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Feature: Making it a priority

Last month the European Commission and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) met to examine the Commission's recycling priorities for 2005 and beyond. Significant ground was covered, establishing not only where revisions will be made but also where the Commission will take a step back.

Opening the meeting, Marianne Klingbeil, head of the European Commission's G4 Unit (Sustainable Consumption and Production) covered the work of the group over the coming months. The Commission's timetable for the completion of the Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources and the Thematic Strategy on the Prevention and Recycling of Waste is June 2005. These two strategies together with certain elements of the other five thematic strategies will form the basis of the Commission's future work programmes.

So far as public interface with the unit is concerned there will be limited opportunity over the next few months. There will be the meeting on 11 March of European organisations to discuss issues on the revision to the Waste Framework Directive. After that, because there will be both the strategies and their associated extended impact assessments to be produced, the unit will be focussing full time on writing all the documentation required for a successful outcome.
During this year the unit are tackling the review of four directives: the Waste Framework Directive, the Waste Oil Directive, the Hazardous Waste Directive and the Titanium Dioxide Directive. This is more than they expect to include in future years and periodic review of extant directives will be a feature of all future work programmes.

With the revision to the Hazardous Waste Directive the intention is to integrate as much of it as possible into the Waste Framework Directive (WFD) and to leave only those elements that are specific to the extra environmental protection required for hazardous waste in the newly revised daughter directive. In response to a question on whether the European Waste Catalogue would be abandoned or reviewed, the Commission stated that because the waste list had only been in place since the beginning of 2002 it was too soon to change it. To date, only two member states had sought its revision.

With the WFD, Klingbeil noted that when originally formulated in 1975 it had not been subject to an Extended Impact Assessment, now a requirement for all new proposals from the Commission. Therefore the unit found great difficulty in assessing the likely effects of proposed changes to the directive.

Klingbeil explained that the Commission's emphasis was shifting away from the micro-management of ever smaller waste streams to ensuring that there was an adequate framework for managing resources and waste. Even with a European Union of 15 states there had been too many instances of poor implementation of legislation, such as the Shipment of Waste Regulation and the Landfill Directive. With an EU of 25 states monitoring implementation of legislation will be even more difficult.

Therefore it is increasingly important to keep the European legislation to a minimum necessary for environmental protection and avoid any unwanted complexity.

With reference to the Recycling Strategy, Paul Speight stated that the next 10 years were already quite clearly mapped out with existing directives, for example the draft Batteries Directive is likely to complete its European legislative processes in 2006. Therefore it is unlikely that there would be dramatic changes as a result of the introduction of the strategy.

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