MEPs agreed yesterday (17 June) to back new waste legislation despite the lack of binding goals for member states on waste prevention, while targets for re-use and recycling are included. NGOs and green groups immediately slammed the directive for not going far enough.
The legislation looks to streamline existing waste laws, incorporating directives on waste oils and hazardous waste into the revised Waste Framework Directive.
The directive stipulates that governments have to recycle 50% of household waste and 70% of construction waste by 2020. Rather than impose strictly binding obligations, the directive states that member states “shall take the necessary measures”. The Commission nevertheless confirmed that if the targets are not met by EU countries by 2020, it would take them to court for non-compliance.
But, in order to achieve a compromise deal with the Council, any reference to binding waste prevention targets for member states, which Parliamentarians have been calling for since their first reading in February 2007, was removed. While MEPs wanted member states to commit to stabilising their waste production at 2009 levels by 2012, the compromise makes no mention of such a goal and instead gives governments five years (from the directive’s entry into force) to set up national waste prevention programmes.
Another result of the compromise is the creation of a more comprehensive waste hierarchy which Parliament insisted would be a “priority order” as opposed to the Council’s preferred “guiding principle”. Therefore, the order of preference for waste processing should be: prevention, re-use, recycling and recovery with environmental disposal as a last option.
Parliamentarians had argued for the incineration of waste to be classed as disposal, rather than recovery as favoured by the Council. But the final compromise complied with the Council position, giving incineration a better position in the waste hierarchy.
A proposal added by Parliament on setting a target for recycling manufacturing and industrial waste was also rejected by the Council.
The Commission has to submit an interim report on waste prevention and generation in Europe to the Council and Parliament by 2011, and a final one by 2014, outlining proposals for waste prevention targets and their enforceability “if appropriate”.