Now the Russians are protesting the overflowing landfills. Moscow has 12 million people and no system for recycling. That has created a garbage crisis not just for the city, but for the entire country.
Authorities say the health of up to 17 million Russians is at risk due to overflowing landfills, and the problem is most severe in the capital, where noxious gas leaks from Soviet-era landfills in the suburbs of the city have hospitalized children.
Domestically, Russia reuses only 4 percent of its waste, compared to an average of 60 percent across the EU. Landfills, many of which date back to the Soviet era, cover about 4 million hectares of the country.
But plans to send half a million tons of garbage a year to Shiyes, an intact swamp and forest 1,300 km north of Moscow, have met unexpected resistance in a country where unauthorized protest is illegal.
Groups of residents have moved in to block fuel deliveries along the country's highways, while a semi-permanent camp was opened at the construction site. The protesters take turns living in the camp and prevent further work from being done. And they're getting help from an unexpected cohort: Moscow residents.
Egor Staroverstsev, a Moscow school teacher, is one of many eco-minded Muscovites making the three-day trip north in support of the protest. "It is an ecological and environmental disaster," he said. “The whole area is a swamp. It is absolutely obvious that the wastewater from the sanitary landfill will contaminate large territories very quickly ”.
But local officials are reluctant to turn down the money that comes with Moscow's garbage.
Igor Orlov, the Arkhangelsk regional governor, says his region needs cash from Moscow to fund services. He framed the dumpster as a job creator and called the protesters "scum" in a highly publicized outburst.
“I am the governor, I must do my job; that's more important to me. I will be guided by my duties, "he said.
Meanwhile, Moscow has announced plans to introduce some recycling bins in communal yards for the first time next year.