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Recycling in Romania: waste of space?

According to an old saying, haste makes waste, but Romania needs to hurry up to cross the 2020 finish line with all its EU waste targets met

2015-02-06 22:44:30 - From the Print Edition

15 Photos
Moreover, new European obligations set for 2030 are about to ring the starting bell, while our domestic recycling market still lacks a proper structure. Alexandra Lopotaru talked to environment authorities and major green players to see how Romania can enhance its system.

Given the fact that every year the economic environment of the European Union loses significant amounts of secondary raw materials that can be found in waste, the European Commission took a step forward and presented in summer a long-term strategy to boost and encourage further the waste recovery among EU Members. Thus, on 2 July 2014, the EC adopted a legislative proposal to review recycling and other waste-related targets in the EU Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC, the Landfill Directive 1999//31/EC and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive 94/62/EC.

The aim of the proposal, as the Commission states, is to help turn Europe into a circular economy, boost recycling, secure access to raw materials and create jobs and economic growth. The main elements of the proposal include: recycling and preparing for re-use of municipal waste to be increased to 70 per cent by 2030, recycling and preparing for re-use of packaging waste to be increased to 80 per cent by 2030, with material-specific targets set to gradually increase between 2020 and 2030 (to reach 90 per cent for paper by 2025 and 60 per cent for plastics, 80 per cent for wood, 90 per cent of ferrous metal, aluminium and glass by the end of 2030) and phasing out landfilling by 2025 for recyclable waste.

The new proposal may fit like a glove for several countries, but for others, not so much. The European Union will face several challenges in terms of implementation amongst its Member States due to large divergences of waste management performances. While there are Member States that landfill less than three per cent of their municipal waste (Germany, even to zero per cent), there are countries that exceed 90 per cent of landfilling, like Romania. According to the waste management scoreboard drawn up by the Commission in the 2012 report, Romania ranked 23rd out of the 27 member states, where more than 95 per cent of municipal waste goes to landfill, one of the highest rates in the EU.
However, analysing Romania's scenario only five years up front and not 15, the country still has other duties to fulfil: by 2020, the main municipal waste obligation assumed by Romania before EU is the recycling of 50 per cent of the total mass of waste paper, metal, plastic and glass and the current status is not so bright. According to Eurostat, Romania recycled only one per cent of municipal waste in 2012, a result which placed the country at the bottom of the member state ranking. Today, local experts believe that Romania manages to recycle around five-six per cent of the household waste generated, a slightly higher figure due to the waste collected by homeless people, something not monitored at EU level. Still, the figures are very low and urgent measures need to be done to put Romania on the "green map".

Damov, Green Group: "Dumping tax can increase recycling rates"

The first step and the most powerful fuel to propel the country is the dumping tax, say experts, an economical mechanism of discouraging landfill, Romania's biggest problem. Currently, this fee is only ten, 15 Euro per tonne, whereas in other countries it exceeds 100 Euro per tonne. 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 will be 80 RON (17.7 Euro) per tonne. Furthermore, it will increase to 120 RON (26.6 Euro) per tonne in 2018.

"The Romanian market continues to be a special market in Europe," Constantin Damov, co-founder of one of the leading recyclers in the country, Green Group, with a turnover of 150 million Euros, tells The Diplomat – Bucharest. "We are the only country that does not penalize waste disposal to landfill. The decision to postpone the dumping tax until 2017 has only a political basis and does not represent the needs of Romanian society for waste management. In this case, the competition between the two activities – landfilling versus separate collection & sorting - is uneven. This situation could be balanced through the dumping tax."

According to Damov, the first effects of shifting the quantities from storage to reuse would occur when the dumping tax will have a minimum of 20 Euro per tonne. Thus, the storage costs - ten to 15 Euro per tonne – will be equal to the sorting ones – 35-40 Euro per tonne – and the competition will start to be on equal footing. "The firms that must provide logistics for waste generated by both companies and citizens have access to two charges: for storage and recycling. When comparing them, one always chooses the lowest cost," says Damov. "In addition to this fee, there should be a legal ban for disposing of recyclable waste."
The Treaty of Accession, Chapter 22 - Environment sets out a timetable agreed with the European Union under which irregular landfills must be closed in stages by 2017. In Romania, there were 79 dumps in operation at the end of 2012, including 30 compliant landfills and another 49 irregular landfills. In late July 2013, there were 33 compliant landfills, and 46 non-compliant waste deposits. Furthermore, in 2014, four irregular landfills were closed, while this year seven more are about to meet the same end, according to Toma Florin Petcu, President of the National Environmental Protection Agency (ANPM).

"A landfill is a facility that needs to be built, operated and closed according to European and national legislation in the field," Petcu tells The Diplomat - Bucharest. "Waste disposal can be done only in compliant landfills, but this still is a waste disposal operation that cannot encourage recycling."
Romania struggles to find a good mix of policies, laws and practices in regard to packaging and packaging waste as well. Since 2004, national recycling obligations of packaging waste were attributed to the responsible industry and to the transfer of responsibility organizations, with severe penalties for their failure. Under Government Decision no. 621/2005 concerning packaging management and waste, in 2015, Romania′s objective is to recycle 55 per cent of total waste: 60 per cent of paper and cardboard, 22.5 per cent of plastic, 60 per cent of glass, 50 per cent of metal and 15 per cent of wood, the same targets as in 2014 and 2013. According to Petcu, these targets were achieved for 2012, while 2013 data is currently (late January) being collected. However, regarding the rest of WEEE, waste of batteries and accumulators, Romania's status is so not shiny. "The objectives set by specific legislation for these waste streams have been made so far, except for the collection of WEEE and waste batteries and accumulators," adds Petcu.

Sanitation law: a problem or a solution?

Last year saw significant changes in terms of legislation. One of the most debated legal frameworks that set sanitation companies apart from small waste collectors was the Law no 99/2014 for amending and supplementing Law no 101/2006 for localities sanitation service. The law was adopted in summer last year and states that "the transport of municipal and similar waste collected separately (...) is performed only by licensed operators who have management delegation contracts with local government authorities."

This means that only the companies that have won tenders organized by municipalities for the sanitation operator license in an administrative complex can collect the income from the sale of recyclable waste to companies with recycling stations. In addition, the local authority was designated as the owner of the municipal waste and coercive measures were introduced against a series of negative practices in the market as mixed collection of waste separated by population, as well as the theft of recyclable waste from containers. Small players in charge of collecting plastic or cardboard waste say that they will be removed from the market by the large sanitation companies that have contracts with municipalities for a long time, while sanitation companies say the law was necessary for improving the domestic system.

According to Camelia Chirila, the founder and CEO of waste collector Cami Comexim, with a turnover of 1.57 million Euro at the end of 2014, this law is quite ambiguous and will restrict the collection of recyclable waste. "The sanitation law delegates a certain sanitation company for a period of 49 years, on a certain area, to collect everything that is waste, both household and recyclable waste," Chirila tells The Diplomat – Bucharest. "If we collect this waste, as collectors that pay the waste generators – unlike sanitation companies which require money – we will be outlawed."
On the other hand, A driana Calcan, marketing manager at sanitation company Romprest, in charge with Bucharest's sectors 1 and 5 and with 2014 revenues of around 70 million Euro, tells The Diplomat: "At the time of the publication of Law no 99/2014, amending the Law no 101/2006 for localities sanitation, issues regarding the owner of waste were clarified and a legal framework was created for reviewing decisions of local councils concerning responsibility of the population. (…) In addition, with the completion of the ‘Development and operation strategy on medium- and long-term of public sanitation service in Bucharest' for the period of 2014-2030, the system should evolve positively so that Romania will approach year on year the accomplishments of Western European countries, which are role-models."

From waste to energy

In the future, Bucharest, which generates about one million tonnes of waste every year, will produce energy from garbage, at the request of the European Union, experts say. Romania's capital will have a plant for thermal treatment and energy recovery of municipal waste. Currently, the municipality is looking for consultants to assist in the specifications and documentation for requesting European funds to realize this project.

According to Constantin Damov, co-founder of Green Group, Romania is an ideal country to recover energy from waste that cannot be recycled, given the fact that Bucharest has the largest district heating network in the world after Moscow, about 5,000 km. "Waste with energy value should not go to landfills," Damov tells The Diplomat. "The energy coming from incineration would be cheap and renewable from local resources, through which we could cover a part of Romania's energy needs."
Green Group's Damov says that a private incinerator would be more effective than a public one, confessing that the group is planning to analyse in 2015 the opportunity to develop an incinerator with energy recovery. "At the moment, after the recycling process, we generate thousands of tonnes of material that could be incinerated every month," says Damov. "Not all pieces of waste are recyclable and, if you think about it, recycling is a delay on the way to incineration. Paper can be recycled six, seven times, but after that the fibre shortens and there is nothing you can do with it. However, it becomes a good fuel. This happens to PETs as well. We obtain synthetic fibre from their recycling, but this material is hard to recycle afterwards. Our vision is to move from the material to energy recovery."

However, incineration with energy recovery needs to be done carefully, because without effective filtering, it can result in pollution through emissions into the air, soil, surface water and groundwater, potentially posing significant risks to human health and the environment. Asked about the idea of establishing such system in Romania, Toma Florin Petcu, the president of ANPM, highlights the importance of the waste hierarchy at EU level, where top priorities should be waste prevention, followed by reuse and recycling and only afterwards other forms of recovery such as incineration with energy recovery. Incineration without energy recovery and landfill are at the very bottom.
"Specific legislation establishes the order of priorities that need to be applied in waste management activities, and in this hierarchy, incineration with energy recovery that achieves certain minimum energy efficiency, seen as energy recovery, ranks on the penultimate place after generation prevention and recycling," Petcu tells The Diplomat – Bucharest. "Therefore, in our view, one should give attention primarily to the development of recycling activities."

"Each waste has certain value"

Only 6.3 per cent of waste generated in cities that could be recycled is actually selectively collected in special containers, according to a study conducted by Eco-Rom Ambalaje in 2013, one of the most important responsibility transfer organizations in Romania for packaging waste. In addition, more than 55 per cent of Romanian citizens do not collect selectively because they do not have special containers close to home, while 38 per cent are convinced that selected waste end up in landfills, reveals another study by Rogalski- Gregoriou, at the initiative of recycler Green Group in 2013. In two years, however, things have not changed significantly and Green Group is forced to import a considerable amount of waste (over 50 per cent of PET, for instance) to be able to sustain its recycling plants. To improve the selective collection scenario in Romania, the company launched last year its Sigurec platform, intelligent machinery that collects waste directly from citizens.
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.

"With this system, we collect 100 per cent pure waste, because it is not mixed," Damov, co-founder of Green Group, tells The Diplomat. "Our positioning strategy stresses places where citizens come very often to supply themselves with what will become waste in a few days, namely in chains of hypermarkets and high traffic areas. This year, we will appear in major markets and parks. (...) The system rewards people like the RABLA program. When citizens return to the place where they purchased a product, they will be rewarded with the value of the product material. The citizen will become aware that any waste has value."

The first such station was inaugurated in Buzau in 2013, as a pilot program. In mid-January, the Sigurec Prime system reached 13 units in 11 cities and, by the end of 2015, it will be integrated into a national network of 75 units, according to Damov. The project will amount to 7.5 to nine million Euro by the end of the year, according to calculations made by The Diplomat, given the fact that a unit costs between 100,000 and 120,000 Euro. "The results that we have registered are positive and rising," says Damov. "The paper has reached nearly 20 tonnes per unit per month, WEEE - 15 tonnes, PET - two tonnes, and the rest – around one tonne. In general, we want to be present in all county capitals by the end of the year, and afterwards, we have targeted cities with over 50,000 inhabitants."

Green Group, one of the main recycling players on the local market, with revenues of 150 million at the end of 2014, numbers five important companies, with around 1,500 employees: GenenTech, a plastics recycler (gave 38 per cent of the revenues); GreenFiber International, for synthetic polyester fibre and PET band (50 per cent of turnover); GreenWEEE International, for waste electrical and electronic equipment (nine per cent of revenues); GreenLamp Reciclare, for used lighting equipment; and GreenGlass Recycling, for glass. Moreover, the group is interested in the wood waste recycling market as well. "Currently, we are in the analysis and research phase, but this is an area that we are interested in for the future," concludes Damov.


Eco Pack Management to see 45 per cent collection growth last year

Established in 2012, Eco Pack Management is a transfer-of-responsibility organization for the producers of packaged goods, taking over their role to reach recovery and recycling of packaging waste collection targets. Although the organization started with a very small portfolio of small clients, in three years it has managed to expand to around eight per cent market share, counting now a few hundred of clients, from small to large national and multinational companies. In 2014, Eco Pack Management increased the collected and recycled quantity of package waste by 45 per cent compared to 2013, meeting the legal targets set for 2014, according to Adin Ionescu, the general manager of the organization.

"Romania is still struggling to find a good mix of policies, laws and practices in regard of packaging and packaging waste," Ionescu tells The Diplomat – Bucharest. "For the year 2015, the legal targets will stay the same, but the following years are bound to bring ambitious increase of those targets, some knowledgeable sources say starting as early as 2016."

Asked what kind of disadvantages exist on the waste market, Ionescu mentions the lack of proper enforcement of the specific laws from the competent authorities, a certain lack of transparency and most of all a very low level of the dumping tax, which should be equal or higher than the cost of recycling. "Dumping packaging resources instead of reclaiming their value makes the Romanian market a tough place for a fair transfer of responsibility in the benefit of sustainable development," says Ionescu. "We are doing our best to contribute to the improvement of the current Romanian recycling system, which is far from perfect yet. We can only achieve this improvement if we manage to divert the recyclable resources from their traditional road to the landfill and reclaim it for both the economy and environment's sake."

By 2020, Ionescu foresees a steady growth of the packaging waste market, to 1.2 million tonnes, representing a 20 per cent increase compared to the current estimated figure of one million tonnes of packaging put on the market. In order to promote and help the local waste collection and recycling system, Eco Pack Management launched the revolutionary packaging collection system Sigurec, along with Green Group. Sigurec Prime is a larger, standalone collection facility situated outdoors at high public traffic areas such as shopping centres, and Sigurec In is a smaller collection machine installed inside shopping centres. Sigurec In has been already deployed in 18 cities all around Romania with the goal to have all towns with more than 20,000 inhabitants covered by it, providing a national alternative of selective collection of packaging waste.

"Sigurec is a direct link between citizens and recyclers," says Ionescu. "This alternative civic amenity high-tech facility takes the experience and benefits of the packaging collection to the next level thanks to high-tech equipment, a new approach to the value of the resource resident in the recyclable materials that is now shared with the citizens that rightfully own them." Moreover, the organization launched the Sigurec Mobile application as well, a mobile collection service through which citizens can call the collecting vehicle to their home. Eco Pack Management's shareholders are three producers of packaging: Romcarbon, Living Jumbo and Winpack. Last year, it registered a turnover of about 800,000 Euro.

Intersemat's GM: "State authorities forget their duties"

Romania's Waste Management System is still chaotic with the lack of a strategic view, according to Ionut Georgescu, the general manager of Intersemat, the second established organization in Romania to take over the responsibility from the companies that put packaging and waste packaging on the market. There are a lot of questionable issues regarding the functioning of the system, one of them being the public policies implemented after the new framework guidelines regarding waste, no.98/2008, that turned into Romanian legislation under Law 211/2011. According to the general manager, they were partially stopped or changed in such a way that certain players involved in the system could evade legislative pressure.

"Although producers (importers included) of packaged products, electronic equipment, electrical bulbs, tires and/or industrial oils make considerable efforts and invest great financial resources amounting to about 35-40 million Euro every year, State authorities forget their duties: Town Halls are on "friendly terms" with sanitation operators," says Georgescu. "The latter do not respect the law that obliges them to collect waste selectively at the place where waste is sorted, or the operators collect different waste categories together, thus mixing them. Above all, there are no sorting points, or when there are, they do not work. Why? Because sorting costs money, and the sanitation tariff is very low in such a way that citizens ‘can choose the good mayor every four years.'"

Georgescu goes on to point out that the Environment authorizations issued by the National Association for the Environment Protection are apparently made randomly and are not the same across the country on a national basis. This leads to the point where private companies that declare themselves recyclers and collectors actually perform recycling activities in completely insanitary conditions or without any technologies. "We think that owing to a lack of citizens′ civic concern over soil they don′t directly own, there are ‘mountains' of waste near localities or near forests and rivers," says Intersemat's general manager. "Those waste integrated management systems for which we could have spent about one billion Euro from European money, either have not been finalized or have not started; at least 25 counties will benefit from this European money. The rest…we will pay for it."

Producers' responsibility to collect and recycle started in 2005 and has increased annually, except during the economic recession of 2009-2011. The known national market has more than one million tonnes of packaging waste, and targets are achieved, in general, "by collecting and recycling about 650,000 tonnes of packaging waste, at least, statistically." This is due to the fact that many producers do not declare any waste or others declare very small quantities, according to Georgescu.

"The biggest trouble comes from the economic operators, the so-called collectors or recyclers that give false reports," he says. "If we make a brief analysis, at least 100,000 tonnes of waste are reported in this way, every year, a fact that can create both image and financial damage of up to about 50 million Euro, by not imposing the penalties incurred by not meeting the targets."
Nevertheless, there are ways to improve the current waste management system and Romania needs to seek a proper European model. Intersemat's GM considers that the system implemented in states such as France, Italy and Spain is the best and it will fit Romania, with some strategic improvements: a) Tax on landfill, starting with 2015. b) A technical information system regarding packaging and waste packaging life cycle. c) A national re-authorization of all the operators that deal with waste. d) Town Halls must assume their categorical responsibility to collect selectively and to take the waste up to the sorting places and then to recycle and revalue it.

Intersemat started in 2015, together with RER Group, by means of sanitation company Retim Timisoara, and in 2014 with the help of sanitation firm RER Buzau, to implement the ‘Yellow Bag of Recycling' project. The companies offer a ‘Bag' to the population, free of charge, and educate people to fill it with recyclable waste, especially packaging waste. The results of the programme implemented in Buzau are not finalized yet, but in Timisoara 90 per cent of the citizens respected the system. "This is the way in which the whole civilized world works, in Europe, USA and even, Japan," says Georgescu. "It is a system that means more than mere collection in the street. It means collecting at the citizen's house. In 2015, together with some partners, we will try to extend this system on a national basis and we want to surprise everyone: we will start a ‘Crusade of the Common Sense.'"

Established in 2005, Intersemat registered more than seven million RON revenues (more than 1.5 million Euro) last year and counts more than 500 clients. For 2015, the company expects a 7.1 per cent increase in terms of turnover to 7.5 million RON and to triple the number of clients to 1,500.

Eco-Rom Ambalaje, four per cent up at packaging waste collection in the first nine months of last year

Eco-Rom Ambalaje, founded to fulfil the recycling obligations for packaging waste incumbent on producers that deal with packaged products, supports the recycling of over 330,000 tonnes of packaging waste annually, accounting for 65-70 per cent of packaging waste recycled in Romania. For the full year of 2014, the figures are not definitive, but, in the first nine months of Eco-Rom Ambalaje's system, 265,986 tonnes of packaging waste were recycled, four per cent more than the same period of 2013. This means that the organization recycled 58 per cent of all packaging placed on the market by the members of the company, exceeding the recycling target of 55 per cent required by agreement with the European Union.

"In 2008-2012, the quantities marketed nationally decreased, but the recycled quantities increased," Sorin Cristian Popescu, the general manager of Eco-Rom Ambalaje, tells The Diplomat – Bucharest. "Due to the significant contribution of producers and importers of packaged goods, through the responsibility transfer organizations, the obligations of packaging waste recycling - although growing - have been met every year, currently reaching a recovery rate of 60 per cent of all packaging waste put on the market."

In 11 years, Eco-Rom Ambalaje has invested more than 22 million RON (around five million Euro) in separate collection infrastructure and about the same amount in the bonus given to waste management companies for fulfilling waste collection services to the population. After all investments done over the years, Popescu reveals that, in Romania, several cities can be considered role-models regarding recycling of packaging waste. The main examples are Sfantu Gheorghe and Zalau, where every inhabitant collects separately over one kg of recyclable waste per month, about three times more than the average quantity of recycled packaging waste in Romania. Regarding the quality of services, Medias, Deva and Ploiesti were on top of the list last year, while Brasov and Targu Jiu were noticed due the involvement in the promotion of separate collection among citizens.
"The quantities of recycled packaging waste will increase significantly until 2018-2020 only if legislative changes will strictly regulate the collection of waste generated by the population and the way the municipal waste is managed," says Popescu. "Otherwise, they will remain constant and controllable obligations will be paid only by a fraction of the market players, such as manufacturers and importers of packaged goods."

In 2014, the organization has diversified its services offered to producers and importers for which it fulfils the requirements for packaging waste recycling. Thus, last year, Eco-Rom Ambalaje became the only organization in Romania which offers, in addition to the taking over the recycling responsibility service, a package of integrated services in the packaging and packaging waste management which includes an account service for CO2 emissions reduction by recycling packaging. In the last two years, the organization has invested approximately 500,000 RON (around 112,000 Euro) in launching this project currently present in 25 countries of the EU.

"The quality and consistencies of our services brought us last year 360 new companies which put packaged products on the domestic market, increasing the licensed quantities in our system by over 5.5 per cent," says Popescu. "For 2015, Eco-Rom Ambalaje continues its strategy to streamline the company and increase business performance in the packaging and packaging waste field. We intend to continue to offer to our clients the best expertise and to support those local partners – local authorities and waste management operators – who have completed good and very good results."
Eco-Rom Ambalaje has launched a series of traditional projects for information and awareness of population. Last year, ‘The Recycling City' (Orasul Reciclarii) competition reached its second edition, with about 50 per cent more municipalities involved in the project compared to the first edition: 6,700 tonnes of packaging waste were collected separately and 40 per cent of the population - over four million Romanians from the 32 municipalities involved - learned about the importance of recycling. The big winner of the competition was Sfantu Gheorghe. The third edition of the project has already started [this interview was conducted in late January] with 46 municipalities and cities.
"Another two successful projects continued in 2014: the ‘Ecolimpiada' and the ‘Green Laboratory of Recycling,' campaigns through which 17,000 pupils from third grades learned about the importance of recycling," says Popescu. "In addition, last year we launched Ecollect, the first separate collection service for offices in Romania, a programme that already gathered 340 companies. We will continue to invest in the programme so that Ecollect will expand more and more amongst office buildings." Eco-Rom Ambalaje ended the year of 2014 with over 3,200 customers in its portfolio, over 200 waste management companies as partners and 500 agreements with local authorities. It is operational since 2004.

Tetra Pak expects gradually increase of packaging waste recycling by 2020

Tetra Pak, the largest food packaging company in the world by sales according to its representatives, operates in more than 170 countries. The company counts over 23,000 employees, 50 of them being based in Romania. In 2013, the global recycling rate of Tetra Pak packages reached 24.5 per cent, with about 43 billion being recycled, four billion more than the previous year. As for Romania, a small percentage of the packaging produced and delivered to its customers was recycled in 2014. Compared to previous year, the situation of volumes recycled did not change dramatically. This is mainly due to the slow development of the collection infrastructure and lack of motivation from waste management companies to sort beverage cartons, says Dragan Rajkovic, environment director at Tetra Pak South Eastern Europe.

"In the past five years, the recycling market of beverage cartons remained low compared with the European countries," Rajkovic tells The Diplomat – Bucharest. "This is caused by the slow development of selective collection infrastructure combined with the lack of motivation to change the current status-quo. However, given that 50 per cent of the waste generated by citizens in their households should be recycled by 2020, we expect that gradually packaging waste will be recycled in a higher proportion than it is today."

Last year, together with Eco-Rom Ambalaje, Tetra Pak developed several pilot-projects focused on collection and recycling of beverage cartons in the yellow bin instead of blue one. In a number of European countries, beverage cartons are collected in the yellow bin, together with other beverage containers: plastic and aluminium. The logic behind this approach is that European consumers perceive the yellow bin as the appropriate recycling recipient for beverage containers. The pilot-projects were implemented in selected municipalities (Bucharest sectors 1 & 5 and Oradea) and proved that consumers are highly receptive to this model of beverage carton collection. A pre-campaign research conducted with the citizens of Bucharest (sector 1) revealed that 19 per cent of them are sorting beverage cartons, thus contributing to the selective collection system. After the pilot-project ended, due to the communication campaign, the research indicated that 25 per cent of the citizens are engaged in beverage cartons collection.

"The pilot-projects implemented in Bucharest and Oradea revealed that citizens are willing to participate in the selective collection of packaging if they are properly informed and if there is proper collection infrastructure," says Tetra Pak's environment director. "These results motivate us to continue the collection programs in 2015."

Tetra Pak plans to continue to invest in collection programs in cities where the infrastructure is functional and stakeholders are aligned: municipality, waste management company and recovery organisation. "Also, we will partner with sorting stations which show awareness that the collection of beverage cartons (along with other types of recyclable packaging) is of crucial importance in relation to the development of the future circular economy," adds Rajkovic. By 2020, Tetra Pak is committed to increase the recycling of used beverage cartons, aiming to double the global recycling rate to 40 per cent, focusing on raising consumer awareness, facilitating collection infrastructure and supporting recycling technology development


Ecotic sees steady growth in WEEE collection in Romania

At the EU level, Directive 2012/19/EU for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) introduces higher targets for WEEE collection staring 2016. According to the legal framework, the current collection rate of four kg per inhabitant remains in force until the beginning of 2016, whereupon from the middle of the year the minimum collection rate will be 45 per cent, based on total weight of WEEE collected in one year, expressed as a percentage of the average weight of EEE placed on the market in the three preceding years. The second stage of the Directive stipulates that, starting in 2019, the minimum collection rate achieved annually shall be 65 per cent of the average weight of EEE placed on the market in the three preceding years in each Member State or, alternatively, 85 per cent of the volume of WEEE generated on the State's market.
Romania, as other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, has a transitional period, translated by achieving in the first phase (2016-2019) collection rates between 40 per cent and 45 per cent, and delaying the achievement of the 65 per cent collection rate (applicable in the EU as of 2019) until a date determined by local authorities, but no later than 2021.

The Directive was to be transposed into national legislation since early last year, but Romania failed to comply. "The 2012 Directive was supposed to be transposed into the national legislation of member states by February 14, 2014," Valentin Negoita, president of Ecotic, tells The Diplomat – Bucharest. "There are countries that have not transposed it, including us. What does it mean? It may lead to an infringement. In addition, Romania has not reached the four kg/capita target. Statistics show 1.5 or two kg per inhabitant, but still not four."

In terms of Ecotic, one of the organizations which assumes the responsibilities of producers and importers of EEE to achieve the annual targets for collection, reuse, recycling and recovery of WEEE, performances are positive: it has already reached the 40 per cent target of the total marketed amount by producers. The organization collected and recycled 11,000 tonnes last year, an increase of 15.7 per cent compared with 9,500 tonnes collected in 2013. According to Negoita, about 80 per cent of waste is recovered in Romania, the rest abroad. "Since 2007 [first year of activity] until today, there has been a steady growth in collection and recycling," says Negoita. "Year on year we have achieved the targets and grown in volumes. However, the volumes depend on many factors, especially the sale of equipment. In 2009, sales fell by 50 per cent, so it's obvious that the volumes collected during this period would be lower than those of previous years."

According to a study made by Ecotic last August of 1,000 people in urban areas, the amount of electrical waste, present in urban households that have at least one member that is 18 to 65 years old, is 7.1 kg/capita. The reasons for keeping WEEE in the household are the following: they can be used for spare parts or people have the intention to repair them (25 per cent), citizens do not know about the existence of close disposal facilities (12 per cent), they do not know what to do with them or do not know that they can be recycled (11 per cent), the lack of time (nine per cent) and emotional value (three per cent). More than half of the respondents (59 per cent) know that WEEE can be sent to collection points set by local authorities, but only 27 per cent admit they actually know about their existence. "It's a significant study, but we cannot take it into consideration literally, because it was conducted only in cities without households," says Negoita. "Nevertheless, it is an indicator that shows the potential Romania has in medium and especially, in large cities."
The study was conducted within 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 traveling exhibition around Romania that will highlight the importance of collection and recycling of WEEE, trying to change people′s behaviour towards this direction. "Ecotic Caravan" will reach over 150 schools and more than 30 public places until June 2016. "The caravan does not necessarily mean increasing volumes one year after another," says Negoita. "A British consultant once said that changing the attitudes of a population takes between five and ten years. Caravan's main role is to stimulate interest towards a new attitude for collection, recycling and environmental protection."

The caravan has already been present in Bucharest, Slatina, Giurgiu, Alexandria, Targoviste, Ploiesti and now (mid-January) is in Brasov. Over the next two months, it will go to the northeast of Romania. Ecotic has over 580 collection points for WEEE and over 3,000 collection points for batteries and accumulators waste. In 2013, it registered more than three million Euro revenues.

Environ: Romania's recycling system is challenging

Another important organization which aims to take over and fulfil the obligations of producers of electrical and electronic equipment is Environ, set up in 2007. Since it started its activity in the waste management area, Environ managed to collect more than 40,000 tons of WEEE, over 95 per cent of the quantity being treated and recycled. For Andrei Orban, the president of the company, the current Romanian recycling system is quite challenging. The main disadvantages he highlights are the legal inconsistencies, low interest among local and national authorities, lack of enforcement, divergent interests of waste market players and a low level of awareness among population.

"After eight years of sustained activity in the Romanian recycling field, I think we are still far away from reaching the performances of other European countries such as Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, where they already discuss raising targets," Orban tells The Diplomat – Bucharest. "Low percentage of European funds absorption available for development of collection infrastructure and lack of a proper implementation of the waste Directive prevents the generation of added value to the state budget where there is a huge potential to create 30,000 jobs. We still have significant steps to take, I would say even a fierce need of burning stages and I think we should apply the ‘follow the leader' strategy and borrow the functional models found in other State Members."

Moreover, the president of Environ senses a slight decrease in terms of interest regarding environmental issues at the EU level. In December 2014, the new European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker set out his top priority for the next 12 months, creating economic growth and jobs, whereas politics regarding environmental protection were skipped. "According to the European Commission Work Programme for 2015, transition towards a circular economy and setting ambitious environmental targets are not on the priorities list," Orban says. "The mix between lack of interest of the national authorities and decreasing accent on environmental issues at the European level doesn't offer overly-optimistic perspectives."

Nevertheless, the president of Environ gives some advice on how the waste management market in Romania can be improved through an integrated approach and according to the European Commission waste strategy for 2020. In his opinion, there are three main areas of focus: harmonization of national legislation with European Directives, including transposal of the new e-waste 2012/19/EC Directive, strengthening enforcement of law and closure of non-compliant landfills and, last but not least, development of awareness-raising and ecological education campaigns at the national level.

In addition, he thinks that it is very important that all the actors in the recycling system, namely authorities, sanitation operators, collective organizations, and stakeholders cooperate, taking into consideration the aim of reaching the national targets Romania has assumed as State Members. Moreover, Orban mentions also the objective of ‘Zero Waste', a concept that encourages the redesign of resources′ life cycle so that all products are reused and no waste is sent to landfills or incinerators. "‘Zero Waste' can be accomplished only by the introduction of landfill tax in order to discourage this bad habit and stimulate waste prevention," he says. "We also need the implementation of selective collection for at least four waste streams and construction of municipal collection points, applying penalties, enhancement of extended producer responsibility principles and development of awareness campaigns with the aim of promoting an eco - responsible behaviour among young people."

Over the past years, Environ has focused its business strategy on raising awareness about the danger of the hazardous waste. A recent study about Romanians′ attitudes and habits towards e-waste revealed that only 34 per cent of the respondents have recycled e-waste. Most of the people keep old electronics because they are not informed regarding the existence of any disposal facilities or collection points or because they use WEEE in order to obtain discounts or other benefits in exchange for handing over. Nevertheless, Orban noticed that the most likely to recycle are people living in urban areas, especially big cities such Bucharest, Cluj, Brasov, Iasi, Timisoara, but also people in Harghita – Covasna area.

In 2014, the organization launched the second edition of "Ecobanca – Your recycle bank", an information and selective-collection campaign that provides, according to Orban, the first mobile collecting network for WEEE and batteries and accumulators waste. More than 500 Bucharest citizens participated in the campaign, depositing almost 30 tons of e-waste. Environ also organised the fourth edition of its national school campaign "Baterel and the Non-E World", an ecological education programme for children all ages, starting with kindergarten through high school, which is now implemented in almost 1,000 education units.

Furthermore, Environ developed, in partnership with German Embassy, the first common project of raising awareness regarding climate changes topic, "Reduce your carbon footprint – First steps in the battle against climate change". Almost 1,000 people took part in September in Herastrau Park at the opening event and more than 400 students from schools around the country were involved in the campaign. "The project had amazing success," says Orban. "Almost 100 eco – tips and projects of reducing the carbon footprint were submitted in the competition and 23 winners have been rewarded with bicycles," says Environ's president. "Our strategy for 2015 is based on the continuous improvement and extension of our most successful projects, but we also consider designing and developing customized CSR programs for our members," Orban concludes. Last year, Environ became a member of WEEELABEX (European recycling label of excellence) and its WEEE Forum and has ten employees.

RoRec plans to reach 1,000 tonnes of WEEE collected through the Recycling Patrol

The Romanian Recycling (RoRec) Association was founded in 2007 by eleven European producers of electrical and electronic equipment active in Romania including Arctic, Electrolux, Indesit and Philips to carry out all activities required for collection, treatment and recycling of WEEE. In the past eight years, RoRec managed to collect and recycle more than 14,000 tonnes of WEEE, five per cent coming from the most important awareness campaign of the association, the ‘Recycling Patrol', launched in 2011. So far, the programme was attended by over 70,000 students and over 1,800 teachers, collecting more than 700,000 kg of WEEE in Romania. This fall, RoRec plans to reach 1,000 tonnes of electrical waste collected through the Recycling Patrol since its launching, according to Andreea Idriceanu Calev, communication manager of the organization.

"Tens of thousands of children alongside their coordinating teachers are striving to stimulate the local pride and the community spirit," Idriceanu tells The Diplomat – Bucharest. "More than 700,000 kg of e-waste took the recycling path due to their dedication and persuasion. Not only do their parents, grandparents, families respect their credo, but also more and more organisations, institutions and companies join their effort. We plan to increase to 1,000,000 kg of WEEE by September 2015 and the premises are favourable."

Last year, more than 130,000 kg of WEEE were collected with the help of the companies and institutions throughout the country, who disposed of obsolete electrical appliances and encouraged their employees and partners to follow their example and discard e-waste from the office or from home. One of the main contributors was BauMax, with over 12,000 kg of WEEE. "The Supporters team extended nationwide slow and steady and significantly contributed to the successes we proudly highlight," says Idriceanu. "The power of their example is the most valuable gain. This fact proves to every one of us how simple it can be to do a good deed for nature and the community."
In terms of the general market, Idriceanu thinks that there several challenges that hinder the development of the current collection and recycling system, not only for WEEE, but for all types of waste, including the lack of information. "In the year 2015, I think it is not enough to talk about environmental responsibility, civic duty, involvement, and the values we bequeath to our children," she says. "People need to understand why we need to recycle and more importantly they need the means to do it. The lack of information, the indolence, the age, the difficulty to handle large e-waste and sometimes even pride ("do I need the 15 RON offered by a collection centre?") are barriers to a European path of e-waste collection and recycling, and not only this type of waste."

Recolamp: access to generated waste needs to be improved

The latest changes in the domain of the waste lighting equipment management, stipulated in the 2012/19/EU directive (mentioned above) and not transposed yet into the national legislation, were due to the technological developments in the last years: the emergence of LED products, which have come to replace the economical CCF lamps. The economical lamps are products with an average life time of six years, while the LED are theoretically designed to perform for a much longer period of time. The most important impact is that, as soon as the new technology is implemented, Romania will expect less and less waste to be generated so, achieving the European collection targets will be very challenging, says Bela Kovacs, the general manager of Recolamp, the only association focused on waste lamp management in Romania.

"The new directive, adopted by the Union in 2012 and setting those ambitious targets, was not transposed into the national legislation yet, unfortunately," Kovacs tells The Diplomat – Bucharest. "But, we look forward to a study that is planned to be carried on in the near future, in order to evaluate the ‘generated waste'. So, the changes are still to come."

The most difficult part in Recolamp′s activity is the access to the generated waste, according to the general manager, a segment that needs improvement. Although waste generators have free containers, have an entire free-of-charge infrastructure available all over Romania, they also have the legal obligation of separately collecting WEEE, including lamps, only 50 per cent out of the 10,000 locations Recolamp has set generated waste in 2014. However, the organization has started from zero waste in 2007 and, after seven years of activity, in September 2014, it had been counting over 1,800 tonnes of lighting waste equipment collected and recycled in Romania. In mid-January (when this interview was conducted), Recolamp did not have the final figures for 2014, but the GM estimates they are similar to the result of 2013, when the organization collected and recycled 480 tonnes of lightening equipment, 40 per cent of the market owned by the participants Recolamp represents.

"In the first years, we saw the quantities increasing by two to three digits in percentages," says Kovacs. "Now, we can only see very small increases in quantities, compared to previous years. Unless we have a strong legislation and good enforcement of it, we cannot expect too many changes by 2020. And this 2020 will come with very high collection targets for each European country."
Even though the total quantities are the same, the amount of waste lamp pieces Recolamp has collected and recycled has increased, due to the fact that the equipment is ever smaller and lighter. To have a clear evaluation of the waste market in Romania, Recolamp made a study last year in order to determine the average quantity of a collected lamp. The results showed that the average weight of a lamp is 100 grams, 65 per cent lighter than the average weight in 2007. "The last average we were using, according to a study from 2007, was 165 grams," says Kovacs. "So, our objective, each year, is to make sure that less and less pieces [rather than grams] of lamps get to landfill, and this is what we focus on."

Last year, Recolamp launched a national project dedicated to wholesalers and independent electricians, counting over 400 electrical shops where they can bring waste lamps. The campaign is available until 30th of June 2015. "Electricians all over Romania are invited to bring the waste lamps they get from the maintenance work they do, and they can win prizes," adds Kovacs. For 2015, Recolamp plans to extend the collection network by another 500 points and to continue with the awareness and activation programs.


Stirom registers 40 per cent rise in glass recycling

The sole glass packaging manufacturer in Romania, Stirom, a member of Hellenic Yioula Group, produced in 2014 around 94,000 tonnes of glass and recycled 38,442 tonnes, a 40 per cent increase compared to 2013. To produce a new glass bottle, Stirom needs minimum 15 per cent of recycled glass, but if the company found enough quantities, it could use up to 80 per cent. However, the collected quantities are still very low in Romania, given the fact that only around ten per cent of the total glass marketed is recycled.

"In the last five years I've seen some improvements and investments in this sector, but more has to be done," Spiros Vamvakas, general manager of Stirom, tells The Diplomat – Bucharest. "We may see a higher percentage of collected glass from the market if all the related parties, namely institutions, collectors and authorities, will collaborate in applying the legislation. (…) The legal framework is following the European one and, if it is applied correctly, it will help a lot in increasing the recycled glass collection."

Stirom inaugurated last year a glass melting installation through the EU project "Improving energy consumption by investing in the manufacturing process of glass packaging Stirom". The value of the project was almost 166.4 million RON (almost 37 million Euro), with 60 per cent of funding coming from private funds and 40 per cent from EU structural funds. The new installation is 25 per cent more efficient in energy consumption and will increase the production capacity up to 50 per cent. "We also installed the newest filter technology in order to reduce the emissions and to become more environmentally friendly," adds Stirom's Vamvakas. For the future, the GM hopes for an improvement of collected quantities, especially through education, and for a better application of the legislation. Stirom has 400 employees and the 2014 turnover is 45 million Euro.

TC Rom Glass: Local recycling system, with major deficiencies in spite of existing legislation

In 2014, glass recycler TC Rom Glass, with a capacity of 65,000 tonnes per year, registered an increase of ten per cent compared to 2013 in terms of collected and recycled glass, reaching around 16,000 tonnes. All the quantity purchased by TC Rom Glass enters into a process of sorting, cleaning and grinding according to a standard of quality, being delivered as second raw material to Stirom, the only domestic manufacturer of glassware. Although visibly improved compared to previous years through the contribution made by information and public awareness campaigns, as well as by increasing the collection rate of companies that have invested lately in this process, the recycling system still has great deficiencies despite existing legislation, says Cristian Dumitrache, the general manager of the company.

"Unfortunately, companies do not collect as much as TC Rom Glass can process - around 65,000 tonnes per year," Dumitrache tells The Diplomat – Bucharest. "In 2015, we expect an increase in terms of glass packaging placed on the market, because the production capacity of Stirom's glass factory will increase by 50 per cent following the investments made so far [as mentioned above]. Given this, we expect to see a diversification of the methods of collection for glass packaging waste."
The largest amount of glass put on the market comes from both the HORECA system and from the general population. Since 2007, TC Rom Glass developed nationally partnerships with over 80 companies that generate or collect glass packaging waste. Furthermore, from 2009 to date, an encouraging development was recorded on direct collection from individuals. "If Romania wants to improve the system, packaging waste recycling must start from the population," says Dumitrache, noting that it is very important to have as many information tools as possible to collect separately. In addition, to reduce waste quantity put on the market, manufacturers reduce the amount of glass used per pack. If two or three years ago, a wine bottle (empty) had 410 grams, new production technologies allow it to have only 360 grams, drawing substantial reductions in production costs. "This means optimizing packaging so that the environmental impact is minimized, and this involves assessing the pack through its entire lifecycle," adds Dumitrache. Founded in 1992, TC Rom Glass had a turnover of 23 million RON in 2014 (around 5.1 million Euro) and 11 employees.


Eco Anvelope puts its hopes in 2015 as crumb rubber starts to be attractive

Last year, Eco Anvelope collected and recovered about 28,000 tonnes of used tires, down 17.8 per cent from 33,000 tons in 2013. In 2015, however, the company anticipates that the managed amount will grow by about ten per cent, according to Florin Brabete, the general manager of the company, reaching 30,800 tonnes. The slight recovery is due to the network of collectors that has increased, and also due to a higher interest in crumb rubber, obtained from recycling the used tires. "The outlook for 2015 is quite positive," Brabete tells The Diplomat – Bucharest. "This year, we hope to see a diversification of recovery methods, since there are one or two potential investors in the pyrolysis. In addition, the demand for recycling (granulation) has increased considerably."

The last amendment of the used tires legislation was issued in February 2014 by the Ministry of Environment. The Ministerial Order stipulates that all manufacturers and importers of tires that have used tires management obligations under GD no. 170/2004 are required to submit a certificate of tax obligations before signing the contract with Eco Anvelope. This way, all companies that have not fulfilled their obligations in the past are identified and required to pay penalties to the Environmental Fund. "The responsibility transfer contract of used tires management cannot be signed without this certificate," says Brabete. "I have to say that, for over a year, there is a draft amendment of GD no. 170/2004, which, for unknown reasons, remained stuck somewhere between the two Ministries (Environment and Economy). However, we are convinced that once political stability is installed, one will find the necessary resources to finalize the draft law."

Used tires are generated mainly by industry (manufacturing, transport), with households generating under ten per cent of the total. In 2014, there was a five per cent increase in the quantity of tires placed on the national market compared to previous years, where the annual decrease stood between ten and 20 per cent. Brabete hopes that the market will continue the same positive trend, estimating an increase between five and ten per cent year on year until 2020. Eco Anvelope was established in 2004 by major tire producers such as Continental Automotive Products, Michelin Romania, Goodyear, Pirelli and a local producer, in order to take responsibility and meet the EU target, which stipulates that 80 per cent of the tires brought onto the market by producers must be collected and recovered.

Aluminium, shiny enough?

Alucro increased UBC collection rate by 16.5 per cent last year

In the last five years the evolution of the can recycling market has increased slowly but surely, according to Adina Magsi, the general manager of Alucro, a non-profit association founded in 2008 in order to promote the collection-recycling system of aluminium cans on the local market. The NGO has implemented several awareness campaigns over the years, the most significant being the ′EveryCanCounts′ (ECC) programme launched in 2012. If three years ago Alucro managed to collect 6,000 kg of UBC (used beverage cans) for recycling, in 2013 the figure was more than double at 15,700 kg. In 2014, however, through its ECC programme, Alucro collected around 18,300 kg of UBC, representing a 16.5 per cent increase compared to last year. Currently, ECC is implemented in 250 locations which include public, private institutions and HORECA.

"We are very active in schools where we run the programme at the national level in partnership with other entities," Magsi tells The Diplomat – Bucharest. "In 2014, we had campaigns in more than 300 schools in 12 counties and collected approximate 6,200 kg. However, we didn't stop there: 2014 was a very active year participating in 21 festival events, resulting in a collection of 2,100 kg."
Asked if one can estimate how many aluminium cans exist on the Romanian market and how many are recycled, Magsi confessed that these figures are very hard to calculate, because there are many EPR (extended producer responsibility) organizations in Romania with their own reporting systems. Nevertheless, a personal opinion places the number of cans marketed at around 700 million.

According to the newly proposed legislation regarding waste management at EU level, Romania has to recycle 70 per cent of the total metal put on the market until 2030. In order to meet the target, Magsi says Romania needs to stress several things, including a clear waste legislation, reduced taxes for those who are dealing legally with the waste, infrastructure and penalties for not respecting the rules.

"The civil society along with the authorities should be more active in terms of making the population more responsible of all backgrounds," says Magsi. "Probably people want to recycle, but there is no means to do so. It is the case of residential buildings which don't have containers for selective collection. Only in a few districts I've seen the containers separated by colours, but there arises another problem: stealing from containers. This is another issue the Romanian authorities should consider to take into discussion and formulate punishments. It is time to wake up and to act without [mercenary] incentives for a clean and healthy environment."

In terms of 2015 plans, Alucro's Magsi wants to continue promoting and educating people about can recycling. Moreover, without giving more details, the GM says that one of Alucro's members will "very soon" open a new business in Romania, improving the current collection system. "Based on a European model, the new collection system will be very modern and ambitious," she says. "In this way we will help more of our customers such as breweries, but also the others who need to achieve the recycling target imposed by law. Alucro will be the communication driver of this system."


Cami Comexim wants to purchase new vehicles to increase efficiency

Founded in 1992 in Bucharest, Cami Comexim is a company that performs services for recycling paper, cardboard and plastic, with a turnover of 1.57 million Euro and 70 employees. The portfolio of suppliers has increased slightly year on year, reaching almost 250 in 2014, an increase of 25 per cent from 2013 when it had 200. The company collects about 9,600-10,800 tonnes of waste per year, 30 per cent being recovered within the country.

The remaining 70 per cent of the amounts of paper, cardboard and plastic collected end up in countries like Austria, Germany, Greece, Serbia and Turkey. "Last year was a little better than 2013, due to environmental authority that conducted a series of controls and applied fines," says Camelia Chirila, founder and CEO of Cami Comexim.
"Even so, the amounts collected in recent years have declined compared to 2010 and 2011. Overnight appeared all sorts of companies that, with bare minimum investments in collection and recycling, started to activate in this field."

One of the biggest challenges of the year of 2014 for Chirila was the much debated sanitation law, which was approved in July 2014. According to the CEO, this law is quite ambiguous and will restrict the collection of recyclable waste.

"The sanitation law delegates a certain sanitation company for a period of 49 years, in a certain area, to collect everything that is waste, both household and recyclable waste," said Chirila. "If we collect this waste, as collectors that pay the waste generators – unlike sanitation companies which require money – we will be outlawed."

In 2013, Cami Comexim bought a warehouse of 3,000 sqm, with an area of 10,000 sqm, on the ring road of Bucharest, which allowed the company to expand its range of waste collected by wood waste and WEEE. In addition, it bought a paper shredder to destroy documents, planning also to invest around 100,000 Euro in the future to acquire new transport vehicles. "We want to purchase several transport units to replace the existing ones that have begun to show signs of fatigue and old age; they are around five or six years old," says Chirila. "We hope in the future to collect and deliver more."

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