Waste strategy will abandon recycling and promote incineration says EEB

The EEB, Europe's largest federation of environmental citizens' organisations, has raised concerns that the European Commission's Thematic Strategy for Waste Prevention and Recycling will abandon recycling and increase incineration.

The Commission launched an inter-Commission-service consultation last week ahead of finalising the strategy by the end of November.

However, the EEB has claimed that, as it stands, the Strategy would propose an approach that leads to clear deregulation and loss of environmental ambition for EU waste management, in particular the key objective of moving towards resource efficiency and a recycling society.

The group says that the combination of abandoning the existing approach of waste stream recycling targets and substituting it with tools such as ‘lifestyle thinking’ to be carried out via plans at national or regional level, or ‘recycled product standards’, is the same as stopping all attempts to actively steer waste management across the EU up the waste hierarchy towards more recycling and less dumping and burning.

“We do not see how the Commission will be able to follow 25, or probably more, simultaneous lifecycle assessment processes on whether to dump, burn or recycle individual types of waste,” said John Hontelez, Secretary General of the EEB. “The Commission already admits that it does not have the possibility to assess the Waste Management Plans it receives – so how will they assess such complex processes as individual national, regional or local ‘lifecycle thinking’ assessments?”

He added that the process was not enforceable and concluded that the EC is shifting waste policy from enforceable tools and policy approaches that can be clearly monitored, to unenforceable ‘soft tools’, “like so-called local assessments of best lifecycle options.”

The Commission claims the main driver for the simplification of waste legislation will be the Thematic Strategy on Waste Prevention and Recycling.

However, according to EEB EU Policy Director Stefan Scheur, “the foreseen approach is virtually unenforceable and will therefore greatly complicate – rather than simplify – the implementation of a common EU waste policy.”

“We call on the Commission to adopt a coherent and constructive approach to ‘better regulation’, which deserves the name. EU waste policy should therefore retain enforceable tools and implementable objectives such as harmonised EU recycling targets.”

The EEB go on to claim that the policy would not only abandon active recycling policies, but would simultaneously promote incineration as it proposes to reverse a European Court of Justice case by reclassifying Municipal Solid Waste incineration as recovery, on the basis of efficiency.

This would take no account of wider environmental concerns which can be achieved by recycling.

The Commission is due to finalise its strategy by the end of November.

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