Poland: No hot debate on Climate Change but is it warming up?

Photo: European Commission

In Poland climate change is yet to become a hot topic of debate. But as winters become shorter and warmer, and summers bring more rain and erratic weather, there's a growing realisation that that global warming is having an effect. In the southern city of Kraków, John Beauchamp of Polish Radio reports on how Poland is becoming aware of climate change, and how some people make a living as eco-warriors.

Photo: European Commission
The rubbish collection in Poland’s southern city of Kraków starts early today… Most of this residential waste will end up on a landfill site outside the city, which begs the question. Is any of this trash being recycled? Is climate change really an issue in Poland?

After moves recently in Poland by a major supermarket chain to phase out plastic bags, it may be assumed that this is a first major move towards environmental protection that directly imposes itself on the consumer. But with a saving of over three hundred million plastic bags a year, this push for environmental protection through waste reduction is only just beginning.

With many other countries in the EU already discussing climate change, there is still no hot debate as to how it is affecting Poland, and what measures can be implemented to help the environment. Joanna Mieszkowicz is from the Aeris Futuro Foundation in Kraków:

“In my opinion I think it’s getting better, but it’s still not really a good situation like in other countries. The recent polls say that it’s very stable, it’s shows around one third of Poles have heard about climate change. They are aware that have the impact on the environment as individuals, but on the other hand they don’t feel obliged to do anything, they think that the local government should do something, with waste, with emissions of transport.”

Waste from landfill sites doesn’t just smell bad, it is also dangerous for the atmosphere too. Methane is twenty-two times more dangerous than carbon dioxide, and in Poland gas emissions are growing too rapidly. In the E.U. landfills emit about 3% of all greenhouse gases.

Rrubbish is collected from an Old Town tenement in Kraków by the Municipal Waste Management Company, which thanks to cohesion funds from the EU is now in the possession of the most modern landfill site in Poland, now also with new sorting facilities.

Not all of this rubbish will be buried at the landfill, though. Those who are in the know about climate change and how recycling has a huge impact on carbon emissions have managed not only to play a part in the war against global warming, but also make it become their livelihoods.

“Our firm sold last year around 2000 tonnes of reground material, and I don’t know exactly, but around 100 tonnes of recycled films. It’s very interesting I think because we have special mobile recycling machines. Sometimes it’s funny because we change the places of production. For example one day we are in one brewery, two weeks later we are in another place, another brewery…”

Marcin Baran is from PlasticWorx, a company producing plastic granulate. Although he works in the recycling trade, he still believes that more needs to be done to raise awareness of recycling in Poland.

“People want to recycle, but I think that it is a problem with the system, they don’t’ know how to do it. I think the first level is the transportation from the household to the sorting plants.”

Recycling is a way in which Poles can battle climate change, but as Joanna Mieszkowicz says, it has to be more than just a concerted effort. And if you’re not feeling up to going to the bottle bank, why not plant some trees to offset your carbon emissions?

“To increase awareness on climate change and our impact on the environment, the Time for Forest project, where we encourage people, institutions, and companies to offset their emissions by planting trees. We have a special calculator on our website where you can estimate your carbon footprint.”

Such initiatives to combat climate change are all very honourable, but the main issue remains: Poland needs to become conscious of climate change and more social awareness needs to be propagated to get people calculating their carbon footprint. "Carbon what?" I hear Poles say.