The Environment Council has emphasised the importance of keeping a clear waste hierarchy that puts the priority on prevention, thereby soothing green NGO fears that it wanted to prioritise incineration for generating energy.
The Environment Council on 27 June has re-emphasised the key importance it attaches to the waste hierarchy and called on the Commission to come forward with concrete measures on prevention under the Finnish Presidency.
The Commission was asked come up with guidelines on how waste could be prevented in fields such as product policy, chemicals policy and eco-design of electrical appliances to minimise the generation of waste and the presence of hazardous substances.
The waste hierarchy ranks waste management options in a pre-defined order, the very best solution being to reduce the amount of waste generated in the first place (waste prevention). After that, reuse is preferred to recycling which, in turn, is preferred to incineration. Disposal in a landfill is the least favourable solution.
However, in a proposal to streamline the EU’s waste strategy in December last year, the Commission said some flexibility should be introduced in the hierarchy to allow waste to be treated in a cheaper and more energy-efficient way. The flexibility would allow member states to “deviate” from the strict five-step hierarchy if they can prove that other ways of treating waste would save more energy or are more environmentally-friendly.
A new benchmark on energy-efficiency would “determine whether an incinerator can be identified as a recovery facility instead of a disposal facility,” the Commission said.
“We are trying to combine two approaches which we believe are complementary,” says the Commission’s environment spokesperson Barbara Helfferich who says she has full support from member states on the issue.