Packaging problems: helping firms cope with new environmental rules

Aurel Dragan 15/05/2019 | 08:35

Romanian legislation has recently undergone a series of changes designed to improve national recycling targets, for better compliance with European legislation and standards. Given that quantifying all the legal changes may pose difficulties for companies, BR sought the perspective of Global Innovation Solution (GIS), an experienced environmental consultancy.

By Aurel Dragan

What has changed in the environmental legislation

Romania, as part of the European Union, has to introduce into the national legislation the provisions of European Directives in accordance with EU requirements and standards. Since 2011, the fundamental environmental protection law in Romania (Law no. 211/2011), based on EC Directive no. 2008/98, has been in force.

The provisions of EC Directive no. 2008/98, transposed into the Romanian legislation, introduced the concept of “extended producer responsibility”, or EPR, whereby any producer of packaged goods is subject to the extended responsibility regime, and must bear financial and organizational responsibility for managing the waste in the life cycle of a product.

In addition, Law no. 245/2015 stipulates that economic operators who put on the national market packaged products, economic operators that import / purchase intra-Community packaged products, or those that individually package their products, putting on the Romanian market packaging (or renting packaging in any form), are responsible for the withdrawal from the market and recycling of all packaging waste.

Producers / importers of packaged goods and products must respect a number of obligations, to comply with traceability and recycling conditions. They have to maintain quantitative evidence of the packaging put on the national market, depending on the type of material (paper / cardboard, plastic, metal, wood, glass) and packaging type (primary, secondary, transportation packaging).

From 2019, they have to meet new recovery targets, (according to Law No. 249/2015 and subsequent amendments), as follows: global recovery target: 65 percent; global recycling target: 60 percent; paper-cardboard recycling target: 70 percent; plastics recycling target (including PET): 45 percent; from the plastic recycling target, PET must be recycled at least: 55 percent; glass recycling target: 65 percent; steel recycling target: 70 percent; aluminum recycling target: 30 percent; wood recycling target: 50 percent.

A company can properly achieve its objective for recovering packaging waste by one of the following options: by signing a contract with an organization that implements the extended producer responsibility for the quantities of packaging put on the national market, depending on the type of packaging and type of material; individually – by taking off the national market its own packaging waste and ensuring that waste is recovered in accordance with the legal requirements.

After determining how the recovery objectives will be met, producers of packaged products must declare on a monthly basis to the Environmental Fund Administration the quantities of packaging released onto and recovered from the national market (either individually or through a contract with an organization that implements EPR).

Producers of packaged products / importers of packaged products also have several obligations regarding waste management. First, they need to keep track of the waste generated from their own activity (either office activity or commercial / production activity), regardless of the quantity and type of waste generated (for example waste paper, electric and electronic equipment waste, used toners, household waste from production. etc.). Second, all waste quantities must be handed over to authorized economic operators. Waste generators must keep monthly records of waste and report annually to the Environmental Protection Agency the quantities of waste managed in accordance with Law no. 211/2011. Last but not least, if the economic operator has an Environmental Authorization, it must nominate a person from its own employees, or delegate this obligation to a third party organization who ensures the fulfillment of the legal obligations. The person must be trained in the field of waste management (including hazardous waste).

Economic operators who release reusable packaging onto the national market must respect the fiscal legislation in force, namely Tax Code – Law no. 227/2015 and Law no. 82/1991 (setting out accountability procedures).

As of March 2019, companies that put on the national market products packaged in reusable packaging, with volumes ranging from 0.1 liters to 3 liters, must introduce a financial guarantee of RON 0.5 / pack. They also have the obligation to obtain a return rate of at least 80 percent of the total quantity placed on the national market. If this obligation is not respected, the competent authorities may apply fines ranging from RON 20,000 to RON 40,000.

Notably for the beverage industry (producers of beer, alcoholic beverages, cider, other fermented beverages, juices, nectars, soft drinks, mineral water and drinking water of all kinds, wines and spirits) companies who sell products in reusable primary packaging must, from January 1, 2020, put on the national market a minimum of 5 percent reusable packaging from the total packaging released onto the national market. This percentage must increase by another 5 percentage points per year until 2025 inclusive.

All economic operators who sell/retail products in reusable primary packaging have the obligation to inform consumers of the value of the cash guarantee and to provide information concerning the return system. They must receive in return reusable packaging in a proper condition and return the value of the cash guarantee at the consumer’s request, on the basis of the fiscal receipt.

If a certain type of reusable packaging is withdrawn from the Romanian market, producers / importers must inform traders and / or consumers about the changes and ensure they accept that packaging for at least another six months.

In 2015, the European Commission adopted a new waste plan, called the “Circular Economy Package”, to stimulate Europe’s transition to a circular economy with benefits in terms of global competitiveness, boosting sustainable economic growth, and creating new jobs. In 2018, Romania transposed into national legislation the provisions of Directive no. 851/2018 (through Emergency Ordinance no. 74/2018) which aims to improve waste management, conserve resources, and improve the quality of the environment and the public wellbeing.

The “pay as you throw” economic tool was also introduced, as a payment principle based on the amount of waste generated by each economic operator.

Starting from 1 January 2019, the implementation of the “pay as you throw” instrument, established the following elements in the development of any charging strategy: the amount of generated waste, the frequency of waste collection, the weight of the produced waste, and the providing of collection bags to citizens.

An EPR scheme established that product manufacturers have to cover all the costs needed to meet waste recycling targets, and also other specific objectives including awareness campaigns and preventing waste generation.

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