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Immediate Collaborative Approach Required

TOMRA has amassed more than five decades of experience on several continents and created solutions that have stood the test of time. Based on a study conducted in partnership with Eunomia, TOMRA has benchmarked waste management systems around the world and combined solutions from best practice systems into what it calls Holistic Resource Systems (HRS)

The waste crisis extends beyond all borders, impacting the health of citizens and wildlife. The scope and scale of this global issue must be addressed with equally ambitious goals and efficient solutions.

Discarded recyclable waste results in severe environmental pollution, while it is simultaneously lost important resources and raw material for various industries and a challenge for the government and its citizens. Who carries the vision and bears the responsibility that will lead to change?

― Often referred to as the waste challenge, specialists say that we are actually facing a waste crisis that requires an immediate collaborative approach and action from governments, industry and consumers. Uncontrolled dumping, open burning and a lack of waste services accessible to all citizens are just a few of the issues that governments must solve urgently. Producers are challenged to design their products to minimize detrimental environmental impact and to bear the entire cost of their ecological impact. Consumers need to respond to educational programmes and partner responsibly in different waste management programmes.

Fortunately, waste has an acknowledged new definition and although its primary sense means unwanted or unusable material, waste today represents a valuable resource if recovered and treated properly, thanks to innovation and progress. However, quality and consistency of these resources are two of the key factors in order to sustain the reform and stimulate the change in the recycling sector. We need high-quality recycled material that is competitive to virgin feedstock, in order to trigger economies of scale. And although the technology has evolved to address these needs and stakeholders are becoming more responsible, resources are still depleted because voluntary action alone cannot achieve the scale we need to urgently resolve this crisis. Governments and policymakers must therefore now take the lead on accelerating the transition from a linear to a circular economy for recyclable materials through the introduction of new legislation and regulations.

Is it possible to adapt to the needs of each individual market in order to achieve the best results in waste management?

― We need approaches at both national and regional levels that deal with existing products, materials and waste flows. However, since the composition of materials and market demands will inevitably shift over time, we also need systems that are adapted incrementally to adjust to these changes. Based on a study conducted in partnership with Eunomia, TOMRA has benchmarked waste management systems around the world and combined existing and proven solutions from best practice systems into what it calls Holistic Resource Systems (HRS). The unique advantage of using a HRS approach is its ability to adapt to location requirements and future needs.

There are three solutions that comprise the Holistic Resource System and help maximise resource recovery. Deposit Return Systems (DRS) have proven to achieve exceptionally high collection and recycling rates for beverage containers. This is vital for closed-loop recycling.

We need to get high-quality recycled material that is competitive to virgin feedstock, in order to trigger economies of scale

Separate Collections for glass, paper, e-scrap, textiles and organics serve to reduce the contamination of material streams, thereby making recycling more effective.

Mixed Waste Sorting (MWS), as the third pillar of the HRS, can recover more plastic from household and municipal solid waste for recycling into virgin-like feedstock.

In the struggle against plastic pollution, EU member states are obliged to collect at least 77% of plastic beverage packaging for recycling by 2025. Is it possible to achieve this without a deposit return system?

― Deposit return systems have already proven to be highly efficient: for example, the European average collection rate for plastic beverage bottles in countries without a DRS is 47%, whereas European countries with DRSs collect an average of more than 95% of eligible plastic beverage bottles.

Experts suggest that it will be difficult if not impossible to achieve the collection targets of the Single-Use Plastics Directive – of 77% by 2025 and 90% by 2029 – without a DRS in place.

Therefore, all EU countries either already have a DRS programme or are in the process of evaluating the possibilities of introducing one.

Today in Europe, 13 countries have implemented a deposit scheme and just by 2025 at least another 4 countries like Romania, Hungary, Ireland, and Poland have committed to adopt such solution.

We know what’s expected of EU countries by 2025 and 2029, but what are the expectations when it comes to Serbia and our region as a whole?

― The waste crisis extends beyond all borders, impacting the health of citizens and wildlife. The scope and scale of this global issue must be addressed with equally ambitious goals and efficient solutions.

Serbian citizens, like any other European citizens, have the right to a clean environment. And we learned through the recent survey that 96% of Serbian citizens express support for the implementation of an effective waste management programme such as a DRS.

Governments and policymakers must now take the lead in accelerating the transition from a linear to a circular economy for recyclable materials through the introduction of new legislation and regulations

According to the recent statements of Sandra Dokic, state secretary of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Serbian government is looking into developing a holistic approach to addressing the general waste problem, and introducing a DRS for beverage containers from 2027 is part of the plan. Croatia is first country in the region to have implemented already a DRS but today all countries neighboring Serbia’s are looking into implementation of such solution.

Romania has opted for the kind of DRS that has achieved an average return rate of 93% on other markets and is thus set to become Europe’s second largest deposit market. What are included in all the advantages of this model over others?

― I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you for your celebration in November commemorating the 20th anniversary of your magazine’s existence, which is also proof of the excellent service that you provide for your readers. A happy coincidence is that November also sees Romania, my home country, launching the second largest DRS for the collection of beverage containers in Europe, but which is in fact also the world’s largest centralised DRS.

This will serves a population of approximately 19 million people and will annually handle more than seven billion beverage containers made from plastic, metal and glass, with volumes of between 100 mililitres and 3 litres.

While designing its own DRS, Romania had the privilege of looking into the existing systems and found that nine out of the ten highest performing programmes in the world, with an average return rate of 93%, return containers to the retail outlet.

Developing a return infrastructure at retail outlets is a win-win solution for all participants in the system. It delivers nationwide infrastructure at an optimum cost for the obliged industry. It offers an easy formula to consumers – who return the packaging to the point of sale where they bought it – convenient locations and faster roll-out for legislators. This model also benefits retailers through increased footfall, financial incentives, an improved corporate image and richer data, to name just a few of the benefits.

TOMRA has issued a series of white papers

In an effort to support stakeholders in their analysis of such opportunities, TOMRA has issued the white papers Holistic Resource Systems and Rewarding Recycling: Learnings from the World’s Highest-Performing Deposit Return Systems, which can be downloaded from circular-economy. tomra.com/resources.

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