A senior European official has said that Britain could “leapfrog the incinerator stage” when it comes to future waste reduction, by using a mixture of policy and strategic business decisions.
Alan Seatter, deputy director-general of environment at the European Commission, said: “Britain has the opportunity to avoid overcapacity and can leapfrog the incinerator stage to cut waste generated in the first instance. To do that we need more landfill charges, to increase waste streams and to improve product design.”
Seatter said that the EU was planning a waste policy review in 2014, but were not planning to impose any new legislation on the industry because, if the revised Waste Framework Directive (rWFD) was implemented, it would create 500,000 jobs in the EU and landfill would decrease by 20%.
His comments came during a discussion on the future of EU waste policy organised by the Associate Parlimentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG), including strategies in Sweden and Norway which have resulted in an overcapacity for incineration.
In Sweden, only 1% of waste is sent to landfill, 33% is recycled and 51% is incinerated. Jonas Tornblom from the Envac Group based in Stockholm said: “In Sweden we need more recycling.”
Julie Hill, the chair of the Green Alliance’s Circular Economy Taskforce, told the meeting they had identified the Ecodesign Directive as a possible legislation that could help drive the circular economy, if it were amended to include labelling relevant to resource re-use or recycling.
Seatter said that the EU was looking at leading on EU-wide eco-labelling, which might include how resource efficient a product was, what proportion was made of recycled components, or how it was designed for disassembly or recycling.
He said this could lead to an amendment to the Ecodesign Directive, which currently refers to environmental perfomance of energy-related products, or a new eco labelling directive.
“Swiss, Norwegian, the United States, Japan, Korea [governments are] all interested in this topic… there is lots of potential for exporting. We believe this can stimulate demand for these [waste] products and offer a better choice to consumers.
“It’s is an experiment we are trying to undertake now. If it’s cheaper, if it’s simpler, if it leads to more uptake then maybe it will go into Ecodesign Directive or an eco labelling directive.”
Seatter also said that despite the fact the waste and recycling market was scheduled to double in size by 2030, especially in the developing world, the “financial system is broken and we have seen a decrease in lending especially to small firms”.
He said the EU is working to promote better venture capital schemes, and “increasing EU Investment Bank capital by 45-60m Euros, which are earmarked for resource efficiency in the next three years”.