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Eco-Rom Ambalaje

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Making recycling child’s play

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case study

Eco-Rom Ambalaje is an organisation made up of 14 companies operating in Romania which first got together to implement the Green Dot European programme for integrated waste in the country. From 2005-2006 it developed a model of cooperation between local authorities and waste management operators in order to offer separate collection of packaging waste to consumers.

This year it reached a 55% recycle rate and 60% packaging recovery rate. It is also currently producing high recycle rates for specific packaging materials including paper, glass, plastic, metal and wood.

Eco-Rom Ambalaje has agreements with more than 450 local authorities, 2800 producers and 210 waste management companies which enable almost 9m consumers – that’s 45% of the Romanian population - to have access to separate waste collection services.

Throughout this period of development, Eco-Rom Ambalje’s focus has been on the need to change consumer behaviour went it comes to waste disposal.

The organisation started its first educational programme in 2008 by publishing a manual on how to recycle. “We realized after a few years that we had to come up with something different,” says Lorita Constantinescu, PR and communications director at Eco-Rom Ambalaje.

“Developing educational projects in Romania can be a real challenge, especially when proposing innovative ways of attracting students’ attention,” she adds. “One of the main challenges we encountered were teachers who had quite an antiquated mindset and were also rather reluctant to take on extracurricular activities as they are already overwhelmed with the regular curriculum. The local background in terms of separate waste collection systems and recycling processes is rather poor in Romania too so getting our message across proved quite difficult.”

The partnership with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, was one of the most successful factors in achieving the goals of the project. “As they are dedicated to public service and as we aim at restoring the concept of a responsible citizen, we all joined forces for a sustainable future,” Constantinescu says. “Their support and endorsement throughout the project increased the awareness of the overall environmental problem, but also emphasised the need for investing in innovative educational programmes for children in primary school.”

So in October 2012 Eco-Rom Ambalaje launched its national educational project called The Green Laboratory for Recycling (GLR). The programme is designed to teach children about recycling through experiential education. The ‘laboratory’ bus was fully modified and adapted to the curiosity and imagination of children. Its mobility greatly increased its reach. Designed for children aged 9 and 10, the GLR offers a virtual world where children can learn about the benefits of separate waste collection system through gaming and by undertaking a series of tasks, designed to help them understand the importance of the environment.

In the mobile laboratory, fiction and reality overlap in three areas of activity: a mini 3D cinema zone – where children watch the adventurous process of 5 packaging waste characters to a recycling factory; the digital area with PC tablets – where children have to score their best by separately collecting as many objects as possible; and the magic recycling cube – where they get to experience the mechanics of recycling.

At the end of each term, students reaching the highest national score are rewarded with a visit to a recycling factory in Romania.

The first edition of the project successfully engaged with 10,000 children, from over 100 schools and 430 teachers in 36 cities, with a reach extending to the parents and wider community. During the project, teachers were reminded of the great responsibility they have in educating children about respect for the environment. Furthermore, 40% of the children involved have continued to take their role of recycling agents seriously: after their experience they have implemented the separate waste collection system inside their classrooms and have dedicated themselves to teach others about the dangers about not caring about the environment.

Such results are impressive given the challenge Eco-Rom Ambalaje was facing. “We had to bear in mind that people are very sensitive about this subject in Romania, “ emphasises Constantinescu. “Addressing the subject of recycling and separate collection of waste is a much more difficult subject because some aspects are very technical and difficult to explain in simple words. In addition, changing the behaviour of people by only showing the environmental benefits is very difficult because the effects are only seen after a period of time.”

“However, our experience shows that if you invest wisely in communication and you add creativity, you can get results. Our latest research on public perception shows that 90% of the Romanian population has heard about ‘separation of waste’ and the number of those having access to services has also increased in recent years. More than 50% now separate their waste.”

The partnership is set to continue its work improving Romania’s recycling programmes. “We will to continue raise awareness among the Romanian people, while we extend the separate collection services and focus operational efficiency,” maintains Constantinescu.

“The most important thing is to continue implementing this project over the next few years and reach as many children as possible. By doing so, we will empower the next generation of managers and entrepreneurs to stay close to communities and to be part of the educational process regarding the separate collection of packaging waste, and in particular, environmental protection.”

For others considering heading down the educational project route, Constantinescu advises replicating the programme’s core mechanism: experiential education, innovation, long-term investment and sustainable tactics. 

more about Eco-Rom Ambalaje

In 2003 a group of companies operating on the domestic market founded Eco-Rom Ambalaje and took up the challenge of implementing the “Green Dot” European system of integrated packaging waste in Romania. Its mission is to encourage recycling in all its aspects as well as following the principles of sustainable development, the organization aims equally to environmental performance and economic and social performance. The organization welcomes new members from companies that are required to fulfill legal recovery and recycling targets. The organisation is a not-for-profit with all monies reinvested into educating consumers about the need to be green when it comes to packaging waste.

IBE comment

DR NICOLE DANDO, Institute of Business Ethics

While the focus of this project is on increasing levels of recycling, it will have a much wider and valuable significance. It will be sowing seeds for a wider shift in attitudes and practice that will support a sustainable future for Romania. Key to this is collaboration amongst existing players and enlightening future generations.
It would be interesting to know if the packaging and marketing industry can be engaged to reduce waste to complement the recycling and recovery initiatives.

Points of note:

  • Collaboration among business, the public authorities and the education sector.
  • Innovative methods of engaging and empowering children around environmental issues.
  • Its impact on recycling rates.  

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