MEPs back ‘watered down’ directive

Half of household waste and 70% of construction and demolition waste in the EU should be recycled or reused by 2020 after MEPs backed the revised Waste Directive.

The European Parliament voted in favour of a deal that had been hammered out with the Council of Ministers earlier this month.

It also included a definition of incineration as recovery provided it meets certain energy efficiency standards, which has provoked controversy among some MEPs and the recycling sector.

The targets themselves have also come under fire, with some accusing Parliament of agreeing a watered down deal, and arguing the wording of the directive does not make the targets legally binding.

Questioned about these concerns in Parliament, Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “If these targets are not met in 2020, the Commission can take Member States to court for non-compliance with the requirements of the directive.”

Conservative south west England MEP Caroline Jackson, who led MEPs in negotiations with the Council, told Parliament: “This is a positive incentive to incinerator operators to reach high standards and we would do well to remember, in these fuel poor days, that waste can be a useful fuel.

“But it is important to recognise that the Parliament has now ensured, by writing in targets for recycling and emphasising waste prevention objectives, that incineration of residual waste will have to go hand in hand with recycling.”

RREUSE (Reuse and Recycling European Social Enterprises) said the overall result was “disappointing” and MEPs had accepted “watered down recycling targets”.

South east England’s Green MEP Caroline Lucas said it was “a major lost opportunity” on waste prevention.

She added: “As well as promoting incineration, the compromise also includes two potential loopholes that are likely to haunt us in the future.

“It introduces new definitions for ‘by-products’ and when ‘waste ceases to be a waste’. This creates possibilities to unduly escape waste legislation and may well lead to a new series of court cases.”

But the Chemical Industries Association said the vote “makes sense for the environment”.

Dr Anne-Gaëlle Collot, CIA’s environmental protection policy advisor, added: “Being able to use our by -products means the chemical industry can use fewer virgin resources and contribute less to landfill.”

Kate Martin

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