Euro waste plan rubbished by environmentalists

The European Commission has unveiled its proposals to reduce waste and conserve resources - and they have been promptly dismissed as fit for the recycling bin by environmental pressure groups.

The Thematic Strategy on Waste Reduction and Recycling will be brought in by Brussels alongside amendments to the existing Waste Framework Directive and, on Wednesday, an outline of the plans was published by the commission.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "Waste volume has been disproportionately increasing outpacing even economic growth.

"Waste generation, disposal and recycling are of concern to all of us: individuals, companies and public authorities. Now is the time to modernise our approach and to promote more and better recycling. Our strategy does precisely that."

According to the Commissioner EU legislation has helped improve waste management across Europe and changed attitudes to waste so industry will now see it as a resource from which profits can be made rather than something to be swept aside and dumped.

Despite this waste generation in the EU is estimated at more than 1.3 billion tonnes per year and is increasing at rates comparable to economic growth.

The revision of the Waste Framework Directive and introduction of the thematic strategy will see the focus shifted to a more efficient use of resources in the first place to avoid the creation of waste.

National waste prevention programmes will be imposed on member states and efforts will be made to stimulate the market for recycled materials.

Legal definitions of waste will also be made clearer.

However the drafts has sparked a heated reaction from environmental groups which claim the legislation would effectively give a green light to a proliferation of incinerators as they fail to spell out a hierarchy of waste management.

Friends of the Earth spokesman Dr Michael Warhurst said: "This is a pathetic piece of work from the European Commission - it should just be torn up and thrown in the recycling bin.

"We are calling on the UK Government and UK MEPs to spend 2006 rewriting this draft law, to create a new waste policy that will further expand recycling, and encourage industry to innovate towards more recyclable and sustainable products, rather than a policy that promotes wasteful incineration."

FoE claims the draft fails because it:

  • Places incineration on the same level as reuse and recycling, in
    spite of the fact that recycling preserves resources, and saves more
    greenhouse gas emissions than incineration with energy recovery.

  • Removes a provision for additional related directives, which can be
    used to deal with the problems of recycling specific materials, such as
    legislation requiring product manufacturers to make their products
    easier to recycle.

  • Sets no formal targets for recycling or for minimising waste.

    The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is also unhappy with the drafts, claiming they show the commission has given up on creating a recycling society.

    John Hontelez, EEB secretary general, said: "This commission has repeatedly confirmed that 'better regulation' is not equivalent to de-regulation or worse regulation.

    "The Waste Strategy package released today casts serious doubt over this commitment.

    "It not only lacks the elements to tackle waste prevention and resource use properly, but is dismantling an essential piece of existing EU legislation - and undermining the policy framework necessary to strongly promote an EU waste recycling society .

    "It will thus contribute to increasing - rather than alleviating - pressure on Europe's environment and public health."

    By Sam Bond

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