To preserve quality of life in the capital, Moscow’s government sends streams of municipal waste into the surrounding regions. Greenpeace reports that 90 percent of Moscow’s waste goes to landfills in Moscow’s suburban region. Landfills created in the Soviet and early post-Soviet period, when there was little consumer waste, have been expanded, often with no community notification and despite being in close proximity to homes and schools. Air quality suffers as the dumps release fumes from decomposing waste.

In addition to established landfills, 52 illegal dumps were identified in the Moscow region in the first half of 2017.

As the stench rises and the public health risks—such as respiratory diseases that most acutely affect children—mount, citizen appeals to regional and national government officials have had little effect.

Local people are left with few options but protest. Demonstrations of more than 1,000 people occurred in at least eight towns and villages near Moscow. Citizens also have organized groups on VKontakte, a Russian social media platform, to coordinate petitions, block roads and even mount hunger strikes.