As climate change and its large-scale negative effects are no longer just presumptions but a reality we are all facing on a daily basis, every member of society, including those in the business environment, must behave and do business in a more sustainable way. Business Review talked to representatives of large companies in Romania and highlighted several solutions that can ensure a greener and safer future for the coming generations. Implementing sustainable urban development, water management, and farming, supporting businesses with green finance, and finding ways to lower carbon emissions in all our activities are among the actions that could be part of the solution.
What is the role of the circular economy strategy and action plan (currently being drafted) in sustainable urban development in Romania?
Roxana Ionescu, Partner, Head of the Environment Practice: The current draft Circular Economy Strategy for Romania proposes various solutions aiming to achieve sustainable urban development at national level, prioritizing certain sectors (e.g., automotive, construction, packaging, EEE). Among others, such solutions focus on decreasing virgin raw materials consumption by using more secondary raw materials, applying more innovative eco-friendly technologies and processes, promoting digitalization, and improving the waste management system and infrastructure. The latter also includes increasing landfill prices to make landfilling less attractive and to enhance treatment and recovery options that are higher up in the waste hierarchy.
What can you tell us about the waste management initiatives with a positive impact for eco-friendly urban life?
Roxana Ionescu, Partner, Head of the Environment Practice: Currently, the deposit return system for single-use primary packaging (DRS) is one of the major initiatives being implemented that would contribute to a great extent to enhancing waste management performance in Romania. Based on a consumer-centric concept, this is a nationwide system. As per the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), the DRS covers all associated costs, including those for packaging collection to be ensured by retailers, for deposits to be returned to consumers, etc. However, the success of the DRS depends heavily on each stakeholder – public sector, private sector, and consumers – fulfilling their individual obligations to meet the ambitious return targets for such packaging. Other initiatives, such as digital waste islands under the National Recovery and Resilience Plans and Pay-As-You-Throw mechanisms should also contribute to the eco-friendly urban life.
A short review of the areas where the existing legislation needs to be adapted to accommodate sustainable initiatives with a focus on
Single use plastic principles and rules have yet to be fully implemented, one year after the transposition of the Single Use Plastics Directive
Miruna Vlad, Senior Associate, Environment Practice: In practice, the national provisions on single-use plastics appear to be inconsistently interpreted by various actors in the concerned industry. Hence, adopting subsequent methodological norms should clarify existing discrepancies, e.g., on offering the final consumers a choice of reusable, suitable and sustainable or plastic-free alternatives at the point of sale.
The increase in digitalization of public services may have the indirect effect of reducing emissions
Miruna Vlad, Senior Associate, Environment Practice: “Digital transformation” is one of the components of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which encompasses objectives targeting several public services currently undergoing different stages of implementation. Once this component is completed successfully, an indirect environmental effect may be reducing emissions by avoiding multiple trips to the front offices of institutions.
Eco-design is a focus in multiple industries, including automotive
Miruna Vlad, Senior Associate, Environment Practice: The EU Circular Economy Action Plan seeks to extend the current eco-design framework beyond energy-related products to other product groups, such as electronics, ICT, textiles, furniture, steel, cement, and chemicals. Meanwhile, the national strategy also focuses on implementing eco-design in the construction, plastics, and automotive sectors.
The recycling options have yet to be scaled to meet the increased needs of urban developments and other projects – supporting the development of new recycling facilities and ensuring a predictable legal framework for them to operate it needs to be a priority
Roxana Ionescu, Partner, Head of the Environment Practice: Recycling-related matters requiring adjustments to meet the new sustainability goals include developing new recycling facilities and digitalized ecological islands/Pay-As-You-Throw solutions, adopting regulations on end-of-waste criteria, and adapting the waste traceability system. Deploying such measures needs clearly defined and segmented responsibilities at individual level, complemented by well-aligned enforcement elements.
 A set of digitalized containers for separate collection of household waste.