Romania’s Illegal Waste Importing Problem

by George Kiernan

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Many big companies in Romania, such as the German materials company HeidelbergCement, fuel their operations by burning waste material. Not only is there concern shown by activists for the effects this has the air quality in Romania, but also over the legality of the waste being imported and burned for fuel. Romania and the surrounding countries have a problem with corruption when it comes to how waste material is handled, and past infractions have even seen the country face sanctions from the EU.

A major issue for Romanian companies that burn waste for fuel is that, compared to the western European nations, eastern European nations produce a very low amount of waste per capita. The average Romanian produces around 272 kilograms per year, compared to the average Dane who produces 781 kilograms per year. Sourcing enough waste to use for fuel can be a challenge for companies if they are only able to source it from domestic markets or pay competitive rates to import it from accredited waste brokers.

The illegal importing of waste into countries like Romania is a rapidly growing trade. Ruediger Kueh, a UN university environmental policy expert, has said that this kind of waste importing is “exploding”, going on to say, “There are businesses which pick up fridges, computers and TV sets abandoned by customers which they then export illegally” to Eastern Europe at an increasing rate.

Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, is routinely turning away hundreds of containers due to the suspicion of fraudulent contents declarations. Not so long ago it sent 157 containers back to Italy for this very reason; Bulgaria has responded by increasing border checks, but this has not yet resulted in much change.

Enforcement of waste regulations is a problem for the entire eastern European region; Romania faced sanctions from the European Court of Justice in 2018 due to infringements of regulations around handling waste at landfill sites. Marian David, the director of pollution control for Romania’s National Environmental Guard, has admitted that only “15 fines were handed out in recent years for violations linked to waste imports”.

Rural areas of Romania are being seriously impacted by big companies encroaching onto the land with the waste they’re importing legally. The emissions from the dumping and burning of waste is causing a number of environmental problems. One example of this is the many orchards that are experiencing a drying out of their trees due to these illegal industrial practices.

Romania’s waste handling infrastructure needs bringing into the future, it needs investment, and most importantly it needs commitment. These three things also happen to be defining qualities of Pakire Polymers. We have invested a lot of cost, time and effort in our state-of-the art recycling facility in Romania for the exact purpose of leading the way in ethical waste management solutions in the region. We know the importance of adhering to regulations, and we deal only with ethical waste producers and licensed waste carriers, and we offer fully traceable services.

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