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EU citizens burning rubbish for warmth

As Poland adjusts to life without Russian gas, desperate measures could increase pollution

Polish households are burning more and more garbage to stay warm, Bloomberg reported on Thursday. As the country grapples with the aftermath of anti-Russian sanctions, pollution is set to soar.

“It’s so bad this season that you can smell the garbage burning every day, which is completely new,” Paulina Mroczkowska, a 35-year-old mother of three from a Warsaw suburb, told the US newspaper. “You can rarely smell regular fuel. It’s scary to think what happens when it’s really cold.

Mroczkowska said she first noticed something was wrong when she spotted a neighbor storing rubbish in her workshop, but the problem is not unique to the Polish capital. In the town of Nowy Sacz, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southeast of Krakow, local authorities are collecting far less rubbish than last year, raising fears that fires of highly polluting rubbish could become currency common as temperatures drop further.

Poland has given citizens the green light to burn their rubbish, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, told supporters last month that “you have to burn almost everything” to stay warm. Kaczynski’s statement came months after his government relaxed a ban on low-quality coal, and weeks after a regional assembly in Krakow voted to delay a ban on burning almost everything in household ovens.

After Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine in February, Poland became one of the strongest supporters of an EU-wide ban on Russian energy imports. However, he suffered from his position.

Poland once depended on Russia for 46% of its gas, 64% of its oil and 15% of its coal. However, he saw the flow of gas stop in April when Warsaw refused to pay Russian energy giant Gazprom in rubles and plans to stop oil imports by the end of the year. Poland stopped buying coal from Russia in April, and although the government insisted domestic supplies were sufficient to meet the shortfall, shortages were soon reported and prices more than doubled.

According to EU figures from last year, Nowy Sacz is already the bloc’s most polluted city, with four other Polish cities – Zgierz, Piotrkow Trybunalsi, Zory and Krakow – occupying spaces in the worst 10.

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