Plastics and packaging laws in Romania

1. What is the general legislative framework regulating packaging and plastic waste in your jurisdiction?

Romania's national waste management policy is in line with the objectives of European waste prevention policy and aims at reducing resource consumption and the practical application of the waste hierarchy. The principle of preventive action is one of the principles underlying Government Emergency Ordinance No. 195/2005 on environmental protection, as subsequently amended and supplemented, and Directive 2008/98/EC on waste, transposed into national law by Law No. 211/2011 on waste management, presents the waste hierarchy that “applies as an order of priority in the legislation and policy on waste generation and management, as follows: prevention, preparation for reuse, recycling, other waste management operations. recovery, for example energy recovery and disposal”. Law No. 249/2015 regulates the management of packaging and packaging waste in order to prevent or reduce the impact on the environment.

Packaging and plastics waste are mostly regulated by the following texts:

  1. Law No. 249/2015 on packaging and packaging waste management, with subsequent amendments;
  2. Law No.211/ 2011 on waste regime, with subsequent amendments;
  3. Law No. 50/2015 for the approval of the Government Ordinance No. 20/2010 on the establishment of measures for the uniform application of European Union legislation harmonising the conditions for the marketing of products;
  4. Government Emergency Ordinance No. 196/2005 on the Environmental Fund, with subsequent amendments;
  5. Government Emergency Ordinance No.195/2005 on the Environment Protection, with subsequent amendments;
  6. Government Decision No. 856/2002 on waste management records and for the approval of the list of waste, including hazardous waste, with subsequent amendments.

2. Are there any measures, existing or expected, in respect of single-use plastics?

From 1 July 2018, Romania has banned the introduction on the national market of thin and very thin plastic transportation bags with handles, granting preference to biodegradable or reusable bags.

From 1 January 2019, Romania has prohibited the sale of thin and very thin plastic transportation bags with handles, as an additional measure to discourage the use of single-use plastics.

Various municipalities have announced since 2019 that single-use plastics will be banned in public events, while local retailers have already removed single-use plastics (e.g. IKEA Romania, Kaufland). The hospitality industry (e.g. ACCOR group announced removal of all single-use plastics from their hotels) implemented similar measures by the end of 2020.

Market restrictions and product marking shall apply from 3 July 2021, while product design requirements for bottles shall apply from 3 July 2024, and extended producer responsibility measures shall apply from 31 December 2024. According to the Romanian Government General Secretariat (“SGG”), the transposition of Directive 2019/904 should be effective in the Romanian legal framework in July 2021. A draft bill has not yet been released for public consultation.

3. Are there any existing or expected producer responsibility schemes in placefor packaging or plastics?

The legislative changes introduced in 2018 have radically changed the business model in the field of packaging waste recycling in Romania. Along with the implementation of the measures brought by the Government Emergency Ordinance No. 74/2018, the companies operating in the field of recycling, the producers who put packaged goods on the market, and local authorities have new obligations regarding the recycling of waste. The producers, through the organisations that implement the extended liability obligations of the producer, are currently obliged to fulfil their recycling objectives directly through the local authorities and to pay the costs of collection and sorting of packaging waste managed within their scope.

The National Plan for Waste Management published on January 2018 references mandatory schemes for extended liability of producers for all packaging by 2024. Starting with 2018, the manufacturers, through the Organisations Implementing Extended Producer Liability Obligations (OIREP), are currently required to meet their recycling targets directly through local authorities and to pay the costs of collecting and sorting packaging waste managed within their area, also considering the income generated by the positive value of the waste, where applicable. In this sense, the local authorities also have the obligation to conclude contracts or collaboration protocols with the OIREP in order to report the traceability of packaging waste, so that the annual recycling targets of producers are met.

4. Are there any existing or expected deposit return schemes (“DRS”) in place for packaging or plastics?

On March 2020, the Ministry of Environment has published a study drafted by the Romanian Economical Studies Academy on the implementation of deposit-refund system. 1 The study proposes that the deposit-refund system to be organised by retailers, as the interface between the producer and the consumer and the deposit collector from the final consumer. 

On December 2020, the Ministry has released a draft bill on establishing the deposit-return system for unusable primary packaging such as glass, plastic or metal, with volumes between 0.1 litre and 3 litre inclusive, used to place on the national market for beer, beer mixes, mixtures of alcoholic beverages, cider, other fermented beverages, juices, nectars, soft drinks, mineral waters and drinking waters of all kinds, wines and spirits. The DRS is expected to be effective from 1 April 2022 and to be applicable to products manufactured in the national territory and to products imported or purchased intra-Community under non-discriminatory conditions. Producers introducing such packaging on the national market will be required to register to DRS and to keep records and to submit information such as volumes of such packaging released to the market and returned by distributors, to collect fees from distributors and retailers, to mark packaging accordingly, etc. 

The minimal annual targets for return are for plastic 65% for the period 1 April to 31 December 2022, 80% for the following year and 90% afterwards. The retailers are also subject to other obligations in this respect.

5. Are there any existing or expected taxes on packaging or plastics?

An eco-tax applicable to any type of plastic bag, regardless of their thickness or shape of RON 0.15 (approximately EUR 0.03). Ecological alternatives (e.g. biodegradable and compostable), such as starch or cellulose products, are exempt from payment. 

At the beginning of 2021, the Minister of Environment announced that the draft bill establishing the DRS would also introduce a tax on packaging, as a measure to increase the degree of recycling. According to the draft bill, the final consumer will pay RON 0.5 (approximately EUR 0.1) for each plastic, aluminium or glass package with a capacity of up to three litres, except for dairy packaging. The money is to be recovered using the DRS system.

The European Council announced the introduction of a tax of EUR 0.8 per kilogram of non-recycled plastic packaging waste starting in 2021, as part of the post-COVID-19 economic recovery package estimated at EUR 750 billion for the period 2021 to 2027. So far, the Romanian authorities have not published any legislative project or announced how they want to implement these measures regarding the EUR 0.8 per kilogram. It also remains to be seen how this contribution will be transposed in Romania and how the national authorities will be able to harmonise the new tax and the existing contribution of RON 2 per kilogram for the difference between the amount of packaging waste corresponding to the recovery objectives and the quantities of packaging waste actually recovered or recycled. Regarding the plastic tax on non-recycled plastic packaging waste, it is still not clear whether this tax should be borne by the state budget or a new tax should be imposed on Romanian companies.

6. Are there any measures, existing or expected, regarding micro-plastics or the use of microbeads in products?

There are plans for investigations through research studies on the level of macro and microplastic contamination of the Romanian Black Sea coast. 2 The development of environmentally friendly marine waste collection technologies is considered as an important issue to be taken into account for financing of small-medium enterprises which may develop sustainable business models.

A 22 March 2021 national report, “Microplastic Mapping in Romanian Waters”, revealed the presence of microplastics (from all types of recyclable plastic) in all 21 samples collected in the main freshwater sources across the country.

7. Are there any existing or expected recycling or waste reduction targets in place for packaging or plastics?

According to the National Plan for Waste Management, Romania plans to reuse and recycle 65% of the weight of all packaging waste by 2025 and at least 75% by 2030. Minimum targets are also set on the preparation for reuse and recycling of specific materials contained in packaging waste for both 2025 and 2030. 

The “National Strategy for Sustainable Development of Romania 2030” (“Strategy”) sets key targets: (i) 5% recycling of municipal waste by 2025 and 60% by 2030; (ii) 65% recycling of packaging waste by 2025 (plastics 50%, wood 25%, ferrous metals 70%, aluminium 50%, glass 70%, paper and cardboard 75%) and 70% by 2030 (plastics 55%, wood 30%, ferrous metals 80%, aluminium 60%,  glass 75%, and paper carton 85%); (iii) separate dangerous household waste collection by 2022, collection of bio-waste by 2023 and of textiles by 2025.

Having 245 kilometres of seacoast, Romania must also directly fulfil its role in protecting the seas and marine resources. The Strategy sets the various targets, inter alia: (i) by 2025, the prevention and significant reduction of marine pollution of all types, especially from land-based activities, including marine litter pollution and nutrient pollution; (ii) by 2020, the sustainable management and protection of marine and coastal ecosystems.

8. Is the use of recycled materials in food packaging regulated?

Romania has aligned itself with EU practices and uses selective collection with packages divided into glass, cardboard and plastic.

According to a draft law from 2019, which has not progressed, amendments may be expected in the sense of mandatory use of reusable or biodegradable packaging, while plastic ones will be banned, in public events and meetings such as festivals, concerts, festivals, local days, demonstrations or political / religious events, which are organised by local authorities. In this context, event organisers will be required to ensure that food and beverages sold or given away free of charge are packaged in reusable or biodegradable packaging. Basically, the use of disposable plastic packaging will be prohibited for food and drink.

The waste collection for such events will no longer be selective (e.g. plastic, glass, paper, etc.), but will be done separately according to recyclable waste, non-recyclable waste and biodegradable waste. There are currently no updates on the legislative process for this draft law.

As part of the cohesion policy, Romania has received from the EC a budgetary allocation of EUR 27 billion for 2021 to 2027 (8% more than the previous period). 

The National Investment Priorities 2021 to 2027 stress the transition to a circular economy as a key milestone expected to be reached by expanding management schemes at the county level to increase reuse and recycling, to prevent waste generation and diversion from landfills. Similarly, there are references to additional investments for the closure of landfills as well as in strengthening the capacity of stakeholders, whether public or private, to support the transition to the circular economy and to promote circular economy actions and measures, including public awareness, waste prevention, separate collection and recycling.

The project “Sustainable Romania: Development of the strategic and institutional framework for the implementation of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development of Romania 2030”, co-financed from the European Social Fund, through the Operational Programme Administrative Capacity 2014 to 2020, is currently underway (after having started in August 2019).

The purpose of the project is to implement the National Strategy for Sustainable Development of Romania 2030 and has an allocated budget of approximately EUR 5.2 million (in their majority non-reimbursable European funds). 
The National Recovery and Resilience Plan (“NRRP”) proposed by the Ministry of European Investments and Projects was submitted on 31 May 2021 to the European Commission. As part of the “Green Transition” pillar, the NRRP has included the development and implementation of the DRS for packaging, including by the purchasing of hardware and software infrastructure. The green transition will also be achieved by financing investments that will manage household, commercial and industrial waste through prevention measures, minimisation, sorting, reuse and recycling and will use recycled materials as raw materials that meet the efficiency criteria. The proposed budget is EUR 1,300 million.

On 19 May 2021, on the Government meeting agenda in the “first reading procedure” was presented the draft Law for the amendment and completion of Law No. 249/2015 on the management of packaging and packaging waste. This represents the fully transposition of the provisions of Directive (EU) 2018/852 of the Parliament European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive 94/62 / EC on packaging and packaging waste. 

Also, an initiative for updating Law 211/2011 with regard to the increase of sanctions for the abandonment of waste is currently in parliamentary procedure.

Portrait of Varinia Radu
Varinia Radu
Partner
Bucharest
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Ramona Dulamea
Senior Associate
Bucharest