Messy waste

Functioning of the municipal and postconsumer waste management system and transboundary movement of waste

Waste management and transboundary movement of waste did not function properly. The waste market monitoring and waste management did not work well, either, thus supporting the development of grey economy. In some cases waste was treated without required decisions and waste managers often failed to stick to the arrangements included in those decisions. The level of selective waste collection was too low to achieve objectives related to preparations for waste recovery and recycling.

In 2019, five times more waste was imported to Poland for treatment than exported. Supervision of transboundary movement of waste did not cover its transport. Proceedings concerning contractual penalties were lengthy and the recovery of those penalties was not always effective.

Financial consequences of the irregularities identified by NIK totalled nearly PLN 639.5 million, of which over 98% was related to the City Council of Warsaw. NIK submitted reports to the prosecutor’s office of criminal activities allegedly committed by employees of that institution.

The system of managing postconsumer, packaging and municipal waste as well as transboundary movement of waste did not function properly. Essential conditions for the waste market monitoring and proper waste management were not provided. The so-called grey area developed which as early as 2016 was estimated by experts at 7.8 megagrams (1 Mg = 1 tonne) of different waste types which translated into the market share of PLN 2.7 billion. According to experts, the lack of effective supervision and monitoring of the waste market by relevant public administration bodies in 2018 generated costs for the state of over PLN 750 million due to lost taxes.

The key challenge in waste management for the coming years is transition to the circular economy and effective implementation of extended liability of the producer. A legal tool supporting this transition is the so-called “waste package”. Adopting this package entails the necessity to implement essential legal provisions and provide technical and organisational conditions in waste management, in line with the hierarchy of waste handling. Full transition of the “waste package” has not come into effect until now, particularly in terms of the producer’s extended liability (the deadline passed on 5 July 2020). Chances are low that essential infrastructure will be prepared to achieve the objectives which leaves our country exposed to fines imposed by the Tribunal of Justice of the European Union.  

By 2025, Poland is obliged to achieve 55% of recycling against the volume of all municipal waste generated and by 2030 – 60%. By 2035, our country should achieve at least 65% of recycling of all packaging waste generated. Another ambitious objective is to reduce the stored municipal waste by 2035 to not more than 10% of the total volume of such waste generated. Only proper legislative, financial and organisational conditions for the monitoring and proper management of the waste market can ensure achievement of the assumed objectives. The objectives include prevention of waste generation and processing of waste in waste recovery processes, including recycling.

In the light of the assumptions defined for waste recovery, including the recycling of municipal waste, the data of GUS (Central Statistical Office) imply that Poland will not achieve its objectives.  

The fact that the “grey area” was still an issue was confirmed among others by about 10 million “dead souls” in the Central Register of Vehicles and Drivers (CEPiK), that is vehicles without valid civil liability insurance. The ministries of climate and infrastructure lacked reliable information about the causes of that phenomenon. No analysis was made of whether introducing fines for untimely opt-out of the vehicle reduced the number of the so-called “dead souls” registered in CEPIK. Besides, it was not specified when a vehicle becomes waste, which is of particular importance for limiting illegal import of laid-up vehicles to Poland.

The audit revealed the presence of waste electrical and electronic equipment in scrap yards, which is unauthorised and points to ineffective supervision of relevant bodies.

Besides, waste management entities classified waste improperly, the records and reporting were factually (in)correct, and public administration bodies verified reports submitted to them without due diligence – so they did not have full knowledge of the actual state of affairs. That made it impossible for the public administration bodies to properly assess the waste market and, as a result, to plan the waste management infrastructure according to actual needs, which was confirmed by problems with managing individual fractions of waste.

In some cases waste managers treated waste without required decisions or failed to comply with arrangements specified in the waste management decisions. Besides, waste was often stored and treated against the provisions of law.

In case of nearly 70% of municipal companies running selective municipal waste collection points, irregularities in the operation of those points were identified.  Besides, some types of waste were not collected from residents, hazardous waste was stored against the decisions taken and without protection against pollution leaking to the ground. Also, the waste production limits defined in the decisions were exceeded and waste was collected from unauthorised entities. In half of the companies irregularities were related to waste collection.

Product repair and recovery points were not opened in any of the audited municipalities. In that way the municipalities did not comply with the statutory principle defining the hierarchy of waste management methods and waste prevention programmes. 

In case of most waste collection entities the limited capacity for municipal waste treatment resulted in a cost increase – even by 256.3%.

The audit pointed to insufficient supervision of municipal waste handling in the audited municipalities, which among others could cause a rise in the audited municipalities’ spending as well as illegal handling of municipal waste.  

Not all municipalities had up-to-date information about the number of declarations on the level of fees, which made it impossible to establish actual proceeds from fees paid by residents. In 2016–2018, the audited municipalities (except one) reported higher-than-required levels of preparation for recovery and recycling of waste (to 217.4%), or weight reduction of biodegradable waste sent for storage. The preparation levels were unrealistic, because the actual selected waste collection level was low (increase from 25.8% in 2016 to 29.4% in 2018).

In some cases waste disposal fees paid by residents went up by nearly 54% but the municipalities’ waste management spending also increased against the proceeds to as much as about 66.5%.

Increase of spending on municipal waste collection and management  in municipalities
Graphic description

Increase of spending on municipal waste collection and management in municipalities

Year 2016 2017 2018 2019
Spending in PLN ~ PLN 723.2 million

~ PLN 749.3 million

~ PLN 818.7 million

~ PLN 1.3 billion

Increase against 2016




Source: NIK’s own materials

None of the audited municipalities used the opportunity to sell recycled materials and did not make any proceeds from that, although that option - provided for in the Act - could help residents pay lower fees.

In over 56% of the audited city guard units no organisational cells were isolated for the control of environmental protection, including waste handling. Funds for those tasks were allocated only in less than ⅓ of the audited units. According to NIK creating specialised environmental protection units could improve the control quality and effectiveness.

The supervision exercised by relevant public administration bodies over transboundary movement of waste did not cover its transport. However, the number of inspections in entities dealing with the treatment or recovery of waste from transboundary movement was two times bigger than planned.

Proceedings related to illegal waste transport reports were lengthy and lasted up to two years, which points to inactivity of the Chief Inspector for Environmental Protection (GIOŚ). Also proceedings related to imposing fines were lengthy and not very effective in terms of fine enforcement.

The IT structure created by the Minister to collect and verify data on waste management lacked key functionalities which made it impossible for the public administration bodies to effectively monitor waste management. Also, information on entities performing statutory tasks was incomplete.

The database on products and packagings and waste management was supposed to become an IT tool to monitor the waste market. Access to the database was limited, though. That was why, reports on the management of batteries and waste electrical and electronic equipment produced by GIOŚ did not contain reliable data. Difficulties with accessing the data were also reported in provincial inspectorates and municipality offices.

The majority of Provincial Inspectorates for Environmental Protection did not collect testing samples and as much as 37.5% of those entities failed to conduct inspections at least once a year in all subordinate entities.

The supervision exercised by the Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection over provincial inspectorates came down to verifying documentation submitted by provincial inspectorates. GIOŚ issued instructions and guidelines but did not control their implementation.

Over 60% of the audited marshal offices did not carry out obligatory inspections at least once in three years in entities running waste recycling or waste recovery of a different kind. In the majority of marshal offices the lists of waste battery collection points in the province – published on the website of the Bulletin of Public Information – were unreliable.

Financial consequence of irregularities identified in the NIK audit totalled nearly PLN 6.4 million, of which over 98% (PLN 6.3 million) referred to the audit in the Warsaw City Council. NIK submitted reports to the prosecutor’s office of criminal  activities allegedly committed by employees of that institution, including payment of undue salaries, as well as unjustified increase of salaries of entities waste collection and management in Warsaw, as well as the failure to recover contractual penalties due from those entities. According to NIK they made the City of Warsaw lose more than PLN 80.2 million.


Considering the audit results NIK has made the following recommendations:

To the Minister of Climate and Environment to:

  • take efforts to add a provision to the Act on waste electrical and electronic equipment obliging the province marshal to inform the relevant provincial inspector for environmental protection about the default set out in Article 70 section 2 of the Act;
  • make sure the data in the database on products and packagings and waste management is complete and contains essential functionalities;
  • properly analyse the municipal waste market to identify issues with managing individual waste material fractions and take relevant legislative and organisational measures to solve them;
  • intensify efforts to ensure full transposition of directives of the European Parliament and Council (EU) 2018/852 and 2018/851 (the so-called “waste package”);
  • take efforts in cooperation with the Minister of Digital Affairs and the Minister of Infrastructure, to:  
    • make the data in the CEPiK system realistic (for vehicles, in case of which the civil liability insurance is not paid);
    • precisely define conditions which – when fulfilled – make a vehicle stop being a vehicle and make it a laid-up vehicle;

To the Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection to:

  • develop and implement the principles of supervising waste transport or transit;

To provincial inspectorates for environmental protection to:

  • plan and conduct inspections in municipal waste collection entities;
  • collect waste testing samples as part of the inspections, particularly in case of waste deposited in landfill sites;

To province marshalls to:

  • make – in the area of the municipal waste market monitoring – analyses of the municipal waste market, e.g. to identify issues related to the ways of managing specific material fractions;

To municipality heads, mayors and city presidents to:

  • supervise municipal waste collection and management entities;
  • study morphology of waste produced in the given municipality and use the study results to analyse the waste management condition in the municipality and calculate the objectives achieved;
  • properly verify reports on municipal waste based on source documents.

Article informations

Date of creation:
18 July 2023 16:50
Date of publication:
18 July 2023 16:50
Published by:
Marta Połczyńska
Date of last change:
11 September 2023 07:51
Last modified by:
Andrzej Gaładyk
The image of the globe with the recycling logo on it lying on five waste sorting bins © Adobe Stock

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