Council cautious on waste prevention

While approving the Commission’s approach on waste prevention,
environment ministers have avoided the thorny issues of targets.
Market-based instruments have been left to Member States to decide.

In their conclusions, the ministers supported the Commission’s
intention to link its waste strategy with its green product policy
and other plans to make a more sustainable use of natural resources
(see EEURACTIV,
3 October 2003
). However, they were careful not to hasten
matters on most issues: 

  • Role of the strategy: Ministers approved the
    “overall thrust” of the Commission strategy based on prevention and
    minimisation as “the most favoured option” for waste management.
    They highlighted the need to address production processes and
    product life cycles including the selection of materials and
    substances in the design of products (the eco-design, REACH and
    IPPC directives and regulations are mentioned here). However, they
    called on the Commission to do further work on waste prevention
    targets and related indicators.
  • Materials-based approach: The results of
    producer responsibility initiatives are recognised as “positive”
    but the ministers warned they should not be extended to other
    sectors without prior analysis. In their view, the material-based
    approach should be considered as a complement to the existing
    waste-stream approach. On recycling standards, the ministers
    supported the need to develop a level playing field across the EU
    and invited the Commission to submit proposals for certain types of
    waste and recycling facilities. They also insisted on strengthening
    the EU internal market for recycling by removing technical and
    economic barriers to its effective operation and to stimulate the
    demand for recycled products, notably through green
    procurements.
  • Market instruments: The Council was of the
    opinion that economic instruments to encourage recycling (landfill
    levies and so-called ‘Pay As You Throw’ schemes) should be left for
    Member States to decide as they are best applied at local level.
    Sources in the Commission told us that they are likely to be
    entirely left out of the final proposal.

 

Speaking to EURACTIV, Melissa Shinn from the European
Environmental Bureau (EEB)
said she was satisfied that
waste prevention was recognised as a priority even though she
thinks ministers were too cautious on adopting targets. She regrets
that a proposal from Belgium and Portugal to adopt indicative
targets for the spring 2005 European Council was not taken on
board. "In a way, the Commission has refused to do its homework on
this issue," she said, adding that Member States were right to
refuse targets because not enough preparatory work had been done.
On recycling, she welcomes the ministers' support for priority
waste streams and recycling standards to be adopted independently
from the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC)
framework. But again, she regrets that no targets were adopted. On
biodegradable waste, she welcomed the fact that strategic and
legislative proposals are to be adopted on compost and sewage
waste.

In a position paper, the employers organisation UNICE stated
that setting general targets based on volume for waste prevention
was "not an appropriate tool". It sees the Commission's Integrated
Product Policy (IPP) directive as the "appropriate framework" for
waste prevention. On producer responsibility, "UNICE believes that
responsibility for waste collection and recovery should be shared
among all stakeholders: from producers via converters and distrib
utors through to consumers, also involving municipalities when they
are in charge of collection of municipal waste".

 

EU ministers on 28 June concluded discussions on the Commission's
proposed Thematic Strategy on the Prevention and Recycling of Waste .
The strategy, which is to be fine-tuned for adoption later in the
year, aims to decouple economic growth from ever-increasing amounts
of domestic and industrial waste being generated.

 

  • Commission services indicated that more impact assessments on
    the full range of policy options would be undertaken this
    year.
  • The final proposal has been rescheduled from end 2004 to spring
    2005.

 

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