+++Interview with Vanja Horvat, director of Interzero doo

++In the last 30 years or so, the EU has been strongly faced with growing amounts of waste of all kinds, and it was necessary for product manufacturers to take responsibility for their products packed in packaging during their lifetime, but also when the product and packaging become waste.

Recent EU policies, such as the Green Deal, have additionally increased the pressure on producers and consumers to reduce the amount of waste, reduce the carbon footprint of production, and make the concept of circular economy a sustainable mechanism that will drive the EU economy. Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is basically a tool that obligates producers to participate in all activities to strengthen reuse, recycling and other ways of recovering products and packaging after use. One of the activities is the payment of the waste management fee.


For the first time in the 1990s, Germany, Sweden and France opened the market and transferred the EPR concept to Organizations that continuously improve the set goals with their knowledge and market competition. To this day, such a system is being adopted by an increasing number of countries around the world. In order for the financial contribution of producers through EPR to be effective, it was necessary to develop EPR schemes for as many types of products as possible, given that products differ significantly in terms of their purpose, composition, impact on the environment, and ultimately on human health. EPR schemes for certain types of waste products aim to enable a significant increase in collection and recycling, that is, to reduce the amount of waste disposed of in landfills.


EPR and the Republic of Croatia


The implementation of EPR in the vast majority of EU countries is led by Organizations. In a smaller number of members, one Organization operates on the principle of monopoly, while in about 15 member Organizations they compete under open market conditions. This concretely means that producers can choose the Organization that will collect and dispose of packaging waste from their products under the most favorable market conditions, and at the same time fulfill all the obligations arising from the fulfillment of national goals. In Croatia, these goals are met by the Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency Fund through the fee for waste management paid by producers who place their products on the Croatian market, and this is a unique model in the EU. The problem that we are all aware of is that this model allows a large number of producers (especially if we are talking about packaging waste) not to pay compensation, because there is no effective mechanism that would cover all those liable. We hope that the register of taxpayers, which should come to life with the new Ordinance on packaging waste, will largely solve this problem. Another problem is the closedness of the waste management market, which is conditioned by the model that Croatia has and weak results in meeting the goals. In any case, in countries where the Organizations work under conditions of competition with strong state control, the rates of meeting the goals are very high, the costs of waste management for the economy are lower, and producers play an active role in the Organizations.




As an illustrative example, I will take packaging waste. The results of the packaging waste management system in Croatia are significantly below the goals set by the Directives. Therefore, it is very certain that in the coming years, Croatia will move further away from the given goals if it does not improve the system and open the packaging waste market in accordance with EU standards. This statement is supported by the statement in the Waste Management Plan of the Republic of Croatia 2017-2022. “that the goals prescribed in the Directive on packaging and waste packaging 94/62/EC have not been achieved and that there is a danger that without opening the market, and in accordance with the Waste Directive 2008/98/EC (the introduction of Organizations) as one of the ways of improving the system, the goals they will not be realized even in the future”. The concern for achieving the goals is 2020. expressed by the European Commission, offering a proposal to improve the performance of the system of extended producer responsibility by “restructuring the existing approach so that it is prescribed that producers must establish their own non-profit organization for producer responsibility, whose task would be to collect compensation from producers and distribute them to local self-government units, while ensuring that these fees are not more than what is necessary for the particular service”. How vulnerable the existing system is can be clearly seen from the comparison of data for Croatia and Slovenia for 2019. Namely, Slovenia, which has half the population of Croatia, puts 53% more packaging per inhabitant on the market (115 kg, as opposed to Croatia’s 75 kg), and the total amount of packaging put on the market in Croatia is only 67 thousand tons higher (HR 302 000t vs. SLO 235,300t). If, through a simple simulation, the data for Croatia were increased to Slovakia’s level, i.e. to 115 kg per inhabitant, the results in meeting the goals for individual types of packaging waste would be even more modest, despite the refund system, which in Croatia has proven to be an efficient tool for managing three types packaging waste. Therefore, there is a real possibility that the introduction of the register of waste management fee payers will significantly increase the amount of reported packaging waste, and consequently the collection and recycling rates will further decrease.




With the implementation of EU initiatives and the current shortage of recycled materials, we are faced with an even greater challenge of keeping up with the ever-increasing amounts of waste, with ever-higher recycling targets, and the lack of favorable raw materials needed for production. New rules and regulations on special categories of waste, which are in the process of being drafted and passed, open up an opportunity to open up the market, introduce new processes and enable producers to actively participate in waste management. The market model and Organizations should be a lever that will ensure and accelerate the development of primary selection in all areas of the Republic of Croatia, encourage the construction of waste sorting plants and thereby provide raw materials to the recyclers. This same waste will thus be turned into raw material and returned to the Croatian economy, thus reducing the need for imports, that is, enabling Croatian companies to purchase materials more favorably.