The Rabla program for household appliances is the initiative of the Ministry of Environment and the Environment Fund Administration, by means of which the state grants vouchers in the amount of 75 million lei to the population for the purchase of new appliances pertaining to higher energy classes.

Organizations dealing with the collection and recycling of waste from electrical and electronic equipment warn us about the long-term negative consequences of such a program on the environment and the education of the population.

The Rabla program does not educate the population to recycle naturally

“Although it is a program that has the measurable effect of collecting WEEE and is presented as an approach to streamline electricity consumption, in the long run, this Buy Back program is inefficient and even dangerous for the environment.When handing over old and unused electrical or household appliances, most people expect to receive material benefits, namely a voucher.

The Rabla Program does just that and goes against all the efforts to educate and raise awareness of the population that we, by means of OTRs, carry out.We will end up in a situation in which those who own such equipment in their house will no longer offer it for recycling, but will keep it until an economic operator willing to give them a financial advantage shall appear.

That waste of electrical and electronic equipment, kept in the house, sometimes even for years, is hazardous for one’s health. In addition, storage does not help circular economy at all. Only by means of recycling, waste can once again be transformed into raw materials and will thus re-enter the production circuit”, according to Cristian Pocol, President of the RESPO WEEE Association (www.respo.ro).

The Rabla pentru Electrocasnice (Scrap for Home Appliances) program started in 2018 with a budget of 20 million lei, reached 40 million lei in 2019, was interrupted in 2020 due to the pandemic. This year, it was resumed with a budget of 75 million lei, the value of the vouchers now reaching 500 lei.

Danger of not complying with European Commission directives

Unfortunately, such programs aimed to stimulate consumption will lead, over time, to an increase in the amount of waste of electrical and electronic equipment stored in Romanian homes.

“People need to understand that an OTR collects between 10-23 lei for an old refrigerator, which weighs around 50 kilograms, and this amount includes the costs of collection, transport and recycling. If people gain accustomed to receiving at least 100 lei for a similar product that has become WEEE (waste from electrical and electronic equipment), the recycling rate in Romania will slow down significantly and we will be unable to comply with European Commission directives”, according to Cristian Pocol, President of the RESPO Association.

The European Union pays close attention to the Green Deal pact for a circular economy, and the implementation of old equipment collection systems is a necessity. People, and companies alike, need to get into the habit of disposing of such equipment waste for recycling, not keeping it in the premises or homes or throwing it in uncontrolled landfills. The habit of handing over such equipment only to receive a voucher in return is therefore not constructive.

Only 20% of waste was collected and treated in 2019

“There is a difference between Take Back and Buy Back programs. Take Back applies when, in order to buy a new electronic product, the buyer must bring an old one in exchange, but without receiving a sum of money for it. The person will even pay an extra fee, if he/she does not offer a product in return. Many developed countries have implemented such a Take Back system. Even so, it was not enough for the UK, for example, who failed to meet its minimum collection target in 2020. Globally, in 2019, less than 20% of the WEEE generated was collected and treated in the formal circuit. Therefore, the long-term solution is to educate the population to offer such waste for recycling naturally and at any time, so that this can become a normal behaviour, as opposed to people being stimulated only by the fact that they will someday receive a voucher in order to buy a new and expensive product”, according to Cristian Pocol, President of the RESPO Association.

The situation in Romania

Although the waste management tariffs were almost the same as in 2007 and the minimum collection target was calculated at 45% of the average volumes placed on the market in the previous 3 years, Romania managed to collect a total of 86 000 tonnes of WEEE in 2019, compared to a national collection target of 104 000 tonnes.

In 2021, Romania has a minimum collection target of 65% of the average volumes placed on the market in the last 3 years, with an approximate value of 160 000 tons.

The legislation has been amended both from the perspective of the calculation of the minimum collection target for WEEE and from the point of view of the penalties imposed by the authorities in case of non-compliance with these minimum collection targets. Currently, these penalties reach 4 lei/kg WEEE charged to OTRs that do not meet their target. 2021 is the first year in which these penalties are calculated by the Environmental Fund Administration.

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