For the September/October issue of Recycling International my colleague Judith Wanjala and I visited GreenGroup, a fast-growing recycling company in Romania annually processing some 500 000 tonnes of scrap – mainly plastics, electronics and glass. GreenGroup plays a leading role in central and eastern Europe’s circular economy.
Although this was my first time in Romania, I felt I was returning after 34 years. I well remember media reports of the revolution in late 1989. What started as small protest against the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu led to the overthrow of his regime and the execution of the communist leader and his wife Elena.
The revolution marked a new beginning for Romania and so much has changed for the better since then. But traces of that era remain. The family mansion of the Ceaucescus, in the leafy diplomatic quarter of the capital Bucharest, is now a museum. Visitors can marvel at the glitter and wealth the couple enjoyed while millions of their subjects were suffering.
It’s all there, preserved. From the gold mosaic indoor pool, to the bedroom of Nicolae and Elena. From the pink and turquoise bathroom to Elena’s over-the-top wardrobe of French outfits costing thousands.
In Buzau, a provincial town north-east of Bucharest and home to GreenGroup’s main recycling operations, the communist era seems far away. It’s the future of recycling that’s taking place here now. Even so, strong mementoes of the communist era can be seen at the offices of GreenWEEE, the company’s electronics recycling division.
The rooms are decorated with radios made in the 1960s and 70s and sourced from household collections. A brewer had asked GreenWEEE to collect the appliances to decorate bars and cafes – but ultimately it cancelled the project.
So GreenWEEE’s ceo Marius Costache thought: ‘let’s keep them here’. ‘You like the radios?’ he asked as we passed the decorations. ‘Which is your favourite?’. I pointed to a wooden device branded Mangalia, named after a coastal town on the Black Sea, with Radio Tirana, Beograd, Timisoara, Bucuresti on the display – real retro stuff!
Back home a week later, a Fedex truck delivered a package. ‘Enjoy your new old radio, with best regards from Romania, Marius.’
Chief Editor, Recycling International