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Ambitious path to recycling targets

A joined-up effort between private companies and local and national authorities is key to ensuring Romania chases its EU targets for recycling

May 2010 - From the Print Edition

9 Photos
Romania has tough EU collection and recycling targets to meet over this decade, which both authorities and companies argue will not be met.
This is because only one per cent of waste is now recycled in Romania and there are not enough collection centres in the country, nor enough selective waste containers or an efficient system able to encourage people to collect waste selectively.
Some companies praise local authorities which create conditions to build collection centres and support collection campaigns, while others blame city halls for asking them to pay fees to build these centres.
Information on the annual collected waste are also two years behind schedule and specialist companies say this delay prevents them from drawing up efficient business plans.
Last year the financial crisis reduced consumption and the volume of collected waste. The fees paid by recyclers to collectors have also dropped dramatically, causing losses to collectors. But waste collection and recycling started to recover at the beginning of 2010.
On paper, Romania has adjusted most of its legislation to EU norms, but collectors and recyclers say many rules and the Romanian wording of the terminology are unclear, wrong or misleading.
These were the subjects under debate in ‘Waste Management Forum’, organised by ‘The Diplomat- Bucharest’ and law firm Schoenherr, together with Gremlin Computers and RoEcologic as gold partners, with the participation of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, National Agency for Environment Protection (ANPM) and the Environmental Fund Administration. The event was held at Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Ioan Mircea Cotosman, state secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests
“Romania ranks last in Europe in waste management. Under one per cent of the waste is recycled, while in the Netherlands and Germany, 70 per cent of waste is recycled. Romania has to introduce separate waste collection systems by 2015, according to EU legislation. I doubt we will manage to do this in five years. We also have to collect waste resulting from construction materials by 2020 - so we are preparing for the recycling of these materials. The EU cohesion funds for the environment allotted for the period between 2007 and 2013 exceed five billion Euro.”

Sebastian Gutiu, managing partner, Schoenherr
“In Romania and in Bulgaria most collected waste is either deposited in the ground or incinerated. This happens in most of the 12 countries that joined EU since 2004, which use these methods for waste elimination. Only Slovenia and Estonia attach more importance to recycling.
“The EU legislation is flexible. Selective collection is expected to be implemented by 2015, but it also says that the state has the freedom to decide if selective waste collection is possible in technical and economic terms.
“The legislation also says that some waste which was recycled can be considered sub-product, if it does not have negative effects on the environment and can be sold again.
“In Flanders, Belgium, reutilisation centres were created which allowed people to collect over 70 per cent of the household waste. The authorities placed selective containers on the streets and they are preparing to install underground containers. The authorities also financed energy efficiency studies for SMEs. People realised that ground depositing is more expensive than incineration, which is more expensive than recycling. The system of fees stimulates people to limit the quantity of produced waste, as they cannot afford to pay for its collection. The collection of a bag of unselected waste is more expensive than the collection of bags with selected waste.”

Aurora Olescu, administrator, Gremlin Computers
“Recycling is the business of private industry, not that of the authorities. The state should get involved only when there are issues related to co-incineration and when it has partnerships with companies.
“How many businesspeople involved in recycling tried to explain what recycling means? How many supermarkets have containers for selective waste collection? The TV and the Internet broadcast big recycling campaigns, a lot of events are organised, but all we do is talk. The purpose should be making recycling part of our everyday lives.”

Christian Lampl, industrial ecology manager, Lafarge Austria
“There are three important steps in the development of a country’s waste management system. The first is to try to connect everyone to waste collection, which is not happening in Romania. Many people in villages still burn the waste in the garden.
“The second is to start building landfills that respect EU standards. The third is to forbid throwing of unprocessed waste into the landfills. This means that the waste has to be incinerated in cement factories or treated. This happens in Germany, Austria and Slovenia.
“In EU countries only 40 per cent of the waste goes to the landfills, 20 per cent is incinerated and 40 per cent is recycled. Each country focuses on a type of waste. Austria and Italy focus on composting, because Italy does not have organic fertilisers. Germany is strong in recycling, 48 per cent of the waste is recycled because the authorities are financially supporting this system. The waste volume will increase in Romania along with economic development and consumption growth, so the country needs more facilities.”

Liliana Linculescu, superior counselor, Ministry of Economy, Commerce and the Business Environment
“The EU directive regarding Waste from Electric and Electronic goods (WEEE) and dangerous chemicals is based on “the polluter pays” principle. Local administrations must offer WEEE producers spaces to organise waste collection centres, including selective waste containers. These centres should be present in all cities to allow the collection of four kilos of WEEE per capita by 2013, according to EU legislation. There are not enough collection centres in Romania.
“It is difficult to collect four kilos of WEEE per capital in Romania, as authorities cannot force people to bring old electronic and home appliance equipment to the centres.
“Another solution to make the best of WEEE would be to build special incinerators such as in the Netherlands. These incinerators do not produce toxic substances and the energy resulted from WEEE burning in one incinerator can heat over 155 dwellings in the Netherlands.”

Andrei Gheorghe, general director, Remat Tulcea
“It is impossible to collect four kilos of waste per capita in Romania as there are locations in Romania where the city halls ask for taxes for WEEE collection.”

Cristian Aionesei, partner, Greentronics
“Mayors, especially those from small villages, are not putting fees on WEEE collection, because many of them have no idea about European targets. They are just asking for small benefits.”

Andreea Idriceanu, communication consultant, RoRec
“We created the concept of a WEEE collection centre, which we will implement in 15 cities in partnership with local authorities. The project was launched last July and we signed 15 partnerships with city halls. We want to be present in 120 locations and each collection centre should serve 200,000 people. The Romanian Recycling Association includes ten of the most important electric and electronic equipment producers in Europe.”

Florin Popa, project manager, RoRec
“We have launched projects to avoid the abandonment of waste dangerous for health and the environment. For instance polyurethane foam, which is part of a refrigerator, degrades in 1,000 years, a time in which it releases toxic substances. A piece of WEEE can become dangerous if it is abandoned outside for more than half an hour.
“The city hall provides the space, RoRec builds and then manages the centres and organises campaigns.
“In these centres we will select the old equipment which can still be used, we will check them and we will offer guarantees to the city halls, which can resell them at lower prices.”

Andrei Gheorghe, Remat Tulcea
“The European directive (856) regarding the classification of WEEE and the government decision regarding WEEE do not correspond, although they should provide similar information.
“The collectors are misled by the codes in the government decision for each type of WEEE, which are different from those in the European directive. It is also difficult for WEEE collectors to understand how they should fill the transport documents for dangerous WEEE.”
Liliana Linculescu, Ministry of Economy
“There are some shortcomings regarding the classification of WEEE. There were cases when the codes were not used correctly and refrigerators were collected as scrap iron, instead of WEEE and this is wrong, because they contain dangerous substances.”

Ion Musetoiu, counselor, WEEE management department, Ministry of Environment and Forests
“The codes for various categories of WEEE are not identical in the two documents because the government is trying to make a more detailed and clearer presentation of WEEE types.
“It is difficult to understand which equipment is dangerous and which is not. Around 33 per cent of WEEE collected in the EU is treated. Thirteen per cent of them reach waste deposits and 54 per cent are not treated properly or are exported to underdeveloped countries. This means that some business opportunities for companies that make WEEE collection and treatment are wasted.
“The directive recommends the member states to encourage producers to support, besides production costs, collection and treatment costs. Now local authorities support collection costs.”

Ion Musetoiu, Ministry of Environment and Forests
“The Ministry of Environment organised in 2007, one campaign called the ‘Big Clear-Up’ encouraging people to take WEEE to collection centres.
“The campaign continued this year. We are trying to change the mentality, but this takes years.”
Marian Prorocu, vice president of National Agency for Environment Protection (ANPM)
“In Romania 80 per cent of municipal waste is collected, while 20 per cent of the waste is fly-tipped on roads and by railways. The legislation in place does not reflect a logical path starting with collection, following with selective collection and ending up with evaluation of waste management projects, to see if they are correct. The Minister of Environment, Laszlo Borbely asked us to make major changes in the legislation to make these things clear.”

Adina Cutov, lawyer, Adina Cutov Law Office
“The business environment and local authorities are waiting for a clear direction from central authorities and the Ministry of Environment, that has more access to EU practice and case studies. Nobody is expecting them to implement WEEE collection and recycling measures, they just have to draw them up, so local authorities and companies can implement them. Companies in the area cannot make investments hoping that in ten years the Ministry will come up with some efficient strategies, which will help them derive a profit. In Germany there is a clear scheme of fines and incentives for waste collection, this is why the system works. In Romania the Ministry should either give incentives for local waste collection or apply fines for waste which is not collected selectively.”

Cosmin Gheorgiu, executive director, general direction of infrastructure and public services, Bucharest City Hall
“At the end of 2009 we approved the waste management plan in Bucharest which contains information about the city’s waste, forecasts and targets we have set to respect EC regulations. We have the results of a feasibility study regarding the collection of paper and cardboard waste. We will organise selective collection points in Circului Park on Sos Stefan cel Mare and in Izvor Park, on Splaiul Unirii. We want to build a deposit for the recovery and neutralisation of construction waste.”

Felicia Zelinski, counsellor on industrial policies direction and competitivity, the Ministry of Economy
“There is a draft law which will measure the efficiency of the package collection system and will forbid the mix of various types of package waste. The EU has to recycle 55 per cent of its package waste by 2013 and recover 60 per cent of the waste.
“Most of the package waste results from plastic and paper. Paper and cardboard waste goes to paper factories. There are seven such factories in Romania, while in 2008 there were 11. When plastic waste does not comply with the necessary conditions to be recycled it can be co-incinerated in the factories of the three major cement producers in Romania - Lafarge, Holcim and Carpatcement.”
“In glass waste, Stirom is the only factory that produces glass package. The fact that it is located in the south of the country hampers access of collectors from other parts of the country.
“The quantities of collected waste package have increased every year, but in 2009, the quantities were lower than in 2008. The activity started to recover in the first part of 2010.”

Cristian Dragomir, general director RoEcologic:
“RoEcologic has two work points in Targu Mures and in Fieni (Dambovita county), the second one was built in partnership with cement producer Carpatcement. We treat waste in these centres. The waste goes through material or energetic recycling.
“Metallic waste can be recycled, while plastic waste and other types of waste which cannot be recycled are burnt in Fieni facility, where alternative fuel is produced.
“An integrated waste management through treatment, at regional level, is possible and this is what RoEcologic is trying to do.”

Dragos Nicolae Nicolescu, administrator EcoRubber Recycling
“EcoRubber Recyling has implemented a system for integrated tyre recycling. The company set up another firm, which is a joint venture with a Dutch company, which performs tyre recycling through shredding.
“Tyre Grant was set up with a grant from the Dutch government and the technology was provided by another Dutch company, which is part of a joint venture.
“The annual capacity of the tyre shredding facility is 25,000 tonnes, which is one third of the quantity of tyres which should be recycled in Romania by 2013, according to EU legislation. This is the third year when we use the shredded tyres and tyre powder to produce floors for gyms, pavements for parks and swimming pools. We have contracts all over the country with local authorities, in cities like Cluj-Napoca, where we produced 12,000 of tyre pavement for a park.”

Christian Lampl, industrial ecology manager, Lafarge Austria
“In Austria those who take waste to incinerators have to pay between 100 Euro and 150 Euro per tonne, so these fees encourage them to recycle more, instead of burning it.
“Cement factories in Europe can process 6.3 per cent of the total waste produced in Europe. The cement industry is important for waste management.
“Romania had a good recycling system before the 1989 Revolution, the state just needs to find the right circumstances to implement a new efficient system.
“Mentality is not an obstacle or a reason to complain. Romanians’ mentality is not different from Austrians’ mentality. If Austrians can recycle, so can Romanians.”



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