Ecorubic 17:12 01 Jun 2023

Eco-solutions from the military: how Ukraine’s defenders try to protect nature while protecting the country

Organized garbage collection in military units and removal of batteries from the front line is already a reality. Rubryka talks about examples of environmental consciousness at the front lines.

What is the problem?

There's no putting a clean face on war: it causes enormous, sometimes, irreparable damage to nature and the ecosystems that depend on it. Ecorubric has reported on this topic extensively, speaking to environmentalists, scientists, and regular Ukrainians who care about the environment and haven't stopped talking about it despite the ongoing war.

War does not just result in the contamination of soil and water resources with explosive substances and heavy metals because of the hostilities – the very presence of the military in certain areas causes disruption in the ecosystems with the digging of trenches and  other fortifications, not to mention the ordinary waste from soldiers who live there for weeks or months on end.

But while the Russian occupiers continue to pollute Ukraine with their presence, members of the Ukrainian military have demonstrated standout examples of caring for nature under challenging conditions.

Sorting on the front line — is it the right time?

Eco-friendly habits are not the first thing you might think about in a life or death situation. On the front lines, in a battle for life or death, there may be little time to sort plastic and glass in the trenches. 

However, this issue recently sparked debate on Twitter community when eco-activist Mariia Smirnova posted about the mess in the trenches and the need to sort garbage.

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The idea of collecting garbage from the front line may seem so idealistic that no one expected such initiatives to exist – but as it turned out, it does! Ukrainian eco-activists are capable of anything, so let's take a look at what kind of solutions are already in the works.

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Якою б нереальною, але чудовою не виглядала ідея збору сміття з передової, ми не сподівались, що подібні ініціативи існують, але, як виявилось, українські екоактивісти здатні на все, тож про рішення, які вже працюють — далі.

What is the solution?

Garbage removal service from military units exists!

In search of solutions, Rubryka turned to No Waste Ukraine (NWU), a social initiative which works to popularize waste sorting in Ukraine and create opportunities for a separate collection of recyclables.

In September, the organization launched the charity initiative Hang up a package!, which enables do-gooders to pay for NWU's trash pickup service in advance, allowing military units and Kyiv volunteer headquarters to use the service to collect the waste for recycling free of charge. NWU told Rubryka that service is already successfully used by some military units and headquarters, for example, the Women's Veteran Movement. 

You can also join this initiative:

👉🏻 How to hang a package?

Go to the NWU Services Telegram bot and select "Chat with a person." Write that you want to Hang a package and specify the quantity. After that, you will be sent a link for payment. Hanging up one large package of 120 liters costs $7.50.

👉🏻 Who can use pre-paid packages?

A representative of a military unit or volunteer headquarters can take advantage of this opportunity. If you are one of them, message the organization on Instagram or Facebook.

Batteries from the front lines for recycling

Rubryka found another example of soldiers caring for the environment, this time on Twitter, where user @Falconua, who is a soldier fighting in Ukraine's east, said he brought a battery from the front line to Silpo supermarket for recycling.

Ukraine's largest network for collecting batteries, Batteries, surrender! found an eco-conscious military man. As it turned out, Oleksandr, with the call sign Sokil, is fighting in his hometown of Bakhmut, and it was here that he once saw the first container for collecting batteries in the local Silpo supermarket. During the war, Oleksandr did not forget about his ecological habit of returning batteries for recycling. When the battery died in the keys of the front-line military vehicle, Oleksandr carried it with him for two months before returning it in Kyiv during his leave from military service.

"We must always keep in mind that in absolutely every situation, we have a choice and the opportunity to act as we think is right," says Oleksandr.

Saving one small battery from falling into the ground while hundreds of missiles and shells efface the landscape – may not make much difference, but in Ukraine, only 3-4% of batteries are recycled. Anyone can do their part to see this amount increase by joining the centralized collection of batteries for recycling:

👉🏻 How can I start collecting and disposing of batteries myself?

Fill out the form to order a box. You will receive a solid specialized 10 kg box and a service for free dumping of batteries, which will be recycled at the Green WEEE plant in Romania.

👉🏻 How can I help the organization?

Use the link to set up a regular contribution to the Batteries, Surrender! initiative.

More solutions from the military

Rubryka spoke to Yuriy, a soldier in the Ukrainian army, whose comrades at the front call him a "green activist". Like others, he cares about Ukraine's environment, and was eager to tell Rubryka about the eco-friendly habits he is developing at the front. The defender shared the main points:

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👉🏻 Save more trees. Of course, wood is needed during the construction of dugouts and trenches, which must often be built in plantations.

"Whenever possible, we try not to cut down too much, leaving some trees to preserve nature," the soldier told Rubryka.

👉🏻 Garbage goes in the trash. It is an obvious rule, but it's not always something that can be implemented on the front line. But Yuriy manages it:

"We try to take all the garbage with us, and when we come to a settlement — a village or a city, we leave it in the bins," says Yuriy." For him, the simple fact that the bottle or can did not remain in the forest or the field is already a small victory for the environment.

👉🏻 Fewer batteries, more accumulators.

"We have had this rule for a long time. Firstly, batteries are expensive, and secondly, where to dispose of them? It is much more convenient to have a flashlight on an accumulator, which will last longer and is cheaper to use," the soldier told Rubryka.

👉🏻 Green energy in the army — why not?

"Of course, when you're in the unit, charging devices from an outlet is easier. But a complex solar panel will come in handy when you are in the field without an outlet nearby. It's spring now, and it will be sunny more every day, so we're going to order one for our convenience," Yuriy tells Rubryka.

The actions of environmentally-conscious Ukrainians show that caring for the environment is possible everywhere, under any conditions and circumstances, even during the war.


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