Commissioner and Ombudsman for Future Generations Take Stand in Relation to Providing Selective Waste Containers for Church-Maintained and Independent Schools

Providing selective waste containers free of charge is necessary and legitimate also for church-maintained and independent schools, concluded Dr. Ákos Kozma, Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and Dr. Gyula Bándi, Ombudsman for Future Generations.

A Roman Catholic school operating in Budapest turned to the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and complained that FKF Zrt. (Metropolitan Public Area Maintenance Plc.) did not provide the school with selective waste containers free of charge. According to the petition, the public service provider also violated the environmental education goals concerning selective waste collection as the pupils of the school witnessed an improper practice from the perspective of environmental sustainability.

FKF Zrt. and the legislator, the Ministry for Innovation and Technology, which were contacted during the inquiry of Case No. AJB-1827/2021, adopted different positions on the matter. According to FKF Zrt., schools are economic operators, for which the company would provide selective waste containers only for a special fee, and the fee laid down in the contract refers only to mixed waste containers. However, the Ministry for Innovation and Technology claims that church-maintained schools do not qualify as economic operators, therefore the same legal provisions are applicable to them as to real estate users, according to which public services must include selective waste containers provided free of charge.

In their joint report, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and his Deputy, the Ombudsman for Future Generations established that based on the applicable legal provisions, church schools would qualify as economic operators only if they were registered in the public register of the Treasury.

Dr. Ákos Kozma and Dr. Gyula Bándi found that the complainant school is not registered in the public register of the Treasury, therefore it does not qualify as an economic operator. According to the Ombudsman’s conclusion, which coincides with the Minister’s position, public education institutions fall within the scope of application of the provisions applicable to real estate users without discrimination, and the public service provider must ensure public services by providing selective waste containers as well. In addition to legal regulations, another important consideration is that it is only in this way that schools can meet their environmental education goals related to selective waste collection in practice.

The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and the Ombudsman for Future Generations concluded that the practice of the public service provider violated the interests of future generations, the principle of legal certainty and the right to a healthy environment.

Dr. Ákos Kozma and Dr. Gyula Bándi asked the public service provider to provide the school concerned with the missing selective waste containers free of charge, and to ensure waste management public services to all public education institutions without discrimination by providing containers enabling selective waste collection. 

For the report, please click on the following link: AJB-1827/2021.