Set targets for waste reduction – EU rapporteur

The European Parliament's rapporteur on the new Waste Directive would like to see fixed targets for waste reduction set in the new legislation.

Conservative MEP Caroline Jackson is guiding the legislation through parliament, which is to vote on the proposals next week.

On Thursday Ms Jackson reporters that she hoped it would encourage action on prevention and reduction, clarify definitions of waste and various treatment and disposal techniques and promote more efficient recycling.

It will also outline the energy efficiency standards which will allow incinerators to be classified as a recovery option rather than disposal.

The directive is likely to include an official definition of the often-cited waste hierarchy which until now has been frequently informed policy but has never had any legal standing.

While all member states have now agreed to recycling targets, there have never been any official goals when it comes to stopping the waste being produced in the first place.

“The European Parliament is proposing that we set targets for the prevention of waste,” said Ms Jackson.

“What we’re suggesting is very modest, not terribly ambitious, but it’s going to be a lot of work trying to get that agreed by the European Commission.”

She said that the Council of Ministers would probably resist the targets and was not optimistic about their making the final cut of the directive, but their inclusion in the initial proposals would at least spark a debate which needed to be had.

“It’s a difficult area because we don’t have enough information on how much waste is being produced. We have figures for both global and national levels of waste but we don’t know how accurate they are,” she told edie.

“What we’re trying to do is start this debate. If you don’t start it you don’t get anywhere.”

Another key issue for the directive will be clarifying the status of incineration, a waste management option which has been embraced by most European states but which is still used to treat a relatively small share of the total waste in the UK.

Under the directive, there are likely to be two kinds of incinerator – those which meet energy efficiency targets which will be classed as a recovery option, and those which do not, which will be ranked alongside landfill as disposal.

The distinction is important, as the efficient plants will be bumped up the waste hierarchy, allowing them to treat imported waste and therefore making them a much more attractive economic prospect.

Combined Heat and Power plants are likely to make the grade, for example, while dated, dirty incinerators are not.

As well as providing a financial incentive, scoring highly on the efficiency formula will also provide an effective tool for wooing the public when it comes to the planning process, claimed Ms Jackson.

Asked about where she felt the public concerns generally lay, she accepted the emissions tended to trump efficiency but argued that these fears were based on the past.

Her own party’s Shadow Environment Minister, Peter Ainsworth, was add9ng to the problem, she said.

“That is wrong, he’s out of date and he shouldn’t be doing that. We should be moving first to promote more recycling more efficiently but we should not be running away from incineration because it is part of the answer,” said Ms Jackson.

The entangled web of the planning process that many applications found themselves in was disproportionate to the impact of developments being proposed, she said.

“With incinerators we’re not building the pyramids and there’s not going to be a Pharaoh entombed, they have a life cycle of about 20 or 30 years,” said the MEP.

“The directive has one message and one message only for local authorities at the moment.

“If you’re considering an incinerator in your waste plan you need to know what the formula for energy efficiency is and you need to asking about the possibility of building CHP.”

Sam Bond

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