2021: decisive year for Romania in WEEE management.
Next year marks 15 years since Romania took the first steps in the separate collection and recycling of electrical waste, with the accession to the EU. By implementing the then European directive, the foundations of the concept of extended producer responsibility (REP). REP is a set of measures taken by the state to ensure that product manufacturers bear the financial and organizational responsibility for managing the waste stage in the life cycle of a product. And in order to fulfill their obligations, the producers teamed up in Organizations for the Implementation of Extended Producer Liability (OIREP or OTR - responsibility transfer organization). One of these organizations is ECOTIC, the first established (April 2006) and since then has been making constant efforts to improve the field and the current WEEE collection and recycling system in Romania. We mention some defining elements of ECOTIC: the introduction of the Green Stamp, the implementation of Weeelabex standards in the field of WEEE treatment, the development of extensive awareness campaigns, including through European funds and the permanent achievement of collection targets.
Of course, as in any field, measurable targets and elements are needed to allow data analysis and at the same time to ensure a constant increase in performance, especially in this field aimed at environmental protection.
In this sense, until 2015, the target was 4 kg / capita at national level, thus not imposing clear targets on OTRs. In 2016 the target was 40%, and from 2017 to 2020, 45% WEEE collection rate compared to the average EEE placed on the market in the previous 3 years, clearly set targets for producers and implicitly for OTRs.
In all these years, ECOTIC has managed, with considerable efforts and without significant support from the authorities, to meet the targets of producers, especially from private sources (collectors, retail, B2b, own campaigns). Even in 2020, a year that presented new challenges due to the pandemic (long-term discontinued collections, collectors with problems supporting the activity), ECOTIC will meet this target, still without the support of local authorities. In order to clarify what this necessary support is, we point out that most local authorities do not provide citizens with services for disposing of electrical and electronic waste for recycling. In the absence of this service (mobile collection, fixed collection points) the electrical waste ends up in the landfill and in the case of bulky WEEE, it ends up in the scrap metal streams.
The year 2021 will be a decisive one for this field, the reasons being multiple:
- Increase the collection target to 65% (compared to 45%)
Achieving a collection rate of over 40% in 2019 (which meant the best national performance) was done with a lot of effort from the private sector. Reaching a target of 65% is practically impossible in the context in which there are very few separate WEEE collection points (managed by local authorities) in Romania, the collection infrastructure existing only from private initiatives and what is generated as WEEE is not enough to to support the fulfillment of the target, the degree of replacement being small. Even in the context of eradicating informal collection (the flow responsible for the loss of WEEE in scrap metal and the dispersion of related pollutants in the environment) the 65% target will still not be met. It should be noted that, of the EU Member States, only Ireland has reached this threshold in 2019.
- AFM penalty - 4 lei / kg, 20 lei / kg for lamps (target not reached), imposed on manufacturers and OTRs. Romania has the highest penalty in the EU, with most EU member states not having such a penalty. The clause in which the operating license of the OTRs is withdrawn is added if the target is not achieved for 2 consecutive years. The effects of such a penalty, applied starting with 2021, will be devastating by removing from the market the responsible OTRs that give value to the Romanian domain through their expertise and effort.
- New OTRs on the market in 2020 (8 in number and will probably appear again). These new OTRs are likely to destabilize the market through low rates of green stamps for producers (unsustainable in the long run due to the fact that they set off without previous targets).
EXAMPLES FROM OTHER COUNTRIES:
The best results in WEEE collection are the countries that have implemented the concept of involvement of all actors (Belgium, Italy, Ireland, Spain and the Netherlands), the target being not only on the shoulders of producers / OTRs and recognizing that without the involvement to each participant in the whole system, it will not improve or perform. Ireland is the country with the best results in the separate collection of WEEE, benefiting greatly from the involvement of local authorities and a good legislative context.
WEEE Forum, an organization made up of Producer Responsibility Transfer Organizations (TROs) around the world, of which ECOTIC is a member, presents a new vision that emphasizes the need to review the current extended producer responsibility system, including imposed are still appropriate in the current context.
Based on recent research by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), in the context of the small number of EU Member States that have met the 2019 collection targets for WEEE and despite significant progress in collecting increasing quantities WEEE Forum highlights four vital steps that need to be followed to ensure a fair and achievable system.
- The first step is application of the principle of "involvement of all actors"
It is a principle that involves all public and private entities that have access to WEEE, in the collection, logistics, preparation for reuse, reconditioning, treatment or recycling of WEEE or associated monitoring, legislative and implementation activities. All actors are subject to minimum legal obligations regarding, inter alia, compliance with the law, reporting to the competent authorities and compliance with official and communication standards.
Approaching the principle of "involvement of all actors" means that all actors have legal obligations that the competent authorities must impose and verify to ensure that everyone contributes in accordance with legal requirements. This approach provides a fair perspective and equal market opportunities, as well as in-depth market monitoring.
- Secondly, OTRs should be required to collect only WEEE to which they have access, ie those at collection points and retail or handed over directly to OTRs and should not be liable for WEEE to which they have access. do not have access, for example WEEE lost in the scrap stream.
For WEEE that is accessible to them, the collection obligation is 100%. The proposed approach also recommends a role for OTRs axat on means and not just on objectives. OTRs would also play an important role in supporting actions that will transform undeclared WEEE flows into officially reported and properly treated WEEE.
- The third step It is suggested that more measures be introduced that the authorities should implement to support increased WEEE collection. These include setting up a coordinating body, improving the collection network and better monitoring WEEE flows.
- Finally, a revision of the calculation method is required in setting the targets for the quantity of WEEE to be collected in each Member State. It is currently based on either the amount of electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market or the amount of WEEE previously generated.
Commenting on this latest step, Jan Vlad, President of the WEEE Forum, mentioned: “An approach of all actors and support measures will certainly increase collection rates, but it is not a guarantee for achieving current targets. Unexpectedly, the research shows that the method used to calculate the current collection targets is not appropriate for the purpose and determines inadequate targets and contrary to the intended purpose. This should become a priority. "
Jan Vlad further highlighted: “The main shortcomings of the methodology for calculating the target based on WEEE generated are the fluctuations in collection volumes due to economic cycles, inaccuracies related to the equipment placed on the market and their duration of use. Moreover, the high collection targets based on the quantities placed on the market conflict with the current waste cycle hierarchy, which promotes the prevention of waste generation and the extension of the life of appliances. "
Obviously, urgent and radical legislative changes are needed to bring value to the progress made in the 15 years of WEEE collection, to be connected to the reality in Romania and in Europe and to provide an adequate framework for achieving the country's targets.
The approach of involving all actors means that citizens will have access to local disposal services and will be known to them. Informal collection and illicit practices will be combated by the competent authorities. Thus, almost everything that is generated as electrical and electronic waste will end up in a formal system that producers will manage and finance.