How can the work of local NGOs be organized? What are the forms and methods of conducting their campaigns? What is a good way to establish cooperation with local authorities and with the press?
I was one of a group of representatives of Russian NGOs gathered by fate in Scranton, Pennsylvania in October/November 1994. We travelled traveled to the United States at the invitation of the American Government, for a month-long practical study tour organized by ECOLOGIA. Besides the joint experience of work, one of the principles of activity of all public organizations, we developed a sense of friendship and mutual understanding. This mutual understanding encouraged us, living in different parts of our small planet, to continue
to do everything possible for its preservation. It is impossible to forget new American and Russian friends, endless frank talks about every topic, long trips along this wonderful friendly country, the sorrow of farewell, and the parting words: "This is a beginning, and not an end. A beginning of work." And as for the work, we had a lot of it accumulated at our places when we returned home.
Two main water symbols of Russia took roots long ago and rather firmly in the minds of our people: the river Volga is "Mother Volga" in the part, and Lake Baikal is "Father Baikal" in Siberia. Their condition determines the quality of life of people who live in the adjacent regions and has a great influence on the ecosystem of the world. Lake Baikal holds twenty percent of the fresh water on Earth, and harbors far more endemic species of plants and animals than any other lake in the world.
The Lake Baikal Region is rather large (its area is 1/9 of that of the continental USA). It is located on the territory of two Oblasts (Irkutsk and Chita) and the Buryat Republic. Absolutely different ecological problems appear at each of Baikal Region's different parts. These differences come not only from physical distance from each other but also from different histories, cultural traditions, and economic conditions. At present, our Baikal Center for Ecological and Citizen Initiatives is the only NGO which works at all the major centers of the Baikal region: Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude and Chita. The Baikal Center has a good working system of communication with other inter-regional organizations and great experience of work with local activists. It is the Russian branch of Earth Island Institute which is based in San Francisco.
One of our most important objects is to encourage people who live in the Lake Baikal Region in their understanding of the fact that our future is up to us, that everybody has a chance to show an initiative and to realize his or her ability and right to determine the future. We feel that encouragement of the sense of proprietorship and the value of the independent individual personality in each human being is as important as preservation of the environment. To develop these ideas into reality, our Baikal Center with the other NGOs held workshops on two key subjects: ecological law and ecological education.
Our workshop on ecological law focused on legal regulation for nature preservation programs in the Lake Baikal Region. This workshop had a far-reaching impact. Participants from Irkutsk, Chita and Khabarovsk followed up by creating three new NGOs which specialize in environmental legislation, one for each city.
The ecological education workshop was held in Chita in December 1994. About 50 teachers from Zabaikalje and the Far East gathered in spite of Siberian frost and -36 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures. In organizing this workshop, we were very influenced by the experiences at PEEC (Pocono Environmental Education Center) in Bushkilll Falls, Pennsylvania, which our tour had visited.
(Editor's note: PEEC is a private residential environmental educational center which operates a variety of workshops, field trips and science education programs on its 38 acre (70 hectare) campus and in the surrounding Delaware Water Gap National Park. PEEC's staff of scientific educators and naturalists design "hands-on" programs for many different groups, such as schoolchildren from ghetto areas of large cities, elderly people, people with disabilities, and science teachers. PEEC also operates an International Classroom through a partnership program with Vodlozerksy National Park, Russia, and has an on-going exchange program with schoolchildren and teachers from Karelia.)
We felt that it is very efficient to organize such Environmental Centers in natural conditions, for example in the forest, near lakes or rivers. I was impressed by some forms of environmental education which I experienced at PEEC, such as ecological games, walks in the night forest, and learning about water fauna in the natural setting. During our workshop in environmental education we discussed PEEC activities. We decided to unite the efforts of several NGOs to organize a similar center in the Arachley Lakes area.
Topics included: school and university programs on ecology, ecological ethics, ecological paleontology, and the religious aspect of ecological training. The discussion of this issue was held at a Buddhist Temple 120 miles from Chita. A key subject of the workshop was the problem of pure water in ecological education. The experience of establishment of independent public monitoring of the condition of freshwater body with the help of simple tests held by pupils is well-known in the USA as Green Project. It interested all the participants and they decided to discuss it at the next workshop in June, and then to begin the implementation of Green Project in Zabaikalje.
It's significant that there is a unique place near Chita which is the watershed of three huge water basins: Lake Baikal, Pacific Ocean and Arctic Ocean. We live near the sources of three seas and we are the first who are responsible for their purity. Clarification of this fact for the inhabitants is the main goal of several forthcoming projects. These projects will be implemented by the Center with the other regional and international NGOs. The final results will depend on coordination and desire for cooperation between them.
And let's remember Longfellow:
Paper Recycling in the Baltics:
More Exports, Different Products
Altered Economic and Political Situation
Brings Rewards to Entrepreneurs and to Population
A Demand for Waste Paper
What Happened to the Little Trailer?
More Exports, Different Products
Behind this e-mail message from Vaidotas Blazys of ECOLOGIA's Vilnius office lies a fascinating story of the current evolution of paper recycling in Lithuania. Starting from ECOLOGIA's office on Kalvariju Street, Vaidotas' attempt to find a place for a year's accumulation of discarded office and wrapping paper led him to two long-established paper factories which, caught up in changing times, are themselves changing their products, their factory organization, and their sources of supply. In the process, economic incentives for more efficient use of resources intersect with ecological needs.
Fifteen years ago, all paper factories in Lithuania belonged to the Union of Factories. Under the Soviet system, raw materials were provided to the factories, and they were ordered where to sell their products. Used materials were defined by the planners as valuable to the economy. Waste paper , used clothing, and scrap metal were collected by the Lithuanian Union of Cooperatives, which had drop off trailers located in different neighborhoods. Schools had "recycling days", when children were asked to bring in newspapers and other waste paper from home, and were required to miss their first class in the morning in order to present their paper to the school collection. With independence and the shift away from a planned economy, however, paper factories, like those of many other industries, found themselves on their own.
Grigishkes Paper Factory, Grigishkes, Lithuania: An Ambitious Collector and Producer
Located about 20 kilometers outside Vilnius, Grigishkes is a major producer of recycled paper products. They collect 12,000 tons of waste paper in a year. They produce toilet paper (sold throughout Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), absorbent incontinence pads (sold mainly to hospitals and nursing homes in Germany), and thin white filter paper used in the making of cigarettes (sold to Russia and Belarus). Other products are brown corrugated cardboard,
brown wrapping paper and plain cardboard for boxes. "Hardboard" is made from wood scraps, and is sold primarily to UK, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. Some virgin pulp (imported from Arkhangelsk, Russia) is used, but discarded paper from printing companies, plus post consumer waste paper, is their major raw material.
Grigishkes has been fully privatized since 1992, and its managers have had to find new markets and new sources of supply, and to search (unsuccessfully so far) for foreign investors to provide capital for modernizing their equipment. The lack of money for new technologies has had some benefits. They do not use chlorine bleaching technology - not so much out of environmental concerns, but because it is too expensive to purchase and to use. Another benefit is that the products they manufacture, though some are low quality by Western standards, are inexpensive and thus affordable to the majority of their local customers.
The competition in the new economic climate has led to industry-wide changes. One of the five paper factories in Lithuania has closed down completely, and the others operate at a fraction of their capacity. As a whole, the Lithuanian paper industry now produces 20% of the volume they did in 1989. To survive, factory owners and managers are promoting recycling more actively, attempting to work with local government to put up and maintain collection containers in urban neighborhoods. Factories are also paying citizens who bring paper to be recycled. However, the collection process is not well publicized, and it is hard to find out exactly where and when items will be collected. The little trailer referred to at the start of this article was a shabby structure sitting in an overgrown lot. It had once been a part of the Union of Cooperatives, but it looked totally abandoned and out of use. It did not seem to keep open during its posted hours.
The little trailer symbolized the perennial weak point of recycling efforts - the process of source separation, collection and transportation - which requires careful organization, planning, and publicity to be effective. There are indications that Grigishkes is attempting to fill this vacuum with their own increasingly active collection efforts.
In December 1993 during a Parliamentary campaign, a poll of Moscow region residents asked them to name issues they were concerned about. The environment was not a significantly important issue to most people polled. But as of September 1994, the picture given by a repeat poll was quite different. More residents polled mentioned the increasing power of organized crime as a concern (75%) than any other. This was followed by the economy (between 60% and 70%), and then by environmental concerns (49%).
Over the past year, the state of the Russian environment neither degraded nor improved dramatically. For a while the economy was stabilizing, though at a rather low level of production, and people could look at their environment to see that it has not changed for the better. However, today the economic state of many people is worse than half a year ago.
The current wave of attention to environmental problems is of a more pragmatic sort than the previous one. In the recent past, public complaints about environmental conditions were part of the general reaction to the disclosure of communist rulers' crimes, abuses and faults in every field. Now, people are more likely just to be fearful for their own health because of obviously polluted air and water. With this more pragmatic approach to environmental problems, there may be enough public interest to support some specific practical solutions.
Naujeiji Verkai Fabrika Popierus, Vilnius Lithuania: A Venerable Survivor
Naujeiji Verkai is the oldest paper factory in Eastern Europe. It was founded in 1834. It is located on Popierus Street (Paper Street) in a wooded area within the city limits of Vilnius. Although their capacity is 20,000 tons a year, they currently produce only 5,000 tons a year: corrugated packing paper, toilet paper, and industrial wrapping paper. The major limiting factor is their difficulty in getting the raw materials - post-consumer paper, paper from publishing houses, and wood pulp. Their owner/managers cite the lack of waste paper, and poor organization of collecting it, as their single most serious problem. In 1994, used paper accounted for 28% of their input; they collected 45,000 tons. A second limiting factor is the lack of modern machinery to produce higher quality paper goods. Naujeiji Verkai lacks de-inking capabilities and mechanical cleaning.
As the world demand for wood and wood products rises, so does the price. Export of these products is emerging as a short-term way for countries without a developed manufacturing sector to earn hard currency. Logging both from state forest lands and newly privatized lands is increasing, as is the sale of waste paper. As of January 1, 1995, the Lithuanian government lifted an existing export tax on exported waste paper. This encourages export of this resource to other countries, and undermines the Lithuanian paper-making factories by raising the price and lessening the supply to them of waste paper.
The paper-making factories clearly would benefit from access to waste paper. Lithuania's newly emerging market economy is providing one solution ECOLOGIA staff in Vilnius saw trucks from stores bringing their corrugated cardboard from shipping boxes into both factories; the factories pay the stores for the valuable waste paper.
How typical is the situation of the Lithuanian paper factories? Comparison
with Estonia seems to indicate that developments are remarkably similar.
Sekto Recycling, Tallinn Estonia:
'It Is Still Happening Here'
Two and a half years ago, ECOLOGIA visited Sekto, an active recycling and remanufacturing plant in Tallinn, Estonia, and detailed its activities in an article titled "Recycling and Remanufacturing in Estonia - 'It Can Happen Here'" (E.N. #21). Recently ECOLOGIA returned to Sekto to see how it has responded in this period of transition.
Founded in 1989, Sekto has always been a private company, altering its production and sales strategy as supplies, transportation and markets have shifted. Today, Sekto has changed significantly. The Sekto staff has been trimmed, from 140 workers and managers two years ago to 60 today. Labor efficiency has increased. Textile production has decreased; now their major products are insulation, oil-absorbing material, blankets for first aid/emergency use, and biodegradable mulch. They are about to initiate a line of furniture upholstery. Most of these products are made from a combination of pre-consumer and post-consumer paper, cardboard, and fabric.
Most of Sekto's products are now exported to Finland. Some of their materials have earned the right to display the Finnish seal of approval of meeting ecological requirements - made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials. For some product lines, the recycled materials are collected in Finland, shipped to Sekto for re-manufacturing, then exported back to Finland for sale of the finished product.
Two years ago, Sekto processed 40 tons of paper per day. Now they are down to between 30 and 35 tons per day. Sixty percent of their raw material paper supply comes from factories. This "pre-consumer waste" is created as part of the manufacturing process. It consists of scraps which are left over after the paper has been cut to a certain shape. The other forty percent of Sekto's raw material paper supply is "post-consumer", collected after it has been used by families or in offices.
The municipal government of Oismae, one Tallinn neighborhood, has worked in cooperation with Sekto to provide paper collection containers in residential areas. The local newspaper has publicized the paper collection effort. In the Lasnamae neighborhood, a private Swedish company has just started providing a collection bin. Printed notices have been distributed to residents, and posted in the entrances.
When asked about sales of their products inside Estonia, particularly the likelihood of producing recycled paper for sale locally, Jaak Joamets, Sekto's Chief Engineer, said that Estonian Baltic Paper Recycling, society does not presently have a demand for products made from recycled materials. With increasing economic opportunities, at least for a significant minority of Estonians, now they want to have products made from really good quality material, which they equate with new (virgin) contents. This is in contrast to the days of Soviet rule, where "soviet" goods were often made of poor quality materials.
Common Features of Recycling Programs in the Baltics and in the United States
A Final Note:
The availability of office quality recycled paper in Vilnius is an
encouraging first step. We look forward to the time when we can print
ECOLOGIA Newsletter on locally produced recycled paper.
If you read ECOLOGIA Newsletter in Lithuanian or Russian, or if you are an English-language subscriber in Europe, Russia or Asia, your copy of this issue is printed on Swedish recycled paper which our Vilnius office is now able to order.
The availability of office quality recycled paper in Vilnius is an encouraging first step. We look forward to the time when we can print ECOLOGIA Newsletter on locally produced recycled paper.