Despite pressure from a number of EU countries to table a specific directive on biowaste, the European Commission argues that similar economic and environmental benefits can be achieved through better implementation of existing legislation.
There are no policy gaps at EU level that prevent member states from taking stronger action on biowaste now, the Commission said in a policy paper published yesterday (18 May), rejecting calls for a stand-alone directive on biodegradable waste.
"Progress achieved in several member states shows that existing waste legislation is an excellent basis for advanced bio-waste management," the EU executive notes in the paper. "For this, the available tools need to be used to their full potential and rigorously enforced where necessary in all member states."
The communication on future steps in bio-waste management in the EU, adopted on 18 May, encourages member states to choose the management options best suited to their national context.
A number of EU-level supporting initiatives, such as developing standards for compost, would be set up to accompany national action, it said.
According to the EU executive, fully implementing existing policies and better aligning bio-waste management with the waste hierarchy and other provisions of the Waste Framework Directive (WFD) could deliver environmental and economic benefits of around €1.5-7 billion, depending on how ambitious recycling and prevention policies are.
About a third of the EU's 2020 target for renewable energy in transport could be met by using biogas produced from bio-waste, it continues. At the same time, production of good quality compost and biogas would improve resource-efficiency by partially replacing non-renewable mineral fertilisers and maintaining the quality of EU soils, the Commission notes.
Prevention the priority
The new strategy paper suggests that the priority should be "rigorous enforcement of the targets on diverting bio-waste away from landfills, proper application of the waste hierarchy and other provisions of the Waste Framework Directive to introduce separate collection systems".