The missions followed the EC early warning report for 14 Member States identified as being at risk of missing the 2020 preparation for re-use/recycling target of 50% on municipal waste. These include: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.
The missions followed similar formats, with some deviations according to the organisers’ suggestions and input. In general, the one-day missions included two parts:

  • Roundtable discussion at the relevant ministry(ies) and major stakeholders: covering topics such as the circular economy & materials, economics and effective waste management and mobilizing resources;
  • Workshops (in parallel) for a wider audience, including (upon suggestion of EXPRA) a dedicated session devoted to EPR.

The Mission to Malta was organised on 30 November and started with a closed-door, high-level session attended by Environment Commissioner Vella and the national Ministers. During this session, both EXPRA’s MD Joachim Quoden and GreenPak’s CEO Mario Schembri had the opportunity to present the key issues for the EPR sector.
An afternoon session, which included several breakout sessions on specific topics, including EPR. Open to a wider audience, general debate topics encompassed circular economy & materials, economics and effective waste management, and mobilizing resources.

Keynote speakers included Commissioner Vella; Jose Herrera, Malta’s Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development; Håkon Jentoft, Coordinator of the Urban Agenda Partnership on Circular Economy & Chair of Eurocities’ Working Group on Waste Management; and Christian Schempp, European Investment Bank Senior Economist.
Illustrating the Maltese case, EXPRA also showed the juxtaposition between GreenPak’s performance, marked by exceeding its recycling targets over the years, with the country’s failure to reach the overall ones. The reasons behind this contrast were also exposed, including weak legislation until 2017, lack of enforcement with the producers and the public, competition at PRO level that has led to inefficiency in environmental and operational costs, as well as the low landfill fees.

The Mission was also an opportunity to showcase GreenPak’s smart iBiNs project which is partnered by Vodafone Malta. The iBiNs are equipped with smart technology that enables citizens to recycle 24/7 and spells an end to overflowing bring-in sites. Using next generation Internet of Things technology introduced for the first time to the island, the iBiNs have the capability to monitor waste levels and feed information back to a central system which enables GreenPak’s recycling service to prioritise and customise collection routes in the localities it serves across Malta and Gozo.
The Mission also coincided with the recent introduction of separate biowaste collection in Malta. The results here also impressed: following a couple of weeks since the introduction of the measure, the island saw a 32% increase in the recyclable waste collected by GreenPak.
The next two missions, last for 2018 were organised on 6 and 7 December respectively in Bucharest, Romania and Sofia, Bulgaria. The EC had identified several experts covering the different waste streams who visited both countries: Håkon Jentoft, EUROCITIES Waste Working Group Chair and Coordinator of the EU Urban Agenda Partnership on Circular Economy, Vanya Veras, Secretary General of Municipal Waste Europe, Michele Giavini, City of Milan and Italian Composting Association “Biowaste recycling”, Enzo Favoino, Zero Waste and European Compost Network and Susana Lopes, Director International Business Unit, Lipor, Portugal, David Fitzsimons, European Remanufacturing Council, as well as representatives of EIB and EBRD. The consultant – EUNOMIA was part of both missions.

In Romania the host was Graţiela Leocadia Gavrilescu, Deputy Prime Minister and the event was co-chaired by Commissioner Vella. It should be noted that the sessions were organised in parallel with somewhat limited time slots, thus somewhat limiting the opportunity for all participants to join the sessions. As the presentations were limited to 5 min each, this additionally restricted the exchange of information between the EC experts and the national representatives and respective discussions. EXPRA was represented by Monika Romenska, who outlined the key requirements for successful EPR implementation and the importance of transposing the new Waste Directives in a bid to ensure sustainable waste management. EXPRA member ECO ROM Ambalaje had the opportunity to outline the situation regarding packaging waste management in the country and possible activities to overcome the problems.

In Bulgaria the organizer was the Bulgarian Economic forum, and the Ministry of Environment and waters was represented by the Minister and members of hist staff. As Commissioner Vella was not able to attend, he was substituted by Joanna Drake, Deputy Director General of DG Environment, European Commission, who delivered a very inspiring speech. The Bulgarian participants included, apart from EPR schemes for different waste streams, also representatives of the Soft Drinks and Beer associations, local authorities and other stakeholders. EXPRA was represented/speaking in both high-level closed and open sessions/workshops, but again all presentations were limited to 5 minutes, while not providing sufficient time for discussion. Still the EXPRA messages were transferred to the EC and Ministry representatives, who were not very active. Todor Bourgoudjiev, CEO of ECOPACK Bulgaria, presented the best practices of ECOPACK Bulgaria including the organizations’ serious investments in collection infrastructure: containers, sorting lines and especially communication and education campaigns.
The missions gave the opportunity of EXPRA and its three national members to put the focus on EPR and the importance of its proper transposition/implementation to EC as well as to National representatives.