European Commission sets scene for a new Strategy on Waste Prevention and Recycling

The European Commission has adopted a Communication called “Towards a Thematic Strategy on Waste Prevention and Recycling”. This launches a broad consultation exercise on the EU’s future policy in this area. It invites stakeholders to comment on the policy options set out in the Communication. These options include issues like: how to avoid generating waste, how to reduce the use of resources, and which wastes to recycle. On the basis of comments received, the Commission will determine its final objectives for waste prevention and recycling and decide what measures to propose for final adoption by the Council and the European Parliament.

Welcoming the adoption, Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said: “When we throw a product away, it represents much more than just a piece of waste. It also embodies all the resources used to produce it. If you add them all in, the real weight of a toothbrush becomes 1.5 kg, and that of a mobile phone 75 kg! To save resources and avoid pollution, the Commission is determined to put new focus on waste prevention and recycling. We obviously need new targets and measures, but I want to be sure that we base them on the best available knowledge. That is why we are launching a broad consultation process. I hope stakeholders will provide us with their comments and ideas”.

Market-based approaches would be the most efficient way of starting a “waste production diet” and moving towards a recycling economy. Indeed, contrary to what most people think, the cost of recycling is in many cases well above that of incineration or landfill. During the six-month consultation period that has now begun, comments can be sent to the Commission on the policy options, which are reviewed in the Commission’s Communication “Towards a Thematic Strategy on the Prevention and Recycling of Waste”.

Each EU citizen currently produces an average of 550kg of municipal waste per year. This is far beyond the target of 330 kg set down in the EU’s 1993 Fifth Environment Action Programme. The amount of waste constitutes a major waste management problem and has significant environmental impact. The Communication on waste prevention and recycling launches a broad consultation exercise on how to avoid generating waste, how to reduce the use of resources, and which wastes to recycle.

Key questions for consultation

Fixing quantitative targets for waste prevention

There is a need for targets on waste prevention as well as for measures that will ensure that these targets are met. To this end, the Communication asks for comments on several potential measures, including:

Waste Prevention Plans – the Commission could encourage the involvement of industry sectors and individual companies in the development of such plans, which would include concrete measures

Low-waste Production Techniques – the Commission could ensure that these are used by European industry

Diffusing Best Practice – the Commission could identify the most effective national strategies and broaden them to EU level

Use market forces to recycle more

EU recycling policy could be improved in several ways. Comments are invited on the reviewed potential measures, including:

Setting recycling targets for materials. Currently, EU law requires the recycling of materials from certain wastes (eg packaging, cars, electronics), but does not require the recycling of these same materials when they are used in other products. For example, packaging cardboard has to be recycled, but office paper or newsprint does not, and the same goes for aluminium, plastics and other materials. A more coherent approach to recycling could result in greater environmental benefits.

Getting the prices of the different waste treatment options right. Despite strict EU legislation, disposing of waste in landfills and incinerators is often still cheaper than recycling. This could be corrected through tradable cer

Ano da Publicação: 2003
Fonte: WARMER BULLETIN ENEWS #19-2003: May 31, 2003
Autor: Kit Strange
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