Governments seek to water down waste targets


The Parliament and Council are locked in a battle over waste targets, after a trialogue meeting on 2 June in conjunction with the Commission produced no agreement on percentage targets for household and demolition waste.

The meeting came after a majority of MEPs in Parliament’s Environment Committee backed stricter waste and recycling targets for the revised Waste Framework Directive (WFD) than those suggested by the Commission in a vote in April (EURACTIV 09/04/08). 

By 2020, 50% of the EU’s household waste and 70% of construction waste should be recycled, according to them. These targets should accompany member states’ efforts to stabilise waste production by 2012 based on 2009 levels, they say. 

However, the Council rejected the committee’s proposals and is instead insisting that 45% of household waste and 65% of construction waste be recycled. It cites “recycling imbalances” between member states as a key justification for its lower level of ambition. 

Another disputed issue is the wording on how member states would achieve the targets, with the Council rebuffing Parliament’s suggestion that member states “shall take measures to achieve” the targets. The Council preferred a more vague text that would not oblige member states to take action on recycling targets. 

Agreement was nevertheless reached on a number of topics, including a policy to encourage waste prevention goals, a definition of “by-products” and inclusion of an additional article on bio-waste. 

The difficulty of achieving these waste targets across the EU was accepted by Parliament’s rapporteur on the WFD, UK MEP Caroline Jackson, but she insisted that the “targets are meaningful and enforceable”.

“It is also important for all parties to recognise that we have come a very long way from the original Commission draft, which contained no recycling targets,” she added. 

However, the Greens in the Parliament bemoaned the outcome of the trialogue, commenting that the compromise was “disappointing and represents a setback for the European environment and climate change policies” as there were no binding quotas for member states to adhere to. 

ACR+, an organisation that represents regional authorities involved in recycling, believes MEPs “should stand firm” on their proposed targets. According to one of their studies, European cities and regions are more than capable of achieving recycling rates of up to 80% of waste. 

The recycling targets are due to be discussed today (4 June) by COREPER, and voted upon in a second reading in Parliament’s plenary session on 16 June. 


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