European Directive no. 2019/904 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment was transposed into Romanian law as of 2 September 2021 by Ordinance no. 6/2021 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment (the “Ordinance”).
The legislative act aims at preventing and reducing the impact of certain plastic products on the environment and human health. It covers certain single-use plastic products (“Products”) divided into several categories listed in its Annex.
With a view to reducing the use of Products, the Ordinance establishes the following obligations for the economic operators that place them on the national market: a) progressively reducing quantities as follows: by 5% for 2023, 10% for 2024, 15% for 2025 and 20% for 2026, in relation to 2022; b) declaring to the Administration of the Environment Fund (“AEF”) on a yearly basis the quantities placed on the market in the previous year; c) reporting on a yearly basis the measures adopted to achieve these objectives by 1 February of the following year.
To this end, by 6 months after the date of entry into force of the Ordinance, a declaration form will be prepared for declaring the Products placed on the national market and by 12 months after the same date, approval will be issued for the procedure for economic operators to register themselves into an AEF national electronic register if they place the following Products on the market: (i) durable reusable or plastic-free alternatives to certain Products; (ii) PET bottles containing recycled plastic; (iii) recycled plastic to be incorporated into PET bottles.
In addition, obligations to inform consumers have been laid down for economic operators who sell at retail level and for those that use certain Products for the sale of their own products, i.e. operators using or selling beverage cups (including lids); food containers, such as cans with or without lids for ready-to-eat food usually consumed directly from the container, including those for fast food or other ready-to-eat meals, with the exception of beverage containers, plates, packets and foil of flexible material containing food (“Food Containers”).
These economic operators are required to: a) offer the consumer the option to choose reusable, suitable and durable or plastic-free alternatives at the points of sale; b) charge a separate price for the Products; c) clearly mark on the sales documents the price of the Products and display the value in a visible place at the point of sale.
As of 2 September 2021, it is prohibited to place on the market products made of oxo-degradable plastics and the following Products: cotton buds (except for medical use); cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks); plates; drinking straws (except for medical or scientific use); drink stirrers; balloon sticks (except for industrial or professional use, not distributed to consumers); Food Containers made of expanded polystyrene.
As of 3 July 2024, the following Products with plastic caps and lids may be placed on the market only if the caps and lids remain attached to the containers for the intended period of use: beverage containers with a capacity of up to 3 litres (bottles and composite beverage containers, including their caps and lids, but not containers: a) of glass or metal with plastic caps and lids; b) intended and used for liquid foods for special medical purposes).
Metal caps or lids with plastic gaskets are not considered to be made of plastic.
As regards beverage bottles, it is required that, calculated as an average for all PET bottles placed on the national market, PET bottles contain at least (i) 25% recycled plastic as of 2025, and at least 30% as of 2030.
Economic operators that place recycled plastic on the market for incorporation into PET bottles or PET beverage bottles containing recycled plastic must annually report to the AEF the percentage of recycled material in them by 25 February of the year following the reporting year.
In terms of markings, as of 2 September 2021, the following Products will have to comply with new requirements: sanitary towels (pads), tampons and tampon applicators, personal care and household wet wipes, tobacco products with filters and filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products and beverage cups.
Each such product placed on the market must bear on the packaging or directly on the product a clear, legible and non-erasable marking informing consumers of: (i) the appropriate management options and means of waste disposal for the product and (ii) the presence of plastics in the product and the negative impact on the environment resulting from improper disposal or discarding of the product.
Extended Producer Responsibility
Producers that place on the market Food Containers, flexible food packages and foils containing food products intended for consumption directly from the package or foil without further preparation, beverage cups and containers with a capacity of up to 3 litres, tobacco products with filters, household and personal care wet wipes, balloons, thin or absorbent plastic carrier bags, towels (pads), tampons and tampon applicators (“E-Products”) must implement measures (either through an organisation or individually for their own waste resulting from the consumption of these products) to ensure extended producer responsibility and bear certain costs related to measures such as awareness raising, collection or clean-up of waste resulting from these Products. The deadlines by which the indicated producers must implement these obligations vary depending on the category of Products, according to the Annex to the Ordinance.
Producers of Products established in another Member State or a third country that introduce Products into the territory of Romania are required to appoint a natural or legal person established in Romania as an authorised representative for the purpose of fulfilling their obligations under extended producer responsibility schemes.
As of 1 January 2022, a public recycling system will be organised for the separate collection of waste consisting of the following Products: beverage bottles with a capacity of up to 3 litres, including their caps and lids, except glass or metal beverage bottles with plastic caps and lids or bottles for liquids intended and used for special medical purposes.
Economic operators that have placed them on the market must collect the waste resulting from their consumption separately and annually declare to the AEF the quantities placed on the market and those collected. By 2025, they must ensure the collection of 77% of the Products placed on the market in a given year by weight, and by 2029, 90% by weight. Collection can be done through an organisation implementing extended producer responsibility, individually for their own post-consumption waste or through a deposit-refund system.
According to the Ordinance, Products placed on the market are considered to be equal to the amount of waste generated by those Products in the same year.
Awareness Raising Measures
Producers of E-Products and/or fishing gear containing plastic will be required to take measures to inform consumers and users about reusable alternatives to these Products, existing reuse systems and waste management options and the impact on the environment and the sewerage system of improper disposal or discarding.
A producer established in the territory of Romania that sells E-Products in another Member State will appoint an authorised representative in that Member State who will be the person responsible for fulfilling its obligations in the territory of that Member State.
In determining whether a Food Container is considered to be a Product, the tendency for it to become waste due to its volume or size, especially in terms of single-person portions, plays a decisive role.
Violation of the Ordinance constitutes a misdemeanour if the act is not committed in such a way as to constitute an offence, and is punishable by a fine of between 3,000 and 40,000 lei. The provisions relating to these misdemeanours enter into force as of 29 September 2021, except for those relating to the marking of Products, which the Ordinance specifies will enter into force starting with the date of publication (i.e. 30 August 2021), although the date of entry into force of the entire legislative act is 2 September.
According to the Ordinance, its provisions prevail over other legislation in the field, such as Law no. 249/2015 on the management of packaging and packaging waste or Law no. 211/2011 on the waste regime.
By Denisa Loredana Moldovan, Associate, and Catalina Maria Balus, Associate, Noerr