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EU sets out greater drive for re-using and recycling waste

Economic incentives, further end-of-waste criteria and “separate collections” are being targeted by the European Commission to stimulate the secondary materials market.

The commission has published the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe with the aim to help create a framework which envelops different policy areas (like emissions reduction targets and waste reduction targets) and sectors (such as energy, food, and buildings).

Targeting the way that waste can become a resource, the document states that a “much higher priority needs to be given to re-use and recycling”. 

Better collection processes are also highlighted as a requirement, with an aim that by 2020 “recycling and re-use of waste are economically attractive options for public and private actors due to separate collections and the development of functional markets for secondary raw materials”.

The commission will also:

  • review existing prevention, re-use, recycling, recovery and landfill diversion targets to move towards an economy based on re-use and recycling, with residual waste close to zero (in 2014)
  • assess the introduction of minimum recycled material rates, durability and reusability criteria and extensions of producer responsibility for key products (in 2012)
  • assess areas where legislation on the various waste streams could be aligned to improve coherence (in 2013/2014)
  • continue working within the EU and international partners to eradicate illegal waste shipments with a special focus on hazardous waste
  • ensure that public funding from the EU budget gives priority to activities higher up the waste hierarchy as defined in the Waste Framework Directive (in 2012/2013)
  • facilitate the exchange of best practice on collection and treatment of waste among Member States and develop measures to combat more effectively breaches of EU waste rules (in 2013/2014)

By combining policies across the resource and product supply chains the EC hopes to create a “full recycling economy”. Minerals and metals are recognised as specific natural resources that are at risk and will benefit from the actions listed above.

To push consumers towards resource efficient products and help stimulate economies, the report says environmental taxes, charges, tradable permit schemes and fiscal incentives should be used to shift burdens away from labour and to align the prices of resources that are not appropriately valued on the market such as water and clean air. Environmentally Harmful Subsidies, which deliberately distort the market, will be phased out.

The commission will now prepare appropriate policy and legislative proposals to take the roadmap forward.

Comment – Friends of the Earth resource use campaigner Julian Kirby

From burgers to mobile phones, Europe’s wasteful economies leave us perilously over-dependent on imported materials, jeopardising business and putting pressure on wildlife, the climate and the world’s poorest people.

Policymakers are right to commit to using resources more wisely and ensuring nearly nothing is wasted - but their plans still lack the details and deadlines needed to protect both our economy and the environment.

The EU should end its drive for rainforest-wrecking biofuels, support planet-friendly farming practices and ensure our products are built to last.

With Wales outstripping English recycling rates and Brussels aiming for a genuinely zero-waste economy, David Cameron must update the disastrous Waste Review with an ambitious plan to cut waste, boost recycling and make British manufacturing more efficient.

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