The path to circular economy: waste as resource
Text courtesy of Mr. Constantin Damov, Green Group co-founder
Leading the way towards the circular economy
Circular economy is an opportunity for Romania to stimulate its economic growth, by disconnecting itself from the use of natural resources. It also creates a snowball effect that can bring immense social benefits, such as the creation of new specialized types of jobs in the green economy and generation of job opportunities. The switch to a circular economy leads the way to a new perspective in the research and development field, so that the great creativity and ingenuosity of Romanians can be put to work also here.
What is circular economy?
Circular economy is not just a fancy trend or a hot subject in Europe, is another economic model, is a new engine using waste as a fuel. Waste, having seen by environmentalists as a threat, as a potential polluter is now becoming a more disputed resource for all industries.
As a result the consumer is becoming not just a "waste generator" but a supplier for the recycling industry.
Recycling industry is in the center of circular economy absorbing the municipal and industrial waste as a nutrient for its own growth and implicitly modifying the metabolism of the city towards "zero waste" horizon.
Anticipating by instinct somehow such perspectives, Green Group started its story on 2002 and during time developed an integrated group of companies which today offers a multitude of closed loop solutions for collection, logistic, recycling and re-manufacturing based 100% on waste, becoming the first Industrial Recycling Park in Romania, located in Frasinu (near Buzau).
First company, Greentech SA started in 2002 and today became one of the leading recyclers for PET bottles in Europe. With an input capacity to reach end of 2016 at 130,000 tones/year, Greentech is a big producer of PET strap, r-PET granules (bottle to bottle food grade) and washed flakes for recycled polyester fibre.
Today Greenfiber has facilities in Romania (Buzau, Iasi) but also in Balkan zone (Serbia, Macedonia).
GreenFiber International S.A. is the second company that was set-up (in 2014) and currently the second largest manufacturer of recycled polyester fiber in Europe, with an annual production capacity of 60,000 tones, which subsequently reaches various industries on the European market, such as: hygiene industry, automotive, geo-textiles etc.
The opening of the third company of the group, GreenWEEE International S.A. followed in 2009, with an initial investment of 10 million euro. The company is one of the most advanced treatment plant for electric and electronic equipment waste (WEEE) in Europe, with a capacity of 50,000 tones/year. The company is the only plant in Romania and one among very few existing in Europe WEEELABEX certified for three treatment flows (WEEELABEX standard - www.weeelabex.org - is a European certificate that sets a strict set of rules on the collection, logistics and treatment of WEEE).
Greenlamp Reciclare S.A. operates since 2011, with a recycling capacity of 3600 tones/year. Being a unique plant of such kind in Eastern Europe, lighting equipment as bulbs, fluorescent tube or other discharge lamps are reintroduced into economy as recovered raw material. Metals, glass and even mercury is the result of the treatment. Not only Romanian collected lighting waste is treated here, but also for neighboring countries are sending their collection to be treated and neutralized by us.
Total Waste Management SRL started its operation in 2012 as a waste collection and logistic company and is becoming today the "capilar system" collecting and feeding with more than 30% of the material consumed by the recycling companies in the Green Group. Creation of Total Waste Management is a consequence of very poor collection rate in Romania, lowest in Europe actually. We believe we will obercome this country handicap by continuing developing our integrated collection.
Finally in 2013, GreenGlass Recycling was founded and in very short time became today the largest glass recycler in Romania with an installed capacity of 110.000 tones/year.
With a consolidated turnover of 90 million Euro in 2015 and more than 1900 employees, the group is today a major player on local recycling industry market. By integrating the operations of all six companies, Green Group is able to close the recycling loop and save resources and energy, with installed capacities of recycling over 300,000 tons annually.
Recycling in Romania, a two-speed activity
Romania has shown a strange development of recycling not coordinated and balanced but a "two-speed one". And here I refer on one hand to industrial development where facilities with high capacities and latest technologies have been very fast developed not only by Green Group but also by other investors in paper, glass, steel, aluminum, plastics and on the other hand to very slow development of separate collection, lowest rate in EU 28.
So today Romania has a great recycling industry and an almost insignificant collection rate especially for municipal waste (bellow 5%). How does it work? The lack of material is sustained by imports of sorted waste from other EU countries and not only.
Romania needs to speed up very quickly on separate collection to catch up and sustain the development of its recycling industry. This is a mandatory condition for Romania to hit the road towards an efficient circular economy.
Even under these circumstances Green group has created the biggest integrated recycling park in Central and Eastern Europe. Is a surprising fact in a country having such a huge gap between the recycling capacities and collected quantities?
It is obvious that in the coming years all the players on the market: central, local operators for the collection, the recycling industries, will all focus on developing infrastructure and collection networks.
Innovation in collection
As promoters and believers in the circular economy, we must overcome these barriers by innovation and new investments.
So what is happening right now?
Recyclers began to invest in collection infrastructure to reduce their imports and to offer more efficient collection schemes for the local market. Romania, unfortunately, is showing lack of expertise and capital for investments in collection infrastructure. In this regard, the country is losing enormous value because the waste is not reaching the recycling plants, but the landfills.
Green Group see municipal waste as a local renewable resource which can be entirely capitalized! Starting with this view Green Group was delivering its first innovative collection scheme called SIGUREC.
We must create the right incentives to encourage the investment needed, while at the same time re-assessing what public-private partnerships might help to further the goal of sustainable development. Green Group invested in SIGUREC, a challenging model to implement in today's collecting and recycling infrastructure and this will support and bring benefices both for authorities, for population, for the recycling industry and for environment.
- an acronym for "for sure recycled, for sure economical".
SIGUREC is the first modern and automatic infrastructure for selective waste collection in Romania in order to encourage collection directly from the individual consumers and ensure that all separate collected fractions go straight to the recycling plants.
SIGUREC offers various collection solutions: SIGUREC PRIME, automated stations located in the parking lots of supermarkets; SIGUREC IN, machines located inside stores; SIGUREC MOBIL, a service for collecting waste from home and SIGUREC BAGS- collection via bags, directly from the source. Everyone who uses SIGUREC system is rewarded with shopping vouchers. Currently, we are present in all the country's counties via partnerships with retailers and through the direct collection service.
The total value of the investment in this innovating collection system exceed 10 million Euro, of which 3.59 million EUR are from accessing the Norway Grants financing scheme. The project created a collection infrastructure in 25 cities and more than 260 new jobs.
ABOUT SIGUREC - INNOVATIVE COLLECTION INFRASTRUCTURE:
•Collection of over 10 types of recyclable waste (packaging waste, paper/cardboard, lighting equipment, batteries and all type of electronic waste)
•Automatic technology for waste collection
•Latest innovation technology for instant recognition of each type of waste, allowing to detect material, shape, size, color etc.
•100% transparency and traceability for the waste reported to authorities
•System based on reward, by offering vouchers to be used in the supermarkets
•Smart design and interactive interface for a friendly collection experience
•Mobile solution (collecting at your door - APP developed by Green Group)