Packaging consumption in Romania has been steadily increasing over the last few years, yet the effects of the economic downturn in 2009 and 2010 had a visible impact on the consumption of packaged goods. From a quantity of 850,000 tons in 2002 (39 kg/capita), it reached an estimated 1,200,000 tons in 2009 (60kg/capita), still below the average consumption in Europe. The projections for the coming years indicate that the packaging consumption will be 1–2% higher than the GDP, mainly due to changes in the consumers’ behavior.
The pressure for complying with the EU requirements by 2013 is felt by both local industries - which need to meet the annual packaging waste recovery and recycling targets - and on local authorities, who are compelled to reduce by 15% the amount of waste that is land-filled. This has lead to the decision to set up integrated municipal waste management systems. The investments that are going to be financed through the Sectoral Operational Plan for Environment average 30 million Euros (40 million USD) per county. Failure to meet this targets lead to continuous penalties both for the responsible industry and for local authorities. Additional recycling capacities are needed especially for glass and wood.
The Romanian Association for Packaging and Environment (ARAM) estimates that total packaging consumption was around 1.15 – 1.2 million tons in 2009 and approximately 1.1 million tons in 2010.
According to Eurostat, the situation in Romania is one of the most critical in the European Union. In Romania, 99% of all municipal waste is dumped in landfills, while the EU average is 38%. Just 1% of waste is recycled in Romania, in comparison to The Netherlands and Germany, with 70%, and the EU average of 24%. Organic composting as a strategy is virtually nonexistent in Romania, compared to an EU average of 18% of waste composted.
Romania has to introduce separate waste collection systems by 2015 to comply with EU legislation. The EU cohesion funds for the environment allotted for the period between 2007 and 2013 exceed five billion euros.
Romania has made significant efforts to implement the new European Directive on waste management, but still has much to do in this regard.
For example, the EU has advised Romania to build waste incineration installations and develop a vast network of waste recycling and composting plants.
The government approved legislation for a waste management regime that brings the relevant Romanian legislation in line with the most recent European directive which dates back to 2008, and establishes for Romania the year 2020 as deadline for reaching a waste recycling target of 50%.
In regard to packaging materials, the legislation places responsibility for reaching the recovery and recycling targets on producers and importers of packaged goods or of packaging, if that packaging is designed and intended to be used at the point of sales (e.g. plastic grocery bags).
In turn, these responsible parties, have established separate organizations to take over their responsibilities of packaging recovery and recycling, observing the model of the “Green Dot” System that is operates in most of the European countries, Turkey and Canada. Even these organizations do not collect packaging waste, but have contracts with collectors and waste operators. ECOROM AMBALAJE S.A. is the largest one of these operators in Romania, with a market share of more than 60%.
Since 2010 there is a new law in force setting packaging waste recovery and recycling targets for the producers. These targets are higher in volume and broader in the types of materials than those negotiated and granted by the Accession Treaty to the European Union.
Until now, targets have been met mainly in terms of recovery and recycling packaging waste from industrial and commercial streams (C&I) and, to a lesser extent, from household waste.
The waste collection system, including the collection of packaging waste from the population was driven mainly by the potential for making a profit.
In order to meet the new targets, industry has to focus to a greater extent on household packaging waste and collaborate with the waste management companies to improve sorting and separate waste collection.
The major part of the waste that is collected separately, packaging waste included, is undergoing recycling processes in various facilities throughout the country.