund system for consumer packaging have already started. One of the advantages of switching to this system are the lower costs associated with the collection, storage, sorting, transport and disposal of solid waste. It will also increase revenues from the resale of quality raw materials and reduce the cost of waste collection and disposal services.


Landfills located close to water and groundwater reservoirs in regions such as Syrdarya, Jizzach and Chorezm will be closed. By the end of 2028, 167 landfills with a total area of 1108.6 ha are to be closed and recultivated. Instead of the existing 167 landfills, 54 modernised landfills with a total area of 693.3 ha will be constructed and 5 new landfills with a total area of 80 ha will be opened.


Preferences and incentives for investors

One of the most important factors for investment is to support private-sector enterprises by providing preferences and incentives. In particular, on the basis of Presidential Decree No. UP-3594 of 5 April 2005 and the Tax Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan of 30 December 2019, it is planned to grant tax advantages in the form of exemption from property tax, wealth tax and tax on the use of water resources depending on the volume of foreign direct private investment effective 1 October 2020. These benefits will be available to companies established with the aid of foreign direct investment and specialising in the provision of waste management services. The scope of the incentives depends on the amount of private direct investment made.

Tax advantages are granted for a period of 3 years for investments of between 300,000 and 3 million US dollar. For investments of between 3 and 10 million US dollar, the incentives are valid for a period of 5 years, and for investments from 10 million US dollar – for a period of 7 years.

If a company that has provided waste treatment services discontinues its business activity one year after the expiry of the above-mentioned period, the foreign investor has to repay the incentives received.


Enterprises that are involved in building sites for waste collection, transport, use, treatment and disposal of solid waste in certain cities (e.g. Andijan, Nukus, Gulistan, Bukhara, Samarkand) may benefit from further preferences. Companies that import special-purpose vehicles according to the state-approved list (e.g. waste collection vehicles, dump trucks and other equipment) will be exempted from import duties until 1 January 2022. Facilities or parts of facilities used for the treatment of waste will also be exempted from customs duties until 1 January 2022. Further details are regulated by specific regulations.


Tariff regulations

The strategy also highlights the difficulties related to regulating fees for municipal solid waste disposal services. Fees are currently levied only for the provision of waste collection and disposal services. No official tariffs currently apply to costs of sorting, disposal and landfilling of waste. The Uzbek government is making efforts to regulate also these areas in future.


Public-private partnerships in waste management

According to Presidential Decree No PP-3730 of 18 May 2018 it has been possible since 1 August 2018 to allocate landfill sites to companies on the basis of a PPP contract. Landfill sites are allocated in electronic tenders via the online platform “E-IJROAUKSION”.


The following requirements apply to private-sector enterprises and applicants:

  • they must hold a certificate of state registration as a legal entity;
  • they must have a sufficient number of technically sound waste collection vehicles capable of collecting all waste in the allocated area. The information stated in the tender documents is decisive;
  • they must hold a valid licence for providing transport services and also a licence card for each vehicle specified in the application;
  • no winding-up proceedings may be pending for the applicant at the time the application is submitted;
  • no insolvency proceedings must be pending.


According to Regulation No PP-3730, PPP contracts must be concluded for a minimum period of five years. However, according to the Act on Public-Private Partnerships, the duration of such contracts may exceed 49 years, contrary to the general rule.


Disposal of medicinal products

In Uzbekistan, the disposal of medical waste is a big problem due to lack of funding. While the government has so far ignored the problem, it has become much more serious during the Covid-19 pandemic. Medical waste is subject to special “Hygiene regulations and standards for the collection, storage and disposal of waste in the Republic's health care facilities”, which are binding. According to these rules, all medical waste is divided into 5 classes: A, B, V, G and D. Class A comprises non-hazardous medical waste, the collection and disposal is carried out in the same order as for municipal solid waste. Class B comprises hazardous (potentially threatening) waste that can be potentially infectious and must be destroyed.

In Uzbekistan, there are some companies dealing with the disposal of Class B waste by incineration, but they only cover 21 per cent of this waste. In 2020 these companies were not able to ensure the timely removal of such waste due to the spread of the Covid-19 virus and the large amount of medical waste because they lacked incineration capacity. Possible alternatives to incineration are currently being explored.

 

Class V medical waste comprises materials that have come into contact with carriers of dangerous infections. They are sterilised in the so-called “autoclaves” and disposed of by specialised laboratories. In 2018, the sterilisation and disposal were entrusted to private-sector entities through public-private partnerships (PPP). Initially, pilot projects should be launched in the primary health system (emergency medicine, clinics, etc.). Projects in the regions will then follow.

 

Class G comprises e.g. expired drugs; class D is radioactive waste. Special licensed companies handle class G and class D waste.


Conclusion

It can be concluded that the strategy adopted by Uzbekistan enjoys strong popular support. This should give the reform efforts further momentum. The reforms in the Uzbek waste management sector create a considerable need for investment and offer a good platform for the transfer of technical know-how. To achieve the ambitious goals of the waste management strategy, investments should be made swiftly. Potential investors, e.g. from the life sciences industry, therefore have good opportunities to supply special-purpose vehicles or special machinery to Uzbekistan and to offer their know-how to Uzbek partners in building new landfills, redesigning all landfills and especially in the field of waste separation and treatment.

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