Municipal waste—the trash produced by citizens—is also a problem. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has made dealing with waste a priority. The government recently created a working group tasked with establishing an effective system of waste collection, transportation, sorting and recycling throughout the country.
Pashinyan has noted, however, that the most important change has to come from Armenian citizens.
“Unfortunately, our country is covered with garbage and our country is buried under garbage. There is an atmosphere of resignation, which needs to be reversed,” he said in a December 2019 speech.
“We have to declare war on garbage in Armenia. I do not mean that it will be a blitzkrieg, but at least we should adopt a line of intolerance to garbage at a personal level.”
Activist Mikoyan’s initiative focuses on the personal level—he and his supporters call out people for littering, and try to convince them to change their habits.
He says people respond in different ways: while some take the rebuke as an insult and try to cause trouble, others apologize. There have been some cases when a person has gone from a litterbug to an anti-litter advocate.
“Once, when we reprimanded a MP for throwing a cigarette butt on the ground, he apologized, picked it up off the ground and dropped into the trash bin. After that, he became one of the active participants in the fight against garbage," Mikoyan says.
Over the past five months, Mikoyan’s initiative has gained popularity in his hometown and in Yerevan. About 55 activities have been held by a variety of supporters, including actors, students, public officials and members of parliament.
The former deputy governor of Armenia’s south-eastern province of Vayots Dzor, Razmik Tonoyan, ran the Clean Armenia program when he was in office from July 2018 to July 2019.
As a result of the program, Vayots Dzor was recognized as the cleanest province in Armenia twice. “I have partially solved the garbage problem in the region because first the community leaders were doing their daily work and then we were focusing on the citizen's legal consciousness. Compared to residents in other provinces, residents of Vayots Dzor know where garbage should be put," he says.
In Yerevan, Eco Waste, a local NGO, has also had success at introducing recycling and better waste disposal at a grassroots level.
Eco Waste President Hripsime Mkrtchyan says they sort garbage from ordinary citizens from Yerevan and nearby regions. The NGO also works with local processing plants that turn the recycled waste, like plastic, into products that they sell on the local market.