1. What were the most important events related to the Circular Economy in Romania in 2020?
In 2020, it was a period of reorganization and rethinking the business strategy for all the companies. In terms of events happening in this period, due to general medical and economic situation, their number decreased. The topic of circular economy is starting to become increasingly interesting for strategists on business level, but in Romania we are making now the first steps in this direction. The number of experts in the field of circular economy is still reduced due to the large spectrum of expertise (business strategy, legal, financial, operational and change management) that one should have in order to understand and implement the concept of circular economy. As a result the number of important events on the topic was reduced also, as well the level of information on the topic and clear strategies or study cases.
2. What events / changes are announced for 2021-2022 and how will they affect the Circular Economy in Romania?
First of all, we have to mention that starting with 2021, due to the collaboration between IRCEM and the Government’s Sustainable Development Department, Romania will have its first Strategy for Circular Economy – ROCES 2030. The draft strategy is currently being publically debated and after this stage the implementation of the strategic objectives will follow. The existence of such a document, which comprehensively addresses the essential elements of the circular economy (waste recovery, circular bussines models, public green acquisitions, etc.) is crucial for obtaining financial funding for circular economy projects and also for monitoring the progress of the transition to a circular economy through specific and measurable objectives.
Another important event expected is the approval of the Recovery and Resilience Mechanism (MRR), which is the mainstay of #NextGenerationEU, a temporary financial instrument with the main purpose of providing support to Member States to meet the challenges posed by the Covid Crisis19 and its economic consequences. The first pillar of this plan, the Green Transition has a special section dedicated to Waste Management and Circular Economy, through which it will be possible to obtain financing and support for projects aimed at facilitating the transition towards a circular economy (e.g.: the inclusion in the economic circuit of secondary raw materials derived from materials recovered from the population in the form of waste, the development and implementation of the guarantee-return system for packaging, including the acquisition of hardware and software infrastructure., investments in aerobic storage, management and composting systems, etc).
The main change that will appear on the market starting July 2021 is the implementation of the Single Use plastic Directive of EU, that was announced already for a couple of years. The is one of the first important changes in Europe, made under the Circular Economy Strategy of EU. This Directive represents an important change in the mindset of companies and also should become an important step in changing the mind set of the end-user of plastic pack ( bags, delivery box, etc). Based on our opinion, this can be considered as a pilot project for the rest of the 8 directives that are discussed and will be implemented on EU level in the short-medium term in order to create in 2050 a continent climate-neutral. Based on a analysis made by Cleantech Romania in 2019, the first results for Romania of this directive will be a reorganization of the market of plastic bags and containers producers. The small companies will not be able to keep up with the big ones on technological changes.
3. What are the most pressing issues in the field of recycling in Romania that need to be addressed in the shortest time? How should they be approached and by whom?
To my best knowledge and experience, recycling is difficult in Romania in both household and industrial/agricultural settings because of a whole set of circumstances particular to Romania. If we would assess the current landscape in waste management in Romania from an environmental risk perspective, it becomes obvious that household or urban waste collection, segregation, and further reuse or recycling generates most challenges.
With the Western eyes, one cannot avoid the sad conclusion that the country is literally filled with all sorts of urban wastes dumped almost everywhere. Causes of this differ from urban to rural areas. In urban areas, selective collection is, in general, technically impossible, esp in condominiums, because of how these collective households are designed.
What is then surprising is that even when separate bins are provided and people put different wastes into different bins, still the public service operators come and mix those wastes into one single truck, then segregate them again in the sorting stations at the waste dump. In rural areas, the key cause of littering is lack of willingness to pay for these services, and there it is impossible to collect them separately, again because it will incur extra costs and will make fees prohibitive. More enforcement is needed, I think, and re-organizing these services at regional levels so that it would allow fees being averaged at a convenient level for the citizen.
An additional problem that touches both domestic and industrial wastes is that we literally have very few waste recycling operators. Most are focusing on those waste streams where subsidies exist or where the generator pays for their collection because is a business/financial driver to do so.
The level of recycling, considering all the recycling loops, remains extremely low in Romania, and the negative evolution raises numerous challenges. Recycling is 5 times lower than the European average according to Eurostat. In a context where raw materials are becoming increasingly scarce and expensive, recycling only 13% of waste generated in Romania means wasting valuable resources available.
The main challenge is to adress the gap between the results of waste management (waste containing convertible materials in accordance with the development stage of solutions and technologies) and their effective reintroduction into new products. The establishment of a market for convertible waste, and a transparent and dynamic market for secondary materials are paramount tasks that should be carried out by the government in collaboration with the private sector.
Another pressing issue is the revision of regulations on the reuse and recycling of textiles in order to be able to create a market for sustainable and circular textiles.
4. How is Romania doing in comparison with other EU countries in regards to implementing a Circular Economy?
Romania’s performance in implementing the principles and regulations of circular economy is pretty poor compared with the other EU countries that have a tradition in this sense and have put lot of efforts into improving the performance. The efforts consist of setting forth a regulatory framework that encourages companies to build circular business models (both in terms of incentives and penalties), doubled by awareness raising campaigns meant to change people mindset about healthy circular consumption habits.
Unfortunately the very low separate waste collection and recycling rates put us among the last countries in Europe in this area and the circular economy strategies and regulations remain only on paper, with no significant implementation tangible results. The isolated efforts of companies on bringing a positive impact on circularity cannot compensate the lack of initiative of the competent authorities or the poor regulation.
Circular Economy is making the first steps at the EU level. We, in Romania, are trying to keep up with this new strategies and the EU vision. Because it is still a beginning for all Europeans, we can say it is still an equilibrium between Romania and rest of the countries. That is why we should start moving from policy point of view in this direction, in order not to lose the opportunity of creating in the country a stable and sustainable system.
5. What are the opportunities for a foreign company looking to partner with a Romanian firm / organisation or expand to Romania, in regards to recycling?
While political actors, media, and NGOs are thinking the current landscape in waste management in Romania is disheartening, as a consultant I see all these apparently negative things as business opportunities. There are many areas of opportunity to consider in the waste management sector in Romania, and many of them are available in relation to industrial or major agricultural companies, mostly private.
Our clients in the private sector in Romania are permanently asking for our support in identifying and negotiating with waste management service providers (recycling, re-use, dismantling, disposal, energy-from-waste, waste-to-resource) especially when it comes to special wastes. Same is valid for large-scale farming, where little to no options exist on the market for those waste streams.
Circular Economy is about partnership. Romania need now organizations from abroad that can bring knowledge, investment, technology. As a result, I consider that the idea of partnership for foreign companies will be more than attractive for Romanians. In terms of expertise, as I mentioned, there are very few persons/companies in Romania. In terms of interest some of the companies, especially FMCG sector is starting to approach the subject to think on potential strategies for development. The number of companies will increase a lot in the next period of time 2021-2022.
Are you interested to learn more about the opportunities in the Romanian Circular Market? Who are the main players and decision makers?
How to reach the relevant local partners and how to present your products / services to them?
FRD Center is monitoring the waste management and recycling activities in Romania. Upon demand can generate information and introductions based on the Client’s requirements.
Two of the most important events related to the Circular Economy in Romania in 2020 were the Circular Economy Forum where the effects of the European Green Deal for Romania were discussed and the adoption of Law 181/2020 on biodegradable waste.
In 2021, the business magazine The Diplomat Bucharest organised the first edition of the“The Circular Economy Roadmap 2021”online event, followed by the “Sustainability in Business” conference and Sustainability Awards Gala.
During 30 – 31 March 2021, the digital platform dedicated to environmental education Guerilla Verde
organised in partnerships with institutional and non-governmental partners the Forum of Circular Economy
In June 2021, the non-profit organisation Romania Green Building Council
organised the webinar “Sustainable Interior Design in the Context of the Circular Economy”.
Speakers included representatives of Romanian and Finnish companies and organisations such as:
IRCEM – The Institute for Circular Economy and Environment
Other organisations relevant for the Romanian advancement towards a Circular Economy include:
The Embassy of Sustainability
is a program of the Romania Sustainable Coalition Association, initiated after an idea of The CSR Agency team. The program is financed by the Founding Partner – Kaufland Romania and by the Platinum Partners HeidelbergCement Romania and Lidl Romania.
Also, FRD Center organises for the foreign Clients showcasing of their products, roundtables with KOLs and sector experts, store guided visits etc.
Through component 3 – Waste Management, the Romanian Resilience and Recovery Plan, approved by the EU, addresses challenges through a reform and 3 main investment lines. The proposed total budget: 1.2 billion euros to be invested also in improving governance in the field of waste management in order to accelerate transition to the circular economy
Investments from the Romanian RRP:
I.1 Development, modernization and completion of municipal integrated waste management systems
at county level or at city / commune level.
I.2 Development of infrastructure for manure and other compostable agricultural waste management.
I.3 Development of technical capacity and skills in the field of circular economy and climate at the level of central and local public institutions.
Romania’s main challenge is to reach the preparation targets for waste reuse and recycling. For example, on 11% of the municipal waste was recycled in 2019, according to the latest available data, compared to the target of 55% provided for 2025 in the circular economy package – PEC).