Recycling in Romania: what goes around comes around
In the past few years, it seemed that recycling had started slowly, but would surely become more popular in Romania. However, by 2015 the enthusiasm stagnated and the country wasted precious time. For this year, however, expectations are high as the new technocrat Minister of Environment announced that the National Waste Management Plan will be top priority. Alexandra Cioboata (Lopotaru) talks to authorities and green players
Romania's waste management system was expected to make serious steps forward last year, but instead 2015 was a year of confusion, lack of decision, with no visible improvement, says the business community active in the field. The private companies blame the legal framework for still being unclear, point out the lack of emphasis on infrastructure development and hope for 2016 to paint a better picture. On the other hand, authorities are facing a transition period after the changing of the Government, where the new technocrat minister appointed in November last year is trying to come up with a new reform, with the National Waste Management Plan as top priority. If locally things seem to move slowly, at the European level they accelerate.
In December last year, the European Commission adopted an ambitious new Circular Economy Package to help European businesses and consumers make the transition to a stronger and more circular economy where resources are used in a more sustainable way. According to the EC, the proposed actions will contribute to "closing the loop" of product lifecycles through greater recycling and re-use, and bring benefits for both the environment and the economy. The revised legislative proposal on waste sets clear targets for reduction of waste and establishes an ambitious path for waste management and recycling: a common EU target for recycling 65 per cent of municipal waste by 2030; a common EU target for recycling 75 per cent of packaging waste by 2030 and a binding landfill target to reduce landfill to maximum of ten per cent of all waste by 2030.
According to Eurostat′s revised methodology for 2012, Romania achieved a level of municipal waste recycling of around 14 per cent. If 2030 with its 65 per cent target seems far, 2020 is knocking on the door with its 50 per cent. How will Romania triple the amount of waste recycled in four years? Experts say that it is possible, but common effort and several aspects need to be kept in mind: the flaws slipped into the details of the waste laws need to be solved, while both central and local authorities should get involved in waste management more carefully and with more specialists.
"For 2016 we expect technical solutions coming from a technocrat Government where one should assess very well the impact of regulatory changes," Constantin Damov, co-founder of one of the leading recyclers in the country, Green Group, with a turnover of 150 million Euro, tells The Diplomat - Bucharest. "There are many flaws in the details of the waste laws and their solving could lead Romania to an explosion of collection and good results. Details of environmental legislation hide some unexpected solutions of economic growth. Furthermore, unless both the central and local authorities get involved in waste management more carefully and with more specialists, I think we will reach a point in which we lose complete control and Romania will have to pay through its citizens. The infringement will be paid from the taxes of the citizens. We will pay 200,000 Euro/day/type of waste."
Another aspect stressed by Damov that is pulling down the country and needs to be addressed is the lack of emphasis on infrastructure development. According to him, local waste management should be done by the local authority. However, the city halls currently do not have the ability to manage waste except through the linear method of collection, transportation and landfilling. "City halls are not penalized for targets, are not included into the system," says the co-founder of Green Group. "Unfortunately, those who have money - such as producers - are where the fingers point and we will end up saying that all the pollution in Romania is made by them. What′s the next step? Stop production? I think we should organize an infrastructure and legislation to penalise every link in the chain who doesn't do his job."
Toma Florin Petcu, president of the National Environmental Protection Agency (ANPM) echoes the same idea as Damov, saying that municipal waste management, including achievement of the recycling targets, is a matter of the local public administrations. In order to enhance and elaborate a more proper infrastructure for the collection process, European funds would be a solution. "They [the local public administrations] can benefit from projects funded through SOP Environment (POS Mediu) in order to create the infrastructure necessary for the separate collection and recycling of municipal waste," Petcu tells The Diplomat - Bucharest. "In order to increase waste recycling rates, we propose the development of a much closer relation with the decision-makers at local and regional levels, as well as the involvement of the environmental authorities in awareness campaigns. In this context, the role of the Environmental Protection Agencies, at the county level, is constantly and increasingly maintained."
The Minister of the Environment: National Waste Management Plan, top priority this year
As Petcu mentioned above, EU funds could be a solution to develop the necessary infrastructure in order to encourage waste recycling. However, there might be a problem. Although Romania has developed its 2014-2020 National Waste Management Strategy, it did not elaborate the National Waste Management Plan yet, an ex-ante conditionality for attracting European funds in the 2014-2020 financial period. Nevertheless, in mid-January, the newly appointed Minister of the Environment, Water and Forests, Cristiana Pasca - Palmer, stated during a press conference that the development of the national plan will be a top priority in 2016.
"Waste is a very large and complex problem, maybe with not so much public visibility as the forests sector, but with many things that need to be done in this regard," says the Minister of the Environment. "The National Waste Management Plan will be a top priority this year as it is an ex-ante conditionality, meaning that we will not be able to access European funds in 2014-2020 without having this plan worked out. It is a challenge, I tell you that, because we are very late, we have to unlock some things, but - together with my team - we have committed to elaborate the plan this year with all necessary efforts."
Circular economy, a matter of both the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Economy
European experts have concluded that the current economic linear model, where one exploits resources, processes them, uses them and then discards them, has no future. Thus, European companies have started to look at the potential that derives from the economic circular model, where the waste of an industry can become raw material for other industries. The first discussions on a circular economy in Romania emerged five to six years ago, but now, after the official adoption of the Circular Economy Package by the European Commission, experts say that Romania needs to seriously think about it, especially given the series of advantages that could offer. According to Florin Diaconu, general commissioner of the National Environmental Guard (GNM), the transition to a circular economy with zero waste should increase recycling and prevent the loss of valuable materials, should lead to economic growth and job creation, innovations in recycled materials markets and the contribution of new business models, of eco-design, industrial symbiosis and should reduce greenhouse gas emissions and their impacts on the environment.
"The circular economic model is based on reuse, repair, reprocessing and recycling of materials and products," Diaconu tells The Diplomat - Bucharest. "The impact on Romania should materialize in increased resource productivity and separating economic growth from resource consumption and environmental impact."
However, the implementation of the new legislative provisions will be challenging for Romania, according to ANPM's Toma Florin Petcu, knowing that in this moment the country has certain difficulties in meeting the recycling targets. "It is necessary that waste management systems be designed and implemented so as to be sustainable and their operation to become competitive and economically profitable," he adds. On the other hand, Constantin Damov, co-founder of Green Group, believes the country has a great chance to adopt the circular model, but it takes much more decision and involvement of both the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Economy in order to extract the maximum value of the waste.
"The Ministry of Environment - unfortunately for our industries - sees the waste in a touching account, as a potential polluter," says Damov. "In the Nordic countries, the first ones who embraced the concept of circular economy before it entered into the EU package - Denmark, for instance - have come to landfill less than 0.5 per cent. There the interest was shifted to the Ministry of Economy. So, the circular economy in Romania should not be a problem of the Ministry of Environment that fears pollution, but the problem of the Ministry of Economy. We must go towards practical solutions and see that each molecule of waste can have another use. The Ministry of Economy will have to work closely with the Ministry of Environment to find law packages adapted in Romania in order to exploit the financial potential of waste as raw material potential. That way we can disconnect the economic development from the consumption of raw mineral materials. We gladly welcome such orientation and we are at Romania's forefront for the implementation of the circular economy."
Same old dumping tax
The prices between landfilling versus separate collection & sorting is uneven on the local market, as landfilling is cheaper. This situation leads to preferring the first option, as Romania landfills more than 95 per cent of municipal waste, according to the waste management scoreboard drawn up by the Commission in the 2012 report, where Romania ranked 23rd out of the 27 member states. However, the picture could be balanced through the dumping tax, say experts, as the costs between the two activities would be similar. The tax should have been applied to waste deposits from 2014, but in December 2013 the authorities postponed the charge until 2017, when the tax should have been 80 RON (17.7 Euro) per tonne. However, the former Minister of the Environment, Water and Forests, Gratiela Gavrilescu, announced in mid-August last year that the fee will be applied starting 2016. As Gavrilescu was replaced in November 2015, the change did not occur.
Now, the draft law amending and supplementing the Government Emergency Ordinance no. 196/2005 regarding the Environmental Fund, through which one proposed the entry into force of the dumping tax on 1 January 2016 is in the approval procedure and analysis of proposals or suggestions on the draft legislation, according to the Environment Fund Administration (AFM), the initiator of the project. "This procedure led to a postponement of the finalizing of the project, of its transmission for consideration and approval from the interested public authorities and thus of its adoption, therefore the entry into force of the tax will be determined following completion of the ministerial consultation," states AFM.
The Diplomat - Bucharest requested information regarding the dumping tax also from the Ministry of the Environment, Water and Forests, and received, in late January, the following response: "According to AFM, the fees charged from the economic operators, users of new land plots for storage of several recoverable waste categories, are set out in Annex 2 of the Emergency Government Ordinance no 196/2005, with subsequent amendments, annexes which as of 01/01/2017 will change and be replaced with the Annex 1 of Government Ordinance no. 31/2013, for amending and supplementing Government Emergency Ordinance No. 196/2005 on the Environment Fund," say representatives of the Ministry. They also point out that there is "a proposal to amend the Emergency Ordinance no. 196/2005, approved with amendments by Law no. 105/2006, with subsequent amendments, which will reduce the quantities of waste disposed of in landfills, increase the selective collection rate at the source and develop the sorting and recovery capacity by imposing a dumping tax."
However, at the European level, the dumping tax is pretty common. In a report of the European Court of Auditors, cited by the Environment Fund Administration (AFM), it is recommended to "introduce economic measures in the waste management in order to stimulate waste prevention and recycling, particularly by the levying of a tax on waste disposal, by applying payment systems based on the quantity of waste produced, and establishing other types of incentives within the tariffs paid by households."
In addition, according to the results of the study on the application of economic instruments for improving waste management, prepared in February 2012 by Bio Intelligence at the request of the European Commission, 19 Member States have introduced fees for non-hazardous municipal waste disposal in landfills, ranging between three and 107.49 Euro/tonne. Moreover, the study reveals that total costs of disposal are between 17.5 and 155.5 Euro/tonne, and that there is a link between high levels of tax (and total disposal cost) and total quantity of waste deposited. According to the same study, there is a nearly linear correlation between the total cost of storage and the percentage of municipal waste recycled and composted in the Member States. The Member States, in which one pays more for storage, have a higher percentage of recycling and composting.
According to the scenario examined in the study, if all Member States would apply a dumping tax of at least 40 Euro/tonne, which redirect waste for recycling, composting and incineration, the waste rerouted would increase in 2025 by 226 per cent compared to 2008.
"The first step needed to encourage recycling is to introduce the tax on landfill," Dorel Tudor, president of Environment Fund Administration (AFM), tells The Diplomat - Bucharest. "The establishment of this environmental fiscal tool, gradually, from 2016, to penalize the activity of landfilling, leads to the increase of the quantities of recovered waste, to the development of the recycling industry by attracting investments and achieving the obligations assumed by Romania through the Accession Treaty," he adds.
According to him, the introduction of the storage fee will have a positive impact on the business environment, including stimulating investments in the fields of selective collection, sorting and treatment stations, collection and recovery capabilities. Moreover, it will stimulate the involvement of a larger category of economic operators in sustainable efforts for environmental protection and management of waste streams and it will encourage the collection of funds to support projects dedicated to the environment.
"In the short term, economic operators who become taxpayers, following the amendments proposed in the draft bill, will seek to recover costs by increasing prices. Thus, the owners/operators of compliant landfills will recover the dumping tax from the operators who, in turn, will recover [their costs] by increasing the sanitation tariffs levied to the administrative-territorial units," says Tudor. "In the long term, the impact is positive and lasting through waste reduction, involvement of more operators on the flow of collection/recovery/treatment of waste, all leading to the increase of the environmental quality, with beneficial effects on health and life quality," he concludes.
Data accuracy verifications might lead to a greater market accountability
According to the law, a producer is compelled to manage the product sold after it becomes waste. He either collects it personally or he becomes a member of an association that will do the collection process for him. However, regardless of the path he chooses, he must declare the amount of products sold and the statement is made on the producer's own responsibility. On the packaging market there is AFM [Environment Fund Administration] who verifies the accuracy of the data sold and the data declared as sold, but on other markets, there is no institution empowered to check the data from the manufacturers.
According to a press release of the Prosecutor General, quoted by Agerpres, economic operators authorized to take over the obligations regarding the annual objectives of recovery and recycling of packaging waste were subject to searches by the prosecutors during 2015, having been suspected of fictitious recycling operations of around 120,000 tonnes of packaging waste, for which tax liabilities are more than 54 million Euro. In this context, Roxana Sunica, the marketing manager of Recolamp, the largest association focused on waste lamp management in Romania, tells The Diplomat - Bucharest that such verifications should extend to other waste fields as well, like the lighting equipment segment, as they might lead to a greater market accountability.
"We have all definitely seen the situation on the packaging waste market," says Sunica. "I am glad that such verifications have started in the recycling field, because we have noticed some issues for a long time now. I think the fact that a producer might know that at some point someone may come to check the accuracy of the data would lead to a greater market accountability and will determine level playing field, which is absolutely necessary for a Government that cares about environment protection and real measures."
Furthermore, according to her, there is a difference of at least 30 per cent between the declaration of the lighting equipment producers regarding the amount they sold on the market versus the figures that appear in the import documents.
"We do Big Four audits on 80 per cent of our participants - it is pretty difficult to audit all of them because we have 185 members of which three are founding members," says Sunica. "However, this is an internal procedure which is not found on the lighting equipment market. So, obviously, it is very simple to notice differences between the Intrastat data - showing how much lighting equipment has entered the country - and the ANPM data - showing how much lighting equipment has been declared as imports. There is clearly a difference of at least 30 per cent between the declaration of a producer regarding the amount he sold versus the figures that appear in the import documents. It is quite simple, because not many light bulbs are being produced in the country - there are some producers, but not among our members, so the data does not mix - and if what they sell it is in the country, then it is import."
Asked also about this topic, Green Group's Damov adds: "Many false reports have been found on the waste packaging market last year, but this happened in a system where the state no longer controls anything," he says. "Central and local authorities have not gone to the waste generators to verify; they went to the transfer-of-responsibility organizations (OTR). Unfortunately, the OTRs have no right to control - being private companies they cannot go to other private companies to verify them. Those who must verify these waste amounts are the authorities who are receiving reports, namely the environmental agency. However, nobody does that. It′s like we penalize the man who bought a stolen car without knowing it′s stolen. We are talking about the penalty applied to a buyer with good faith."
GNM sees positive development of the quantities of waste recycled following inspections
The National Environmental Guard envisages achieving the objectives set by the European Commission by planned and unplanned checks on all players involved in waste management, according to Florin Diaconu, the general commissioner of the National Environmental Guard (GNM). Thus, during 2015, the institution conducted inspections on municipal and industrial landfills, sanitation, demolition sites and waste shipments. The main aspect the general commissioner has noticed following inspection is that the quantities of the waste recycled stood higher last year compared to previous years.
"The National Environmental Guard does not have figures on waste recycled in 2015, as they are reported to ANPM, but following the checks carried out by commissioners of GNM, we can assume that there were higher quantities of waste recycled than in previous years," Diaconu tells The Diplomat - Bucharest. "We want to believe that the evolution for 2016 will be positive. However, from my point of view, the main weaknesses that hinder the development of the Romanian recycling system consist in both the low awareness level among the population about the benefits of recycling and the lack of endowment with containers for selective collection."
Diaconu goes on to add that in order to raise awareness among citizens about the importance of recycling, one must implement several promotional actions, such as educational campaigns in schools, social media campaigns, distribution of specific collection boxes and even events dedicated to collection at the collection points.
Last year, GNM conducted 285 checks to verify the 109 municipal and industrial landfills that have not fulfilled obligations relating to closure in accordance with Directive 1999/31/EC, the current status being as follows: out of the 65 non-compliant municipal waste deposits - 15 have ceased their activity, out of the 27 non-compliant landfills for hazardous waste - one is closed and another one is partially closed, while out of the 17 non-compliant deposits of non-hazardous industrial waste - one is closed also. The rest are about to be closed or will begin proceedings in pursuit of closure.
During early March and early May last year, the institution conducted 2,241 inspections regarding the status of the localities sanitation, water courses and communication lines where 81 warning and 104 sanctions have been applied, totalling more than one million RON. Between late April and end of September, GNM conducted 361 inspections at construction work sites, located in the municipalities of the country. During these controls, 28 warnings and 61 sanctions have been applied, amounting to 853,500 RON. In order to verify the compliance of the legislation on illegal shipments of waste, 111 inspections have been conducted, during which it was discovered a case of illegal shipment of waste, applying a penalty in the amount of 30,000 RON.
Green Group keeps investing this year
Green Group, one of the main recycling players on the local market, with a turnover of around 150 million Euro at the end of 2015, numbers five important companies, with around 1,500 employees: GreenTech, a plastics recycler; GreenFiber International, for synthetic polyester fibre and PET band; GreenWEEE International, for waste electrical and electronic equipment; GreenLamp Reciclare, for used lighting equipment; and GreenGlass Recycling, for glass. In 2015, the group managed to maintain the plastic segment at the same level as the previous years despite the general downward trend in oil prices - plastic being based on this raw material. In fact, it managed to increase slightly in terms of WEEE collected - ten per cent.
"Unfortunately, the glass segment is stagnating and we continue to be at the limit this year," Constantin Damov, co-founder of Green Group, tells The Diplomat - Bucharest. "It will be the third year in a row where we will likely conclude on break-even, if not with a small loss due to insufficient amounts of glass. At a capacity of 10,000 tonnes per month, we receive on average 1,500 tonnes per month. And the amount of glass that should be monthly recycled for producers is around 8,000 tonnes per month. However, the amount is not collected. Glass is a material with negative value and its collection is not justified. Therefore, certain forms of encouragement like the dumping tax are needed."
To improve the selective collection scenario in Romania, the company launched in the past years the Sigurec platform, intelligent machinery that collects waste directly from citizens. At the end of 2015, the company was present in 25 locations, counting 20 outdoor units in Carrefour's parking lots, several indoor units within Cora and pilot projects consisting in the mix between the outdoor and the indoor units. The outdoor system Sigurec Prime can collect 12 types of waste such as plastic bottles, aluminium cans, glass, electrical and electronic equipment waste, batteries, paper, cardboard, plastic sheets, polystyrene containers and various types of plastic packaging (such as hygiene product packaging). The collection unit offers rewards in the form of shopping vouchers available in Carrefour′s hypermarkets. The value of last year's investments amounted to four million Euro, of which 1.4 million Euro came from the Norwegian Goverment grants.
For this year, the company will continue to focus on a collection pilot project launched in Bucharest last year, Sigurec Mobile, a mobile pickup service from outside the house available through a mobile application. Green Group wants to implement more collection units and the project will need a similar amount of four million Euro, also with European co-financing. "We felt that the Romanian market exhibits a lack of reaction, or passivity, in terms of collection and we wanted to give it a boost," adds Damov.
In terms of other 2016's projects, Green Group will complete some new investments, planning to increase its washing capacity within GreenTech in Buzau. Damov confesses that the group is also interested in the construction waste market and in mid-December [when the interview was conducted] the company was conducting a study of opportunity and technologies analysis. By the end of the first quarter of 2016 a decision will be taken in this regards, notes Damov.
However, Green Group plans to implement an environmental friendly pilot project, switching from conventional energy to green energy regarding the necessary steam for the washing lines, moving from fossil fuel to biomass. The value of the project is 300,000 Euro and will be tested at GreenTech. "If the outcome is satisfying, we will extend the project to the entire group," concludes Damov.
Only up to 30 per cent of WEEE generated is currently being recovered and treated in Romania, says Ecotic report
At the EU level, Directive 2012/19/EU for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) introduces higher targets for WEEE collection starting 2016. Romania must reach a collection target of 40 per cent from 1 January 2016, 45 per cent from 1 January 2017 and, from 1 January 2021, 65 per cent of the annual average amount of electrical and electronic equipment placed on the national market in the three preceding years or 85 per cent of the annual average amount of WEEE generated.
According to a study by Ecotic and United Nations University - Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability, with the support of Innovation Norway and Norway Grants, Romania's household WEEE generated in 2015 amounts to 7.3 kg/person, meaning that the 85 per cent waste generated collection target would represent 6.2 kg/person. However, in 2012, which is the most recent year official data was reported to Eurostat, Romania collected and treated 23,000 tonnes of WEEE generated or 1.2 kg/person. This is still below the original four kg/person target, but also too low for future targets, read the report. Moreover, according to the same source, municipal collection points and retailers are estimated to collect 1.5 kg/person (20 per cent of WEEE generated). Taking into account the 0.7 kg/person (ten per cent of WEEE generated) handled by scrap collectors and assuming those players are applying minimum standards, only 30 per cent of WEEE generated is currently being recovered and treated in Romania, excluding the share handled by informal street collectors .
"The Directive will run from 1 January [the interview was conducted in mid-December 2015], thus we have to roll up our sleeves and do our job," Valentin Negoita, president of Ecotic, tells The Diplomat - Bucharest. "It will be difficult. The rush for waste will be high, but it may be somehow facilitated by those who are compelled to contribute to the collection process, including local municipalities. No one in this country will be able to do something by himself if all actors are not involved in the collection flow."
Ecotic, one of the most important local organizations which assumes the responsibilities of producers and importers of WEEE to achieve the annual targets for collection, reuse, recycling and recovery of WEEE, managed to collect and recycle more than 12,500 tonnes of WEEE last year, an increase of 13.6 per cent compared to 2014, when the figure stood at 11,000 tonnes. "For us, 2015 was a good year," says Negoita. "We exceeded 40 per cent, a first in Romania, and we maintained the leadership in terms of WEEE collection in Romania, with 25 per cent market share. It is certain that we have had the highest amount of WEEE collected last year as well as in previous years."
One of the most important factors that helped Ecotic achieve the 2015's 40 per cent target was the 400,000 Euro awareness project called "Ecotic Caravan Life +", a project co-funded by the European Union through "Life +" programme. It consists of a travelling exhibition around Romania that will highlight the importance of collection and recycling of WEEE, trying to change people's behaviour towards this direction. Although the plan was to reach 150 schools and 30 public places, Negoita notes that the figures were surpassed due to the project's success, reaching almost 200 schools in December 2015.
"The caravan helps people disseminate the information and raises awareness in terms of WEEE collection," says the president of the organization. "It is, undoubtedly, a very important awareness tool that we will use further in 2016. Officially, the project ends in mid-year, but this does not mean that we do not have the desire or the right to continue the project within other areas of the country which we have not yet penetrated. We want to cover all areas of the country. The next stop will be the south-west of the country."
Besides the caravan, Ecotic has other plans for 2016 in order to increase Romania's perspective regarding WEEE collections and recycling. Although the project is ongoing and many details cannot be disclosed yet, Negoita confesses that Ecotic will open the first universal collection centre in Romania in Iasi in the first quarter of the year, a project developed with the support of Innovation Norway. The centre will be able to collect all types of recyclable waste, from textiles to tires, packaging, batteries and WEEE. "The accumulation of experience entitles us to do other projects as good as the caravan," says Negoita. "The universal collection centre is a first for Romania. We have high expectations not only for Iasi and its surroundings, but in terms of other city halls in the country. They need to know that these kind of things are very important and could be done with a not-so-large amount of money. Why is the centre in Iasi? Because this is the place where we have found availability among the local authorities."
Ecotic represents over 500 producers and counted over 900 collection points all over the country at the end of 2015.
Orban, Environ: "Reaching high performances in recycling is not possible without a conjugate approach of all actors involved"
Romania has not registered any significant progress in the recycling system last year and waste management is still a very problematic and challenging area, according to Andrei Orban, the president of Environ, another important organization which aims to take over and fulfil the obligations of producers of electrical and electronic equipment. According to him, the implementation of selective collection in four streams of waste has been postponed, there are no municipal collection points available for the population, the absorption of European funds is low, while legislative inconsistency, lack of enforcement, low level of awareness and interest for environmental issues represent aspects Romania needs to reconsider. However, the picture might change and the achievement of the recycling targets could be accomplished, he says, but only if there will be cooperation and support from both authorities and industry.
"It's time for people to understand their obligations as citizens of this country and to protect the environment by safely disposing of the quantities of waste generated, without receiving any incentives in return," Orban tells The Diplomat - Bucharest. "Reaching high performances in recycling is not possible without a conjugate approach of all actors involved: starting with central authorities in charge with legislation transposal, law enforcement, local authorities' involvement in creating municipal collection centres, sanitation operators, EPR [extended producer responsibility] schemes, businesses that take over their environmental obligations and civil society active participation. We have to be aware that we need to start immediately the selective collection at the source and stop landfilling every kind of waste, otherwise it will be almost impossible to reach the targets."
Orban goes on to add that one of the most important changes in the WEEE recycling market in 2015 was the transposal of the European Directive 2012/19/EU into national legislation by Emergency Ordinance no 5/2015, over a year later than expected. According to him, the adoption of Emergency Ordinance opens a new page in the application of the acquis communautaire in the environment area in the country, introducing new targets for electronic waste, established by a calculation formula. Nevertheless, Orban emphasizes that the implementation of any national economic instruments based on the extended producer responsibility has to be done according to the European stipulations and Romania's obligations as foreseen in the Partnership Agreement.
"One of the major problems in the waste area is that the legislation is not compliant with the obligations our country has assumed in the Treaty of Accession regarding the Common Environmental Policy, whereas the 2012 European Commission Roadmap for Romania was and is still being disregarded," says the president of Environ. "E-waste management requires equal involvement of central and local authorities as they are being held responsible, according to the law, for ensuring waste collection through fixed or mobile collection centres or at least every three months. We have expressed several times our interest and willingness to cooperate with the representatives of central authorities for the development of a public awareness strategy and action plan in order to increase the population information level regarding selective collection and recycling," he adds.
Environ launched in summer of 2015 the first interactive recycling map, an intelligent program that uses up-to-the-minute technology and after detecting the location of an online visitor, it can guide him towards the closest point of collection with the aim of encouraging a recycling habit. Moreover, the organization continued last year to develop the project "Reduce your carbon footprint - First steps in the battle against climate change" initiated in 2014 with the support of the German Embassy, the activities being mainly online-focused, by providing permanently updated information regarding global warming. The organization also continued to invest in education, organizing the fifth consecutive edition of the school campaign "Baterel and the Non E World", an ecological education program for students all ages and that is currently being implemented in more than 1,000 education units.
Another project initiated last autumn called "Raising energy efficiency in education units" is being developed in collaboration with the Independent Institute for Environment Issues from Germany. The pilot edition is being implemented in four schools and it aims to generate a change of mentality by involving both students and professors in applying a set of practical measures in order to reduce carbon footprint and increase energy efficiency. Since 2007, when it started its activity in the WEEE management area, Environ has collected almost 50,000 tonnes of WEEE, of which over 95 per cent has been treated and recycled within the plants of Remat Holding and GreenWEEE, part of Green Group.
Recolamp to increase by 30 per cent the amount of lighting equipment collected and recycled last year
Recolamp, the largest association focused on waste lamp management in Romania, has collected and recycled up to 640 tonnes of lighting equipment last year, more than 30 per cent compared to the previous year, when the organization posted a figure of 480 tonnes of waste, managing to achieve the 40 per cent target. For 2016, however, the organization has set a 41 per cent target - representing 650 tonnes of lighting equipment - in order to increase gradually to 65 per cent by 2021 as the Directive 2012/19/EU for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) stipulates.
"We have set 2016's target to 41 per cent of the waste marketed, because in the following years the percentage will grow to 65 per cent," Roxana Sunica, marketing manager of Recolamp, tells The Diplomat - Bucharest. "If you maintain it at 40 per cent, you cannot reach 65 per cent from one year to another. We need to do it gradually."
The national target for WEEE was four kg per capita, but Recolamp always had in mind the EU target of 40 per cent of the lighting equipment marketed. Why? Because the WEEE directive exists since 2012 at EU level and no one could tell the organization how much of those four kg the light bulbs should represent. "We have done the math - we collect and recycle 33 g per capita, but we do not know if it is all right or not," says Sunica. "So, we have focused on the EU directive that enters into force on 1 January anyway."
Recolamp had cooperation protocols with roughly 11,000 locations last year, ten per cent more compared to previous year when it counted 10,000. Around 46 per cent of the generated lighting equipment came from industry, 23 per cent from retail, 7.2 per cent from public authorities, 5.8 per cent from health, 4.7 per cent from HORECA, 4.6 per cent from transport and 4.3 per cent from office buildings. Furthermore, the organization offers 1,500 collection points for citizens located in both electrical and retail stores. However, they generate only five per cent of the total amount compared to other countries where the percentage is six times higher.
"The collection points for citizens do not generate impressive amounts of waste," says Sunica. "Such locations need to increase in terms of importance. In other countries similar to Romania in terms of lighting equipment, such as Italy or Spain, where citizens have behavioural education, 30 per cent of the waste collected comes from the citizens. In Romania, it′s only five per cent. So, there is definitely potential for the population to generate waste. Yet, in 2015, we have developed heavily the ′professional citizens - electricians' and in 2015, another seven per cent of collection came from this category."
Recolamp is sorting the collected waste at four sorting points located in Bucuresti, Buzau, Targu Mures and Satu Mare and recycles it at GreenLamp, part of Green Group and at Mezokovacshaza, a recycling plant in Hungary, built through a cross-border project, benefiting of European funds. From the recycling of lamps, one obtains glass, metal, fluorescent powder and mercury. The first two can be used as secondary raw material, while the last two - dangerous for the environment - are stored in compliant landfills. Recolamp posted revenues of 1.3 million Euro and counted 185 members at the end of 2015.
Recycling of aluminium cans will have an average annual growth of 12-15 per cent by 2020
Compared to previous years, the quantities of waste aluminium cans collected and recycled in 2015 increased by about three to four per cent, while in the next four years the recycling of aluminium cans will have an average annual growth of 12 to 15 per cent, according to Bogdan Constantinescu, waste management specialist. He reports that the quantities collected have increased largely due to the implementation of local sanitation regulations that require clear provisions for the separate collection of waste, due to the collection points established by Sigurec, as well as due to the entry into service of waste sorting stations, made particularly by private companies with their own funds.
In addition, recycling has also increased due to the entry of the company Can-Pack Romania into the recycling system, which last year invested about 200,000 Euro in developing an aluminium cans recycling station in Bucharest, at European standards, according to Adina Magsi, the general manager of Alucro, a NGO designed to promote the collection-recycling system of aluminium cans. The unit has a capacity of 300 tonnes per month which means 3,600 tonnes per year nominal capacity. For the future, Magsi believes that the collection process of aluminium cans in Romania will keep growing.
"Taking into account what happened during 2015 on the OTRs (transfer-or-responsibility organizations) market [checking by ANAF] as well as the compliance with current legislation, we believe that the amount of collected aluminium cans will increase because of higher tariffs which are offered to those who collect and recover for meeting the targets," she adds.
For 2016, however, Bogdan Constantinescu expects a 15 per cent growth in the quantities of waste aluminium cans collected and an increase of around 13 to 14 per cent in the recycled quantities mainly due to the completion of several SOP Environment (POS Mediu) projects, 16 projects of which are currently in advanced stage of completion, including the delegation of the collection/operation activities of SMID (Integrated Waste Management System), while another 16 projects are phased for the next period, expecting to be partially completed in 2016 and the remaining in 2017. However, the implementation of Law 101 and the sanitation strategy in Bucharest play also a significant role in the increase of the collection and recycling of aluminium cans.
"In 2015, at the territorial administrative units' (UATs) level, many provisions of the Law no 101/2006 regarding localities sanitation services, republished, came into force: the local strategy on the development and operation on medium- and long-term of sanitation service, additional acts to amend the text of the delegation contract of the sanitation service management and of the organization and functioning regulation of the sanitation service," says Constantinescu. "All these legal provisions have been developed and applied in about 50 per cent of UATs this year  and it is possible to achieve 80-90 per cent during 2016. By complying with these provisions, which imply a separate collection of waste on many segments, the amount of waste collected separately from the population will increase and thus the amount recycled will do as well," he concludes.
New investment on the aluminium cans market: intelligent collection devices in Auchan's network
Another positive aspect that could help improve the rate of collection and recycling of aluminium cans nationwide is an investment worth 200,000 Euro made by Can-Pack Romania, which plans to install during this year 21 intelligent collection devices of waste aluminium cans that will be implemented in Auchan hypermarket network. Alucro, a non-profit association, founded in 2008 by Can-Pack Romania and EAA (European Aluminium Association) in order to the promote the collection-recycling system of aluminium cans on the local market, will carry out information campaigns in order to determine the population to use these devices to recover the waste and avoid disposing of the aluminium cans in inappropriate places.
"We have far more ambitious plans for 2016 that we want to achieve as we planned," Adina Magsi, the general manager of Alucro, tells The Diplomat - Bucharest. "We will launch our EveryCanCounts campaign for the first time in a hypermarket, in Auchan respectively, where we will install 21 smart collection devices for aluminium cans. In exchange for waste, the units will issue a discount voucher that can be used in Auchan."
EveryCanCounts is an awareness campaign launched in 2012, which, by the end of 2015, has been implemented in over 307 locations, totalling 2,500 boxes distributed. 2015 was a busy year, as Alucro brought the programme to over 365 schools nationwide and 34 public events. Asked about other projects for 2016, Magsi says that the organization will launch other programmes in order to promote the recycling of aluminium cans, such as ′Can - Talk′ for companies, ′Can - Talk′ for students, but it will launch also a new project nationwide designed for schools, which intends to motivate them to achieve a representative structure of their city from aluminium cans.
"In addition, this year, we will try to differentiate the schools that have enrolled in our campaigns by assigning them a logo that will be posted in a visible place and which demonstrates that the school is involved in the European EveryCanCounts programme, where the recycling of aluminium cans is done in a serious, constant and monitored manner," says Magsi. "Regarding the last point, starting this year we will use an electronic programme designed by us for the metering of quantities collected from each generator."
In 2015, Alucro collected about 21,500 kg of aluminium cans compared to 18,300 kg collected in 2014, an increase of 3,200 kg. Being an NGO, Alucro does not recycle the cans directly, but through one of the founding members, Can-Pack Romania, the only producer of aluminium cans in Romania which in 2015 opened its own collection station. The collected cans are sent to the recycling plants in Europe. After recycling, the aluminium sheet is sent back to Romania where other new cans are being produced and introduced into the economic cycle, a process that lasts 60 days.
Nevertheless, a crucial element that could prominently propel the recycling into the public consciousness is the change of mentality, says Magsi. "The change comes from us, from our actions, from the choices we make and the thoughts we have," says the general manager of Alucro. "When we will understand that what happens to us is negative and affects us and our loved ones, maybe we will take responsibility - at first, at the individual level, but then at the community level, and we will be able to evolve and change the things for the better."
Vamvakas "The evolution [of the glass waste market in 2015] was lower than we expected"
Although the sole glass packaging manufacturer in Romania, Stirom, a member of Hellenic Yioula Group, increased its production capacity by 36 per cent last year, it did not see the same increase in its waste collection, according to Spiros Vamvakas, general manager of the company. If in 2014 the manufacturer produced around 93.4 tonnes of glass and recycled around 17,000 tonnes purchased from the market, last year Stirom produced 127.4 tonnes of glass and recycled around 15,000 tonnes of glass purchased from the market.
"The evolution [of the glass waste market in 2015] was lower than we expected," Vamvakas tells The Diplomat - Bucharest. "However, there is a big potential in increasing the glass waste collected during next years. The existing legislation regarding the obligation of consumers and companies to collect the packaging that they are using it is very clear and complete. We believe that if this legislation starts to be applied more strictly we will have great results regarding the quantities that will be recycled."
Stirom has just finished an investment of 43 million Euro, renewing the two melting installations with the newest technology in Europe, according to the general manager. The investment contributes to increasing the security of providing electricity in Romania by reducing the energy consumption of the public network corresponding to the electricity realized within the company through the acquisition of new equipment, with positive impact on the electricity producer - reducing use of fossil fuel and decreasing output gases and pollution. "Now our efficiency is at international standards," Vamvakas says. "We also installed the newest filter technology in order to reduce emissions and to become more environmentally friendly."
For this year, Stirom, which counts 400 employees, plans to be more active in public awareness campaigns in order to promote the packaging recycling.