Tougher waste proposals clear first European hurdle

MEPs have backed tougher waste targets for Europe but the beefed up plans are likely to be resisted when they come before the Council of Ministers later this year.

This Tuesday, February 13, the European Parliament voted through the amended Waste Directive as put forward by Rapporteur Caroline Jackson MEP (see related story).

If accepted in its current form by the Ministers of member states, the directive will be the first piece of EU legislation to spell out the waste hierarchy – re-use at the top and disposal at the bottom – and provide it with some legal standing.

MEPs also accepted the need for incinerators to be judged on a scale of energy efficiency but, departing from the script recommended by the draft directive, voted against the idea that the most efficient energy from waste plants could be regarded as a means of waste recovery rather than disposal.

They also voted for targets on waste prevention for the first time which would be set in 2010 and have to be met by 2020. The aim would be to stop waste arisings rising above 2008 levels by 2012 with a view to reducing the amount of Europeans produce in the future.

The MEPs also set cross-community recycling targets for 2020 at 50% for municipal waste and 70% for construction, demolition and industrial waste.

Unless the Council of Ministers accepts all of the amendments adopted this week, a highly unlikely outcome, the directive will return for a 2nd reading in the European Parliament at a later stage.

Controversial points are likely to include the introduction of waste prevention targets and the status of incineration. Allowing the most efficient incinerators to be considered recovery would open up European borders to trading waste, an attractive proposition to those countries with good waste infrastructure and also those likely to struggle to meet targets if made to manage their waste internally.

Those states which have most recently joined the EU, particularly those in Eastern Europe, are also likely to resist the more ambitious recycling targets set by Brussels, arguing that while they might be appropriate for the wealthy western states, they are unrealistic for them.

Sam Bond

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