Interview Simonne Rufener by Matei Dumitru, editor at Ecologic Magazine, Rumania
16 October 2019 — Note: written by Ecologic and shared with IMPEL
On October 16 and 17 2019, the conference entitled “All about plastic waste” was organised in Bucharest by IMPEL (European Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of the Environmental Law) and national environmental Guard Romania.
Impel, the European Union Network for the Implementation and Control of Environmental Law Enforcement is an international non-profit association of environmental authorities in the Member States of the European Union, acceding and candidate countries of the EU, EEA and EFTA countries. We spoke with the conference coordinator, Ms. Simonne Rufener, IMPEL expert team leader, about the topics addressed at the Bucharest event, but also about the waste management issues at European level.
Ecologic: – What happens today and tomorrow at the two conferences organized by IMPEL in Romania? Does IMPEL carry out any action? What it is about?
Simonne Rufener, IMPEL’s leading expert team: – “As you know, the IMPEL network is the environmental network for implementing environmental laws between European countries, and we have a team that focuses specifically on waste and cross-border transport of wastes (TFS).
Our main meeting is the conference on Waste and Transboundary Transport of Waste, which takes place every year in different countries. This is the event in which we gather and debate the updated data received from the partner organizations signatories to the Basel Convention on the control of transboundary transport of hazardous waste and their disposal, or from the European Commission, prosecutors and various justice networks. This year we were invited by the Romanian National Environmental Guard and so we organized the conference here in Bucharest.
It is a conference that lasted for two days, but was preceded by a meeting of our members, which was not a public one. This was a closed conference at which representatives of environmental authorities were invited to discuss topics and information that are not intended for publication, such as some open cases of illegal transport of waste.
The first day of the conference is dedicated to cross-border transport of waste and waste issues in general. On the second day of the conference, some representatives from the waste industry are invited to speak. Collaboration between authorities and the businesses is essential for environmental protection.”
Ecologic: The main topic of the conference is plastic. What are the main actions IMPEL carries out to combat the phenomenon of pollution with plastic waste?
Simonne Rufener: – “This is also the title of our conference today, “All About Plastic Waste”. It is an extremely current topic in the world. Because China has banned the import of certain plastics, waste streams are changing. Also, the application of environmental legislation is changing due to the political reaction under the Basel Convention, as this import ban from China. The issue of plastic waste is of crucial importance for our network, because we are the ones who apply the law of the environment, so we must react to these political decisions that are taken and we must also find ways to detect the illegal transfer and improve application on these specific areas.
Such meetings as the one we have now are essential in our activity because here we gather all our partners and try to solve some of the complex problems that have just emerged. Detecting illegal shipments of waste can be done in different stages, not only during the export phase, but during the transit and temporary storage stages. On the other hand, such conferences also create an opportunity to share best practices with other countries. This is the main topic of the conference these two days.”
Ecologic: – In Europe, there are differences regarding the implementation of European legislation, from one country to another. Are there any differences in addressing the plastic problem between developed and least developed countries in Europe?
Simonne Rufener – “I would not say that Eastern European countries are not in good shape. I would prefer to say that each country is in different stages of law enforcement and, for this purpose, we have a multitude of experience exchange programs within IMPEL, where we focus on a specific topic. These topic may be the landfill of waste, it may also be customs training or it may be the definition of waste. We have a huge range of topics and we believe that in each country a problem that is facing and that can be debated should be defined. Our main task, of the IMPEL network, is to share best practices, to learn from each other and to train each other to reach a qualitative level of good application of environmental legislation. So what Eastern European countries can suggest is to attend such conferences, participate in projects, or even start a project that focuses specifically on national issues. We are very open to receiving project proposals and initiating them and we are very happy to work with all the Member States.”
Ecologic: – Electrical and electronic equipment wastes are also a problem in Europe. Many of these wastes are mainly exported to some African countries. Is these exports a concern for the IMPEL network?
Simonne Rufener – “Yes, exports of electrical and electronic waste are a real problem. A few years ago there was also a project of collaboration with African countries, especially in the field of electronic waste, which IMPEL carried out in accordance with the Basel Convention. It is on our agendathere is still project on WEEE in progress. In this area we have a little more experience thank on plastics. We have a definition of electronic waste that can be reused or recycled and, therefore, we are a little more advanced, compared to the plastic subject. But I must also point this out. I worked in Ghana in 2014. African countries want used electrical and electronic equipment but they have to be of good quality. These countries really want to have them and this is important for their development. That is why we must be very careful, not to send them electronic waste of poor quality but equipment that can be reused. A second problem would be that, once these equipments reach the end of their lives, African countries do not have as good a recycling solution as Europe has. So we should think about taking over the waste, but we should also give the chance for a computer or mobile phone to have a second or third life, which is beneficial in terms of resource use and consumption. . We have to consider these things.”
Ecologic: – Could the incineration of municipal waste be a solution for solving the problem of plastic waste in Europe? If Yes, under what conditions?
Simonne Rufener – “Waste incineration can be a good solution if it is done in an environmental sound manner, taking into account all the environmental aspects, and if it is resource efficient. There is a hierarchy on waste management. We must first reuse the objects, then recycle them, and in the end, there is an amount that, if burned, in an ecological way, can recover energy from incineration.”