The Deposit-Return System (DRS) is designed to encourage the return of single-use beverage containers for recycling. Scheduled to come into effect on November 30, 2023, the DRS represents “one of the most significant circular economy projects in Romania,” as stated by the system administrator. To achieve the proposed objectives, Government Decision No. 1074/2021 regarding the establishment of the deposit-return system for non-reusable primary packaging imposes a series of obligations on producers and traders involved in the process.
The legal framework applies to traders of products in the following categories: bottled water, soft drinks, beer, cider, wine, spirits, in non-reusable primary packaging made of plastic, aluminum, or glass, with capacities ranging from 0.1 to 3 liters. Additionally, the provisions also apply to operators in the hospitality industry (HoReCa) who sell these products. Furthermore, any legal entity that produces and introduces DRS products into the Romanian market is considered a producer for the purposes of the DRS.
One of the initial obligations is the online registration in the DRS database for both producers or importers and traders. In addition, producers have specific obligations related to the operation of the system, including, but not limited to, the obligation to:
- Enter into contracts with the DRS administrator (RetuRO) to fulfill obligations within a maximum of 60 days from registration in the system.
- Label DRS packaging with a recognizable and consumer-friendly symbol, the registered trademark of the central public authority for environmental protection, and a barcode (EAN) indicating the product’s association with the DRS.
- Maintain records of the total number of products in DRS packaging by material type, weight, and volume, as well as records of the collected deposits.
- Pay the DRS administrator the deposit value for products in DRS packaging introduced to the national market by the 25th day of the following month.
- Allow inspections by competent authorities and provide them with accurate and complete documents and information regarding their DRS packaging, data provided by the DRS administrator, and settlements with the DRS administrator, as well as other packaged products subject to environmental obligations.
Moreover, as the purpose of the system is to facilitate the achievement of European-level collection and recycling targets, producers are required to meet certain minimum annual return targets for DRS packaging, starting from 65% in 2024, regardless of the material, and reaching 85% for glass, 90% for plastic, and 90% for metal from 2026 onwards.
In the case of traders, some of the obligations they must adhere to include:
- Entering into contracts with the DRS administrator to fulfill obligations within a maximum of 90 days from registration in the system.
- Clearly indicating the deposit value on the shelf and on the fiscal documents related to products in DRS packaging.
- Paying the deposit value to economic operators from whom they purchase products in DRS packaging.
- Collecting the deposit from their customers for products in DRS packaging.
- Establishing return points.
- Maintaining records of the total number of products in DRS packaging sold and returned, as well as records of the deposits paid.
However, there are exceptions to the DRS obligations, and certain categories of traders are exempt from the measures established by Government Decision No. 1074/2021. For example, traders who make DRS-packaged products available exclusively through online platforms or vending machines are not obligated to establish return points. Similarly, the DRS does not apply to exported products, products sold in duty-free shops, and those sold in international transportation vehicles.
As a result, compliance with legal obligations by producers and traders, who are indispensable participants in the DRS implementation process, constitutes a significant step towards achieving the proposed objectives, especially in terms of ensuring a less polluted environment and aligning with European legislation on environmental protection.
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Mihaela Bălău – Attorney at Law