[BIZ Magazine] Recycling Champions

For ten years, RoRec has not only been recycling electrical and electronic appliances, but also innovating to change mentalities and increase recycled quantities. Andreea Idriceanu, Communication Manager at RoRec, explains the impact of such an innovative project – the Recycling Patrol.

By Alexandru Ardelean


How does the Recycling Patrol work?

The Recycling Patrol Communication Team: Alexandra Arnăutu, Andreea Idriceanu, Ada Lungu and Gabriela Tranciuc

We must educate a responsible generation and create permanent hubs to promote the custom of e-waste separate collection in as many communities in Romania as possible. We need to increase the visibility of this issue, to talk about the proper collection of e-waste and to understand why it is important to do this. Through the Recycling Patrol we succeeded in creating a community that undertook the task of forming a generation of responsible young people, concerned about the environment, involved in the community and confident in their own power of bringing beneficial changes to society. At the beginning of the school year, in kindergartens, schools and high-schools registered in the program Recycling Patrols are formed, i.e. teams of about 20 students, guided by a coordinating teacher. Annually, more than 750 kindergartens, schools and high-schools in the country locally initiate creative and informative activities to mobilize communities to responsibly collect e- waste (WEEE) to reduce pollution and comply with European standards. The school thus strengthens its position as the “soul of the community”. Children and young people in the Recycling Patrol become the ambassadors of this ecological message in their communities and help the grown-ups understand the pollution potential of WEEE and that it depends on each of us to mitigate this risk.

What is the impact of this project?

The communities in which the Recycling Patrols “operate” adopt a more responsible behavior against the environment. “Supporter” companies and institutions reduce the amount of hazardous waste they have and fulfill their legal obligations in waste management. The Recycling Patrol is a program that any company or institution can support, at no cost, as a CSR program. So far, more than 2,000 organizations have become supporters of the program, precisely because it is simple and convenient to implement in a team, it helps employees get rid of e-waste that is tangling through their homes and offices. And for businesses it is an efficient way to meet the legal obligations for waste management with no stress. The Recycling Patrol is a national environmental education program run in kindergartens, schools and high schools in Romania, which gave rise to the most active youth ecological movement. In the 7 years since its launch, the Patrol Recycling project has contributed to collecting over 2,700,000 kg of WEEE in Romania. If today people in hundreds of cities, communes, and villages separately collect e-waste, it is also thanks to the Recycling Patrol.

How important is it to reach collection targets?

The European legislation transposed at the national level imposes us to collect more than 45% of the average of electrical and electronic equipment sold in the last three years. In the period 2017-2020 the collection target is 45%, and from 2021 the target will be 65% of the quantities of electrical equipment placed on the market. If we do not reach these targets, we risk paying fines up to 124,000 euros per day of non-compliance, which will be paid out from each of us.

How do you manage to do this?

We have a proactive, professional approach and in compliance with the legislation in the field. Our goal is to change mentalities in the field of environmental protection and to transform an obsolete way to use and treat outdated equipment in a sustainability model for the future. We work with people, companies, partners and institutions that share the same values as we do and that are aware we are living in a world of change and multiple challenges that forces us to keep up with times.

We created the local collection service, a network of partner operators, with teams in each county working at European standards, which ensure free take-up from home or headquarters. In partnership with city halls, we have developed a unique network of WEEE collection centers with national coverage where citizens can discard their electrical and electronic waste. All the information is on the association’s website.

A national team of over 100,000 agents and 3,500 teachers has been formed and they informed more than 4,500,000 people about WEEE collection.

What is the balance sheet after more than 10 years of RoRec activity?

It is always difficult to sum up such a long period, especially since it was a period of start-up, construction, work-structure formation, design and development of projects and processes. I would, however, try to frame our the first 10 years in 10 phrases: responsibility, which is the legal and moral core of our mission; focus on practical and efficient implementation; focus on performance, based on success indicators for any initiative; cost control and efficiency of budgeting; building the team, that “handful” of people with whom we started to cover the whole country; the national dimension that is indispensable for achieving the collection targets; European vocation, connecting to successful models of European leaders in the field; alignment with European legislation, clear direction that ensures the outcome, despite the confusion and obstacles of Romanian transposition; direct communication with the population, permanent search for tools that mobilize communities, but also collaboration with the local authority, which can become a partner of great potential in working with communities.

What are the plans for the next years?

In the European Union’s governance priorities, up to the horizon of 2030, waste recycling and recovery is gaining momentum, eloquently reflected in the very context of the European circular economy. What we do, together with our partners, members of the association and the network of operators, is more and more necessary, more important. For us, success is not a luxury, but the only way ahead. We have to fulfill our assumed mission in front of the industry. What do we have to do to in the coming years to meet our goals? We will continue what we started. The solutions are here. We know them. We have tested them for the last 10 years. We only need to implement them professionally, referring to the European framework, to models of experienced collective systems and to successful practices so as to contribute to the European evolution and the sustainable development of our society.

RoRec successes:

○ A network of 31 collection centers at European standards in 28 counties;

2,500 collection points, in partnership with retailers;

Over 10,000 unique communication campaigns in communities, schools, institutions and businesses;

○ Thousands of information and collection actions, where more than 110,000 tonnes of e-waste were collected;

Implementation of an information system for WEEE traceability, from receipt, transport and then handing over to recycling facilities, which ensures real-time recording, monitoring and reporting of collected and recycled quantities;

○ Recycling of more than 95,000 tonnes of collected e-waste.