How one battery can save 400 liters of water

The topic of environmental protection has recently become one of the most discussed not only in Europe, but also in Russia. Recent high-impact situations have shown that eco-responsibility should be adherent to each person, regardless of where and on what position he/she works. Dmitry Kosyakov company ecologist shared the information on what eco-events are arranged in UTS, how Russian society has changed over the past few years, and how we can help the planet right now. 

Dmitry, hardly everyone in the company knows about the existence of the department of environmental protection. Please tell us what functions are assigned to the department, what issues do you have to deal with? 

At first glance, it may seem that work in the environmental protection service is quite unusual, but in fact you have to face a lot of routine activities every day – this is constant interaction with the government agencies, the compilation and submission of statistical reports, participation in various inspections. In addition, it is necessary to constantly monitor changes in environmental standards and legislation and take measures in time to ensure that our company meets all requirements. 

But our work consists not only of documentation. We regularly develop and implement processes that help reduce the negative UTS impact on the environment. For example, we have established the collection and removal of plastic at all our TPs, in the offices we have switched to environmentally friendly disposable utensils, we are now introducing separate garbage collection. In DEP, for example, a special modular waste storage container has been installed. The wastes may include both used office equipment (old computers, printers, scanners, calculators, etc.), as well as spent car lead batteries, and sand contaminated with oil products from the road. 

Another important step was the installation of LED lamps in the majority of our buildings. Ordinary lamps contain mercury that’s why they cannot be just thrown into the garbage bin. For this purpose, it was necessary to deal with contractors to perform special disposal. This is expensive, as the cost of recycling a light bulb is approximately equal to the cost of the light bulb itself. Thus, we killed two birds with one stone: reduced the negative impact on the environment, and decreased the company expenses. 

All processes, of course, are not fast, require accurate calculations, both from the side of business and from the point of view of influence on the environment, but we are steadily progressing. 

Do you involve other employees in the work of your department?

Absolutely, it is important for us to turn all company employees onto the environmental protection. For this purpose, we are organizing joint events. A couple of years ago, for example, our colleagues from TP at 515 km of M4 highway planted a long strip of trees along the road, the others laid out a flower garden with a fountain near 228 km on M4! 

This September the employees from the Head Office and DEP (on the M11) joined the "Plant your tree" campaign. With the assistance of the Klinsky district forestry in the Moscow region, they managed to plant 8,000 seedlings of spruce and pine. Moreover, even the company top managers, including the general director, took part in planting seedlings, which demonstrates the overall equality when it comes to environmental issues. 

Obviously, it is impossible to eliminate completely the negative impact from carbon emissions due to the use of roads that we operate. But it is the planting of green spaces that can really help. Trees, absorbing harmful gases, provide biological purification of the air. And so far, this is the only way to secure ourselves from emissions. 

I am very glad UTS began to hold such events. Remember how in Soviet times everyone participated in annual cleanup days, unfortunately, this tradition became history. I am in favor of creating new traditions, good and kind, because holding regular eco-campaigns is the key to success in the future. 

By the way, our department is welcoming any initiative from UTS employees. If you know how we can help reduce the negative impact on the environment together, do not hesitate to email me or my colleagues in the environmental department! 

From your viewpoint, are such events effective? 

It seems to me that such actions do work. People gather, enjoy themselves, and concurrently do noble work. Such activities unite the team, and motivate people to be eco-responsible. 

Modern society is changing, people start contemplating the world to be inherited by next generations. It happens partly due to the standard of living having recently increased, as a person starts thinking about the environment when one’s basic needs are satisfied. If 15 or 20 years ago you were asked to sort your garbage, it would entail laughter and misunderstanding but today it becomes a norm. Eco-movement and eco-awareness gain more popularity, now the environmental protection is everybody’s concern. After each person makes at least a minimal contribution to the environmental protection, the general effect becomes visible. 

What exactly do you personally do in your everyday life to protect the environment? 

Usually, I try to sort my garbage, and I hand over the used batteries to the store for disposal, as many chain stores already accept old batteries and equipment for recycling. AA battery weighs less than a hundred grams, but nevertheless only one battery causes the contamination of about 20 square meters of land or 400 liters of water with heavy metals. The batteries contain such metals as mercury, nickel, cadmium, lead, zinc and manganese. All of them are able to accumulate in the human body and cause serious harm to health, especially kidneys, liver and brain. 

Moreover, I collect energy-saving bulbs and hand them over to the points of mercury-containing waste reception. In Moscow, for example, there are more than 900 such points in almost every city district (Editor’s note: a detailed list for Moscow can be viewed here. Unfortunately, there are fewer such points in the regions, but still they already exist in almost all cities. 

I also collect large plastic water bottles and hand them over separately, for which, by the way, some organizations even pay money. It’s more a gesture than a revenue but it motivates some people. Again, I recall Soviet childhood and the collection of glassware – this is really a very effective way to attract people and make them eco-responsible. 

Furthermore, I try to avoid plastic bags, which usually after shopping go straight into a garbage bag. Canvas reusable bags, from a financial point of view, are more cost-efficient, and they do not bring harm to the environment. A plastic bag requires 100 – 500 years to decompose completely in the ground, it is plastic bags that are now the main problem of pollution of rivers and oceans, and, consequently, of the extinction of marine flora and fauna. 

Why did you choose ecology for your career? How did you come to this profession? 

My profession is an integral part of my life. At school I was fond of chemistry, then I entered the institute, majoring in ecology. At the end of studies, I was awarded the qualification "Environmental Engineer." Since then, I have been working in this area, and year after year I realize that I do not want to change anything. Today, ecology is not just one of the main problems, it is reaching the level of global political discussions, which demonstrates severity of the topic. Well that's good! If we don't start thinking about what kind of world we will observe in another 20 years, then, alas, it can be too late!