EU member states may be falling short of waste management commitments according to data in a new report on management of municipal waste, highlighting stark differences across the union.
The report - prepared by the Commission's environment department - found that many EU countries may be failing on a 2020 waste target for recycling municipal waste, which is set at 50% of all household waste.
Some of the worst offenders are financially beleaguered Greece, Italy and Cyprus. Their failings include a lack of incentives to divert waste from landfills, which Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik called “the worst waste management option”.
Greece, which scored lowest in the study, only received a positive note for its access to collection services, but was criticised on 17 counts.
The report graded all 27 member states according to 18 criteria, including total waste recycled, pricing of waste disposal, and infringements of European legislation.
Worst-performing countries to receive special attention this autumn
“Many member states are still landfilling huge amounts of municipal waste… despite better alternatives, and despite structural funds being available to finance better options,” said Potočnik, reacting to the report.
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden have the best implemented and most well developed recycling systems, the report said, land-filling less than 5% of their waste.
On the basis of the report the ten worst performing states will be singled out for attention by the Commission this autumn, and action plans will be discussed with the national authorities. A statement from the Commission said that these plans will include recommendations on how to improve waste management using economic, legal and administrative tools, as well as EU funds.
A recent study by the EU executive found that full implementation of the existing legislation on waste could save up to €72 billion a year, and create 400,000 jobs by 2020.
Hanane Taidi, head of communications for the PlaticsEurope trade assocation, said in a statement to EurActiv: "This benchmarking and the idea of preparing roadmaps for underperforming countries are an important step towards eliminating the unnecessary landfilling of waste in Europe. In the case of plastics, the European economy is currently losing up to €8 billion in potential value by failure to divert plastics waste from landfills. This is why the industry is working with authorities and other stakeholders across Europe to achieve a goal of 'zero plastics to landfill by 2020'.
"While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to waste management, it is clear that the poor performers in the Commission’s rankings can learn a lot from those countries that are leading by example. With the challenges we are facing today in Europe, it makes no environmental or economic sense that seven EU member states are diverting over 90% of plastics waste from landfill, while 15 others still bury over 60%."