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Romania – last place in the EU for municipal waste recycling

9 February 2024

In 2022, as in 2021, Romanians were in last place in the European Union in the production of municipal waste, but also in terms of their recycling, according to data published by Eurostat.

Thus, in 2022, a person in the European Union produced, on average, an amount of 513 kilograms of municipal waste, 19 kilograms or 4% less than in 2021 (532 kilograms), but 46 kilograms more than in 1995 (467 kilograms).

The amount of municipal waste varies greatly between EU member states. In 2022, the “champions” in municipal waste production in the EU are the Austrians (827 kilograms per person) and the Danes (787 kilograms). At the opposite pole are the Romanians who in 2022 produced “only” 301 kilograms of municipal waste per capita, slightly less than the 302 kilograms of municipal waste/capita produced in 2021, according to Agerpres.

When it comes to recycling, Eurostat data shows a drop in the amount of waste recycled in the EU to an average of 249 kilograms per capita in 2022, from an average of 264 kilograms per capita in 2021.

According to Eurostat data, in 2022 Austria (516 kg), Denmark (411 kg) and Germany (409 kg) had the highest amounts of recycled waste per capita in the EU. At the opposite pole are: Romania (36 kg), Malta (75 kg) and Greece (90 kg), which have the lowest amounts of recycled waste per capita in the EU.

On Wednesday, the European Commission sent Romania a reasoned opinion, because it did not fully comply with Directive 1999/31/EC on waste deposits and Directive 2008/98/EC on waste.

According to a press release from the Community Executive, Directive 1999/31/EC on landfills requires member states to take the necessary measures to close and rehabilitate a landfill that has not received authorization. According to the Waste Framework Directive, Member States must recover and dispose of waste in a way that does not endanger human health and the environment, prohibiting the abandonment, dumping or uncontrolled disposal of waste.

Romania’s EU accession treaty gave the authorities until July 16, 2017 to comply with these rules regarding 101 landfills. Since this obligation was not fully respected, the Commission sent Romania a letter of delay in October 2020.

Until now, Romania has closed and rehabilitated 92 waste depots.

The deadline for closing and rehabilitating the remaining nine landfills is 2026-2028 for five of them and is uncertain for the other four. Therefore, the Commission decided to issue a reasoned opinion for Romania, which now has two months to respond and take the necessary measures. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The Secretary of State in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests (MMAP), Ionuț Sorin Banciu, stated that Romania still has seven municipal waste depots in an uncertain situation, for which the closing works have not been started due to the lack of sources of financing.

“At the time of the initiation of the procedure, we are discussing household warehouses, basically municipal warehouses that had not been closed at the time of October 30, 2020, when the infringement procedure was initiated. In the meantime, some of them were closed, mainly from UAT’s own sources – ers. There are two more that are in the process of being closed. So there are practically seven left in an uncertain situation, which have not started the closing works, because the main problem is the lack of funding sources. We are in the process of finding a solution for financing through the Sustainable Development Operational Program whose Guide has not yet been finalized. It was a POIM financing Guide. The POIM expired on December 31, 2023. Funding sources were caught for the closure of household waste depots on the PODD, for the exercise financial 2021-2027. Feasibility studies and projects are being done in different phases. We are basically waiting for this Guide to be launched and for the beneficiaries, the town halls or the AFM to submit funding applications for them,” said Ionuț Sorin Banciu.

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