First RetuRO regional center opens in Bonțida

Alina Oprea
RetuRO, the administrator of the Deposit Return System (DRS) in Romania, has inaugurated the regional center in the commune of Bonțida, Cluj County. Set to become operational on November 30th, 2023, coinciding with the official launch of the Deposit-Return System, the center will open a new chapter in how we approach beverage packaging in the future, fundamentally changing our consumption and recycling habits. The regional center in Bonțida is the first of its kind to be opened by RetuRO. Located within the Olympian industrial park, the center covers an area of 4,700 sqm and is equipped with advanced counting and sorting equipment from Anker Andersen A/S, a market leader in the industry.

Through this center, as well as through the system it administers, RetuRO contributes to shaping a more sustainable future, where every person and every action counts in protecting the environment.

„The opening of the first RetuRO regional center in Romania at Bonțida marks the beginning of a profound and lasting transformation. This center, along with the others planned and with the approximately 80,000 return points across the country, will actively engage 19 million Romanians, thus building the most complex recycling infrastructure in the country. In close collaboration with all stakeholders involved, we aim to make recycling a daily habit, an integral part of the Romanian identity, to lead Romania towards a greener and more responsible future.  Of course, this is just the beginning. We will continue until recycling becomes even easier and transforms Romania into a model to follow. And this is a mission that we all must undertake. Every can, every recycled bottle, will contribute to a cleaner Romania, and today's event is proof of what we can achieve when we join forces”, says Gemma Webb, RetuRO CEO and President of the Executive Board.

In a video intervention from Bucharest, the Prime Minister, Marcel Ciolacu emphasized the importance of the DRS as an exemplary model of circular economy, highlighting the benefits that the system will bring to Romania, especially in terms of reducing the quantity of packaging waste in Romania.

"I'm not afraid of words. I believe it is a historic moment that will mark the beginning of Romania's most ambitious circular economy project and the strength of the first functional public-private partnership. The current government, together with the private sector, has managed to launch perhaps the most important national project in this field in the last 30 years. Starting from November 30th, the citizens of Romania will join more than 350 million people worldwide living in a country with a Deposit Return System. Looking at Europe, at this moment, 13 countries have implemented DRS, reaching a population of nearly 145 million. In just 3 days, with Romania joining, there will be over 163 million European citizens more mindful of the environment they live in [...]”, says Marcel Ciolacu, Prime Minister.

The Minister of Environment, Waters, and Forests, Mircea Fechet, discussed the impact of implementing the DRS on communities and achieving EU targets, underlining Romania's commitment to sustainability goals.

"We need these centers because citizens complete their mission as soon as they drop their containers into the RVM slot, but then a race against time begins for the plastic, glass, and metal bottles to reach the collection and sorting centers. The Deposit-Return System (SGR) is the first successful partnership, and certainly the largest of its kind. The Romanian state has fulfilled its duty in terms of legislation, and the RetuRO center in Bonțida is the first tangible proof. Romanians will be the ones to benefit from the largest circularity project in Romania in the last 30 years. It will be the most modern in Europe, and we will learn from all the things that have worked or not worked in other countries and get it up and running. I thank everyone, and I want to say that from now on, we will transform Romania from a country of storage to a country of recycling", says Mircea Fechet, Minister of Environment, Waters, and Forests.

Representatives of the beverage production industry and retailers highlighted the crucial role of these sectors in initiating and supporting the DRS, demonstrating their commitment to a more sustainable future.

“The brewing industry was involved from the early stages of this ambitious project, actively contributing to building a solid foundation for DRS. In the process, we faced challenges and learned together, demonstrating our commitment to a cleaner environment and a sustainable future. With our new line of packaging labeled with the DRS logo, we are ready to make the transition to an efficient and integrated recycling system. This project represents not only a significant change for consumers and beverage producers in Romania but also an example of good practice at the European level. Continuous collaboration with environmental authorities is essential to overcome initial challenges and ensure the success of this innovative system. Together, we have the power to make Romania a leader in the circular economy and make a difference for a greener future”, adds Julia Leferman, General Manager of the Romanian Brewers Association for the Environment.

Alice Nichita, President of the Association of Soft Drink Producers for Sustainability, announces significant and lasting changes in the community.

"We are pioneers in building the first regional hub for the circular economy, and the journey we embark on today marks the beginning of a challenging path. We have much to accomplish, but we press on together, united by a common goal. Through DRS, we aim for ambitious figures, driven by a fervent desire for sustainability. The impact of SGR will be significant, showcasing the complex partnership we have engaged in, with the government's endorsement. This project will serve as an excellent practice and a model for others. Step by step, we have built the system, investing not only financially but also with our energy. We have confidence and reaffirm our commitment to continue alongside RetuRO. In 2024, market adjustments will pose a challenge, but we are determined to find solutions", according to Alice Nichita.

The Deposit-Return System is a circular economy project in which Romanians will pay a guarantee of RON 0.50 (€0.1) when they buy a drink (water, soft drinks, beer, cider, wine, spirits) from a retailer. The system applies to primary non-reusable packaging made of glass, plastic, or metal, with volumes ranging from 0.1 to 3 liters inclusive. To be easily identified, the products that are part of the system will be marked with a specific logo.

After emptying the packaging, the customer will need to bring it to one of the return points organized by retailers. In exchange for the empty packaging, the customer will immediately receive back the value of the initially paid guarantee, without the need to present the fiscal receipt, even if the respective product was not purchased from that location.

These products, part of the DRS, will gradually reach store shelves, over a period of several months after the System's launch on November 30th, and can be identified by the „Packaging with guarantee” marking applied on the label. Therefore, RetuRO recommends all Romanians not stockpile packaging before the launch of the DRS. These will not be redeemable at the return points based on a guarantee because the sum of 50 bani was not paid when buying the product and is not marked with the logo that certifies that they are carriers of a guarantee. Non-DRS packaging can still be returned through the classic selective collection method, used until now for the recovery of all types of packaging, at traditional collection points.

RetuRO Return Guarantee System SA is a company operating on a not-for-profit basis – which means that any profit made by the company from the collection of beverage containers will be reinvested, exclusively, in the development of DRS. The company was created by a consortium of three private shareholders: the Brewers of Romania Association for the Environment (30%), the Association of Soft Drinks Producers for Sustainability (30%), and the Association of Retailers for the Environment (20%) and a public shareholder, the Romanian state, through the central environmental authority, the Ministry of Environment, Waters and Forests (20%).

RetuRO, the DRS administrator, operates with exclusively private financing and has the role of ensuring transparency on the quantities of beverage containers placed on the market and returned by consumers, contributing to the sustainable development of Romania, through responsible management of container waste, in order to achieve the recycling targets imposed on Romania by the European Union.

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