With more than forty years of unmanaged waste piling up next to the Danube, Belgrade’s only landfill Vinca has been listed among the world’s top 50 most polluted dumpsites by the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA).
The 130 hectare site, equivalent to roughly about 180 football fields, had never officially been a disposal area and lacked basic landfill facilities such as a drainage system. Posing a severe environmental hazard, local authorities decided to redevelop the existing landfill in a project that will completely change the way Belgrade’s waste is managed.
After closing the old site, a new landfill with proper lining and irrigation is being created including a specific facility to treat construction and demolition waste alongside a new waste-to-energy power plant, where non-recyclable waste will be incinerated and turned into energy.
To deliver this significant redevelopment, the City of Belgrade is working with the Beo Clean Energy (Beo Čista Energija) consortium – including French utility SUEZ, Japanese company Itochu and Luxembourg fund Marguerite.
Arup was appointed by Beo Clean Energy to carry out an independent Social and Environmental audit on behalf of funders European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank group.
40 years of trash dumping
Auditing the environmental impact
Located 15 kilometres from the city centre and in operation since 1977, Vinca was one of the largest open dumping landfills in Europe, hosting more than 700,000 tonnes of waste a year. Almost constantly on fire, it often covered the city in a noxious fog; while toxic fumes and leachate were absorbed into the soil during rainy seasons.
Following the 2014 earthquake, which triggered several landslides, parts of the landfill became unstable, making the entire site even more dangerous and increasing the risk of contaminating the Danube.
The existing landfill will be redeveloped to comply with sanitary and safety standards over the next four years. Since work began in August 2019, our team has provided site supervision and monitoring services to ensure the implementation of the different social and environmental measures set out in the project plan, including work to prevent further contamination of the Danube river basin and its groundwater by creating compartmentalised areas to store different types of hazardous waste.
Vinca aims to improve the use of communal waste as renewable energy source, while caring for the environmental and local residents. Arup was key to facilitate the smooth delivery of this major project.” Mitsuaki Harada, Vladimir Milovanovic, Philippe Thiel Managing directors of Beo Čista Energija Ltd.
A small recycling centre, road infrastructure and a dam will be developed alongside a waste-to-energy facility. Noxious leachate from the old site will be collected and treated in the new facilities using reverse osmosis, while the methane will be captured and re-used as an energy source, in a project which has won the 2020 Gold Award for Best Utilities Project in 2020 by Partnerships Bulletin.
As well as ensuring that the redevelopment has positive impact on the local community and environment, our team also provided technical advice to Lenders regarding the installations under construction including landfill gas collection and leachate removal from the existing landfill mass to control and manage toxic water and flammable and environmentally harmful methane – all while generating electricity in the process.
Re-skilling: addressing the social dimension
The redevelopment of the site offers new opportunities for many of the current workers. Aligned with the requirements from funders EBRD and IFC to address the social dimension of the project, our specialists designed a support and re-skilling programme, offering a path forward for the workers, which often stem from the marginalised Roma community.
Our team will also carry out a detailed audit assessing the roll-out of the programme to help staff find new jobs, supported by a range of surveys and interviews with the community.
Navigating a complex institutional landscape
Alongside Belgrade Airport, Vinca is one of the first two successful projects in Serbia delivered under a Public Private Partnership (PPP), a collaborative albeit complex framework for the delivery of infrastructure projects. Our extensive experience of PPPs and local know-how helped Beo Čista Energija Ltd. navigate a complex institutional landscape, balancing the needs of the local authorities the international development banks to successfully deliver the project under a public-private partnership framework.
Based on our local knowledge and experience of working with development banks, our team provided the client with ongoing advisory support during negotiations with different stakeholders, including local authorities. Our in-depth knowledge of local legislation was also key to unlock the project roll-out, building local capability for future cooperation with development institutions.