Romania recycles for eight years only 14% of municipal waste

Romania recycles for eight years only 14% of municipal waste

Adrian Teampau, Associate Partner, Department of Fiscal and Legal Assistance and Laura Ciobanu - Manager, Environmental Consultancy, EY Romania

The European Union aims to become a global leader in waste management and recycling, but Romania is still one of the weakest member states in this respect.

Why Romania has not managed to increase the recycling rate in the last 8 years?

In short, the reason for this bustle starts from targets imposed by the European Union in the field of waste recycling, since 2008. The major objective is that by December 31, 2020, the EU countries will have at least for paper, metal, plastic and glass waste from municipal waste a level of preparation for re-use and recycling at least 50% of the total quantity of waste generated.

However, according to Eurostat, Romania recorded a very low recycling rate of municipal waste of only 14% (7% of material recycling and 7% of composting) in 2017, with only one percentage point more than in 2010.

Bearing in mind that the disposal of waste at the landfill should be the last alternative for waste management, it is alarming that its rate has reached 70%, while the recycling rate has been stagnating for more than 8 years.

How is that, although there are more than 20 normative acts related to waste, there are still major problems ?

Environmental legislation has begun to take shape since 2005, with the adoption of the Emergency Ordinance no. 195/2005 on environmental protection, which stipulates that the local public authorities are obliged to ensure through the public services and by the responsible economic operators, taking sanitation measures of the localities.

In 2011, Law no. 211/2011 on waste regime, which required local authorities to ensure separate collection at least for the following types of waste: paper, metal, plastic and glass.
So, although this obligation has existed for over 7 years, not taking into account the well-known colored bells (which have not proved their usefulness), we have all noticed that only a few months have begun to rise on the ground floor of some blocks colored blue and yellow, allowing separate collection of paper and plastic waste.

Last summer, the Government issued an Emergency Ordinance (74/2018) in order to facilitate the implementation of European legislation on the circular economy and the implementation of the commitments made to the European Commission.
Thus, the economic instruments needed to be implemented are set: it pays for the expense of the manufacturer, the extended liability of the producer, the guarantee-return system and the contribution to the circular economy.

At the same time, responsibility for fulfilling the conditions imposed by the EU was transferred to the mayoralties and intercommunity development associations (ADI).

Bearing in mind that very few ADIs are functioning at this time and the infrastructure is underdeveloped, it will be almost impossible for them to develop and implement in less than two years an efficient waste management system.

Thus, almost a year after the appearance of the normative act defining how the entire recycling / recovery mechanism of packaging waste will work, there are still many questions and the packaging waste recycling market is currently blocked waiting for clarifications from the authorities.

In this context, the Ministry of Environment has undertaken the publication of a guide with recommendations for applying the legislative amendments introduced by GEO no. 74/2018, but it is not regulated by a Ministerial Order to have enforcement powers.

What recommendations still brings this indicative guide?

Depending on the implemented collection system, the number of fractions collected separately from the sanitation firms may vary from 2 fractions (wet and dry) to 5 fractions (paper / cardboard, plastic / metal, glass, green waste and residual waste).

City halls, which are responsible for ensuring the sanitation of localities, should ensure the necessary investments for the separate collection of residual and recyclable waste and the updating of the tariffs in order to integrate the additional costs incurred.

The different tariffs / fees broken down should be communicated to the beneficiaries (the population and economic agents) to raise awareness of the importance of separate collection of recyclable waste.

Rules and sanctions for population and businesses

Citizens who do not correctly collect waste will have to pay fees/charges of 1.5 or 2-3 times higher than those set for the correct collection.

The sanitation operator will have the right to replace recyclable waste and biowaste into residual waste with the application of the respective tariff, as well as the sanction mentioned above, if a degree of impurity is found higher than 25% for recyclable and 10% for biowaste.

We are curious how the sanitation company will proceed to determine the percentage, given that no national calculation methodology has been established.

In conclusion, we can say that most of the ingredients necessary for the evolution of the waste collection and recycling system already exist in Romania.

The legal framework has been supplemented with the necessary tools, it remains to be seen whether these recent clarifications are sufficient for Romania to start an upward trajectory in the field of recycling.

Only through active involvement and cooperation between the public and the private sector, together with a constant education of the citizens, we can progress towards a circular economy. In case of non-compliance with the obligations assumed, the Court of Justice of the European Union may impose on Romania a lump sum exceeding 1 million plus penalties for each day of delay.