Romania is on a rapidly approaching deadline to launch its deposit return system in October 2022 (in accordance with Government Decision 1074/2021), to align with the targets of the European Union’s Single-Use Plastics Directive and to tackle beverage container pollution.
In Europe alone, more than 25 million tons of plastic waste are generated every year, yet less than 30% of such waste is collected or recycled. The Single-Use Plastics Directive requires member states to separately collect 77% of single-use plastic bottles with caps and lids by 2025, with an ultimate target of 90% by 2029.
In October 2021, the Romanian government approved a decision regulating the deposit return system for single-use primary packaging, according to which consumers will pay a RON 0.50 (USD 0.11) deposit when they buy beverages from retailers. Consumers will receive their deposit back when they bring the empty beverage containers to one of the return points for recycling. Romania’s deposit return system will cover single-use beverage packaging in glass, plastic or metal, with volumes between 0.1 and 3 liters.
Reverse vending technology company for deposit return systems, Tomra, opened an office in Romania in 2021 and already has a national service network ready to support stakeholders who will operate the return points. The first machines were installed in Romania starting in 2012 to support a voluntary project and since then have collected more than half a billion (571 million) plastic bottles, 63 million aluminium cans and 34 million glass bottles.
Deposit return systems have already proven to be highly efficient: for example, the European average collection rate for plastic beverage bottles in countries without a deposit is 47%, whereas European countries with deposit systems collect 94% of eligible plastic beverage bottles.
A number of states or countries have committed to update existing deposit return systems or develop new systems. Germany is the recycling world champion, with its deposit return system for recycling empty drink containers achieving a 98% return rate for eligible containers, the highest in the world. Denmark is also a recycling high achiever, with a return rate of 92%.