EU Group Calls for Ambitious Recycling Targets

EU Group Calls for Ambitious Recycling Targets

Committee of the Regions seeks to raise the recycling rate in Europe to 70 percent.

October 23, 2013
Recycling Today Staff
Legislation & Regulations Municipal / IC&I

The European Union’s Committee of the Regions (CoR) has proposed ambitious targets on EU waste that highlight the contribution waste management and recycling plays in creating a resource-efficient, more competitive Europe. According to the CoR, European cities have called for all its recommendations to be taken by the European Commission, which is expected to release its proposals on the issue in 2014.

The opinion, presented by Michel Lebrun, a member of the Parliament of the French-speaking Community, argues that to achieve success, targets must reflect the differing levels of progress and resources available between member states and local authorities.

With waste management one of the largest challenges facing Europe's local and regional authorities, CoR was asked to prepare its position on European Union (EU) waste targets ahead of the European Commission communication expected to be published in 2014. Lebrun, who had his report on EU waste targets endorsed by an majority during CoR's July plenary, pointed out that, “Each year the European Union throws away 3 billion metric tons of waste—6 metric tons of solid waste per person per year. It's not just harmful for the environment, but has a direct impact on human health. As we are still in an economic crisis, it is essential to ensure that all policies support economic development. Waste management is a priority that can support competition with the number one goal of decoupling waste production from economic growth."

Following a request by the European Commission, CoR released an opinion piece titled: The review of the European Union's Key Waste Targets. In the report, the committee argues that EU targets must consider the reasons for non-compliance, with objectives being proportionate to account for the differing levels of services, infrastructure and financial investment in waste management between local authorities.

"I hope that the forthcoming directive on waste enables the most advanced countries to move towards a zero-waste society and encourages others to make progress allowing them to catch up," Lebrun notes. CoR has called for the standardization of measuring and defining of waste across the EU, which will allow clear comparisons to be made between member states and EU regions, enabling progress to be assessed and to ensure consistency. Individually designed agreements should also be drawn up with each member state and local authority with EU subsidies for waste management only made available after the submission of plans.

Lebrun's opinion also sets out clear EU targets in waste management and proposes:
•    Reducing 2010 levels of waste by 10 percent by 2020;
•    Exploring options to raise the recycling of solid municipal waste target to 70 percent by 2025;
•    Ensuring 100 percent of waste is subject to selective sorting by 2020;
•    Exploring options to raise targets for recycling plastics to 70 percent and for glass, metal, paper, cardboard and wood to 80 percent;
•    Prohibiting the use of biodegradable waste for landfill by 2020;
•    Banning the incineration of recyclable and biowaste by 2020 (with some exclusions depending on process used)

CoR also called for local and regional authorities to set medium-term and intermediate targets. An emphasis on the "polluter pays" principle would reduce the burden on often over-stretched local governments and improved co-operation could help optimize infrastructure and resources. In this regard, the committee proposes creating a European information platform that supports this process that would enable the exchange of information and development of best practice across the EU.