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National Hazardous Waste Treatment Center, Bulgaria


The attempts of the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Water to construct a centralised facility for managing hazardous wastes - the National waste treatment center - date back to 2000. The selected site is located in the Stara Zagora region, which is heavily polluted by intensive industrial activities: coal mining and three coal-fired power plants.

The geographic distribution of industrial hazardous waste sources in the countryt is such that between 90% and 97% of the waste generated would come from outside the Stara Zagora Region, and most of them are situated at significant distances to the proposed location of the NHWC. Apart from greatly increasing the risk of accidents during transportation of the waste, this fact also indicates a skewed distribution of the unwanted products of the social metabolism that is tends to happen away from more affluent regions such as Sofia (accounting for 30-50% of hazardous wastes generated) and into an area that, although relatively well-off economically, has been formally categorised by the authorities as an environmental pollution hotspot where there is increased health risk due to air pollution.

Local initiative committees organized in the five villages situated next to the project site (Kovachevo, Novoselets, Pet mogili, Radetski, Mlekarevo, Polski Gradets) with their own committees of resistance, which combined forces in a United initiative committee, headed by a local medical doctor, highlighting the enormous significance of the public health concerns expressed by local communities. The united initiative committee was backed by the regional structures of the two largest trade unions in Bulgaria, Confederation of independent trade unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) and the Confederation of labour Podkrepa, working to protect the right to safer working conditions for more than 15 000 workers in the Maritsa East energy complex. The local committees were very effective in obtaining information from local authorities, organising protests and demonstrations and expressing their opposition to the project. In their numerous letters and appeals to all levels of state authorities in Bulgaria, the United committee referred to the fact that no additional sources of pollution are needed or wanted by the local population of one of the most heavily polluted regions in the country, threatening civil disobedience in case their opinion remained unheard.

The staunch opposition of the local population backed by NGOs campaigning efforts were successful in averting international public financing (ISPA funding and EIB loan) away from this project, thus rendering it unfeasible.

Basic Data

NameNational Hazardous Waste Treatment Center, Bulgaria
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Waste Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific CommoditiesHazardous Waste, Toxic Waste
Industrial waste
Chemical products

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsThe project included a 15 000 tonnes/year incinerator (plus an additional 30 000 tonnes/year incinerator planned for 2015), a solidification facility, a physical-chemical Treatment facility, a mercury recycling facility, a hazardous waste landfill at the NHWC, a 5.000 tonnes/year asbestos landfill, auxiliary buildings and facilities – all to be sited in Gledachevo, and an additional regional hazardous waste landfill to be located in the Sofia region.

Industrial hazardous waste in Bulgaria between 2000-2009 averages some 706000 tonnes annually and is mostly landfilled. Thirty enterprises account for over 90% of the total industrial hazardous waste generated, with metallurgical industry as the leading generator, followed by the cement, pharmaceutical and petrol industries, and including also some waste water treatment plants and a factory producing military equipment and arms Overall, the potentially affected population includes 21,745 people living in settlements within 10 km from the project site. The majority of the population in Radnevo Municipality in 2002 is Bulgarian (86%), with some Roma (7% ) and Turks (5%). Disabilities of children aged under 16 appear to be the highest in the country (6.4 in 1000, the national average is 3.3 in 1000 for 2009).Child mortality rates are also higher than the national average. [1]
Project Area (in hectares)130000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date05/2001
Company Names or State EnterprisesFichtner GmbH & Co. KG from Germany
Chemcontrol from Denmark - These two consultant companies were responsible for project feasibility studies, the application form and conceptual design.
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Environment and Water (Bulgaria): MOEW was hoping to fund the project using a 50% grant from the European Unions Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession , combined with an EIB loan as matching funding.
International and Financial InstitutionsEuropean Investment Bank (EIB)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersEnvironmental Association Za Zemiata, United Initiative Committee of the affected villages, Civic Union - Stara Zagora, CEE Bankwatch

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingArtisanal miners
Local ejos
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Genetic contamination, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases


Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Criminalization of activists
Institutional changes
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The facility was not built at the end

Sources and Materials


[1] Ejolt report on Waste Conflicts

[1] Ejolt report on Waste Conflicts

National Hazardous Waste in Bulgaria Report


Local communities in Bulgaria reject dubious National Hazardous Waste Treatment Centre project

bulgaria national haz waste treatment english.pdf

Za Zemiata. National Hazardous Waste Treatment Centre

Meta Information

ContributorEvgenia Tasheva
Last update08/01/2017



Waste landfill highly contaminating, Bulgaria