Parliament to decide on waste-prevention policy

MEPs are voting in plenary tomorrow (13 February 2007) on two reports: the EU Waste Directive aims to set binding targets for waste prevention for the first time, while the ‘Thematic Strategy on the Prevention and Recycling of Waste’ focuses on the long-term EU waste strategy.

The reports adopted by the Parliament’s environment committee on 28 November 2006 included:

  • Provisions for a five-step waste ‘hierarchy’ that gives priority to prevention, re-use and recycling over landfills;
  • EU waste-prevention targets to stabilise waste production by 2012 to the level produced in 2008, and;
  • a rejection of the Commission’s proposal to reclassify incineration from “disposal” to “recovery” for energy production.

Waste is a growing problem for the EU, which is producing more than 500kg of waste per capita per year, a figure that outstrips GDP growth. Municipal waste alone increased 19% between 1995 and 2003.

Green groups are calling for EU-wide recyling targets and the maintainance of incineration’s classification as a disposal operation. Michael Warhurst, of Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “With their vote, MEPs have a key opportunity to spur increased recycling across the EU, which – unlike incineration – would minimise greenhouse-gas emissions and make efficient use of resources. We should be aiming to burn or bury nothing that could be re-used, recycled or composted.”

Meanwhile, a group of ten European industry organisations sent a letter to the Parliament expressing concern that the waste hierarchy would be too rigid: “The hierarchy must be applied in a pragmatic and flexible way since each local situation and each product and waste stream can be different. Requiring additional and costly analysis on top of those required for the waste management plans is not helpful and will not result in more efficient and effective waste management,” said a coalition spokesperson.

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