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Awareness-raising projects for waste collection
Recent studies have revealed that, globally speaking, the production of plastic will go up by 40% in the next decade. Plastic generates highly polluting waste, so measures will have to be taken ASAP. In English, the acronym ASAP stands for AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. The acronym has been transcoded into Romanian as a label for a project meant to improve the selection of waste, and it goes like Armata Selectării Atente a Plasticului, in English, the Army of the Careful Selection of Plastic. As of this year, The Army of the Careful Selection of Plastic helps municipalities from across Romania to educate the pupils as efficiently as they can, for the selective waste collection, to create, in schools, the infrastructure which is required for that type of collection, also seeking to provide the quality of the fraction-based collection of waste, jointly with the sanitation services. By and large, combatting pollution and the sustainable living influences us, especially in the future, ASAP mainly targets the generations to come, which, anyway, are more open to that kind of action. Andrei Bortun is the initiator of the Army of the Careful Selection of Plastic.
"We have noticed that so far quite a few campaigns have also been carried, of communication and education, which, by and large, tell the citizens and sometimes the younger public that it is important to collect selectively. It's just that in Romania, and for that particular reason the country is faring rather poorly, there is no infrastructure capable of meeting the needs of those who could be persuaded to have that type of behaviour. And then, as long as our target public was made of teenagers and youngsters, we examined the map of Romania and we saw there was an extraordinary network made of Romania's schools and high schools. There are around 19,000 educational units, the biggest possible collection infrastructure you can find in Romania countrywide. Obviously, we were aware schools fall within the local administrations or municipalities, whether we speak about the big cities or about villages. There's something else I should like to draw your attention to, the law compels the local authorities to collect selectively and provide the required infrastructure for all that is included in the state institutions, so it's also about schools. Therefore, legislation-wise, things were, and still are, very clear. Reason enough for ASAP to try and provide all the pieces of information the local authorities may need, legislative, financial, or related to the creation of the collection infrastructure, so that each municipality may supply the schools under their administration with the appropriate infrastructure. "
The programme labelled ASAP kicked off in this year's summer through a pilot project run in 69 educational units in Bucharest's 6th District. In three moths alone, the ASAP programme made it possible for 450 kilograms of plastic to be collected. More than 6,000 kilograms of paper and more than 130,000 kilos of mixed waste were also collected, as part of ASAP. Partnerships were signed later, with Bucharest's Sectors number 1, 2, and 3. The same goes for cities countrywide, such as Brașov, Constanța, Iași, Arad, Sibiu, Târgu Mureș, Alba Iulia, Ploiești and Zalău. After the country's cities, the project will also target the rural areas, where the need is still pending, for the already delayed selective collection of waste. Actually, the European Commission has already fined Romania, heavily, for that particular reason, so the ensuing penalties that are to be paid are huge. Considering its scope, the project has henceforth been thought out to unfold for many years, while some of its set targets are collateral.
"We work with teenagers and youngsters. Research has revealed they are quite willing to get involved, all the more so as they're being provided with the appropriate tools. Literature has also revealed that there is a real chance for the adolescents who get involved in the project to initiate, in turn, an undertaking of educating their own families, parents, and communities. And for that particular reason, it is them that we have in mind and not another category of the public. The results of the research studies have been confirmed by the discussions we had with them. What is being confirmed lies not only with the interest they have for that theme, we noticed there was something jittery about them, in their attitude, which was also revolutionary and frustrated because things around them do not happen in a more correct manner, and that not only as regards waste collection. We do believe and hope that many of those who will get involved in the project will become better citizens. 'Cause we find it hard to think that if they put the glass, the plastic and the paper waste in recipients of different colors they will remain indifferent to what abusive logging entails, or that they won't be voting when they are summoned to vote and suchlike. For that particular reason, it is important to have a project we've thought out longer term and not just some specific actions since we're fortunate enough to have a bunch of youngsters who want to get involved in change-triggering projects."
One of the directions of the projects lies with the analysis of the waste that has already been collected, to make sure they don't get mixed up and the wet-dry separate waste fractions collection is being observed. To that end, ASAP has initiated a partnership with Green Point Management, a company implementing projects targeting the producers' extended responsibility.
Green Point Management Deputy Chief Executive Officer Andrei Dinescu:
"We found out that waste composition determination is more than welcome. What does composition determination mean? It is a procedure based on existing standards and actually means collecting the waste from those schools, carrying them onto a specially-arranged platform, where our specialists divided them according to types and fractions. That was important, as we could thus see how much recyclable waste was lost into the so-called municipal waste as no selective collection is being made. We were astounded to realize that as much as 40% of the so-called municipal waste was in fact recyclable, had it been collected selectively. Normally, it would have reached a factory and would have returned in other produce, instead of ending up in the landfill. "
Given such a high percentage, standing at 40%, of the mix of the municipal waste with the recyclable one, it is not about happenstance or an accident, it is about the lack of the selection infrastructure in the apartment blocks, districts or institutions, but also about educating people to that end, which is something that hasn't been done.
Deputy Chief Executive officer Andrei Dinescu:
"This educating process needs to be supported longer term. But the very moment you tell people why they should collect selectively and how to collect selectively, people need to have the selective collection infrastructure at their fingertips. Considering all our previous projects, we realized the former cannot exist without the latter. My personal opinion is that Romania has reached the point where real steps need to be taken to that effect. We are an EU member state and we have certain responsibilities towards the others, but, first of all, towards ourselves. Educating, raising awareness and making the infrastructure available are obligations. Municipalities have access to funding, to that end. Also, the sanitation departments know what their job is. It's just that they need to be taken into account and mobilized. The population is prepared as well. We see more and more people holding us to account, to that effect, these are the people who also hold municipalities accountable. I honestly believe that a nationwide educational and awareness-raising project is the most useful thing."
For this awareness-raising campaign, ASAP concluded partnerships with the aforementioned municipalities, but also with the Environment, Waters and Forests Ministry, as well as with the National Council of Pupils.
(Translated by Eugen Nasta)
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