Southerners back stricter EU waste rules, unlike Nordic countries

Nordic countries, often seen as frontrunners in waste disposal, are actually the problem as more ambitious targets are proposed. [David Bleasdale/Flickr]

A new report published today (16 May) showed that the EU’s southern members support stricter EU-wide waste management rules more than Nordic countries.

Green NGOs European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Friends of the Earth Europe and Zero Waste Europe put together a survey asking member states if they will support proposals to boost EU waste policy negotiations.

Experts in waste management will meet next week in Brussels and, by the end of the month, the trialogue consultation between the Commission, the Parliament, and the Council will be launched.

According to 2014 data, 55 million people, or 9.6% of the EU population, could not afford a quality meal every other day. Furthermore, data from 2015 suggests 118.8 million people, or 23.7% of the EU population, were at risk of poverty and “social exclusion”.

Parliament calls for mandatory EU-wide food waste targets by 2020

EU lawmakers today (11 April) urged the European Commission to set binding EU-wide food waste reduction targets by 2020, to be met by 2025 and 2030.

But the food waste figures highlight a tragic irony.

It is estimated that every year around 88 million tonnes of food are wasted in the EU, a number which is expected to rise to approximately 126 million tonnes by 2020 if no immediate action is taken.

In an effort to boost the transition towards a circular economy, the European Parliament voted last March in favour of raising the share recyclable waste to 70% by 2030 from 44% today.

Regarding food waste, EU lawmakers proposed an EU food waste reduction target of 30% by 2025 and 50% by 2030, compared to 2014.

In addition, MEPs called for an 80% target for the recycling of packaging waste as well as a 5% landfill limit.

Not the “usual suspects”

According to the survey, the countries that intend to block the circular economy measures are “not the usual suspects”.

“The ambitious reform of EU waste laws is under attack by a number of countries […] If a regressive position is to prevail in the negotiations, plans to accelerate the transition to a circular economy in the coming years will most likely stall,” the NGOs noted.

According to the report, the EU countries opposing most of the proposals include Denmark and Finland, often viewed as frontrunners in waste policy.

Objections are also being raised by Hungary, Lithuania, and Latvia, while the UK, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Slovenia, and Croatia have not unveiled their position.

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On the other hand, the countries lagging behind in waste management such as Greece, Romania, and Spain are calling for “stronger support for recycling, waste prevention, preparation for re-use and better separate collection”.

The report says that other “progressive countries” backing the reforms are France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Why is this happening?

EURACTIV.com asked the EEB what was the reason behind the Nordic countries’ stance.

Piotr Barczak, a waste policy officer at EEB, said, “Many Nordic countries oppose higher recycling targets and waste prevention because this would imply a reduction in residual waste, which they need to feed the expensive incinerators they built”.

Barczak added that the aim of a circular economy is not to burn valuable raw materials and products.

“It’s to reduce waste generation by extending the life cycle of products, by reusing and putting secondary raw materials back into the economy.”

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