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Waste prevention challenges EU ministers

Waste prevention is a major test for the EU, Irish Environment Minister Martin Cullen said after chairing an informal EU environment council meeting last week.

The goal of decoupling waste growth from economic growth remains an unrelenting challenge and the road ahead insofar as this is concerned is still a long one.

He added that there was an emerging view that waste prevention plans could be potentially useful but that the issue of targets required further consideration.

A materials-based approach was also discussed but the general consensus was not to throw the baby out with the bath water. We need strategies that will work across 25 member states. While the materials-based approach presents opportunities for further progress, it will be important to maintain a balanced co-existence between the existing individual waste stream policy and the materials-based approach, and to ensure that complexities are avoided, Cullen said.

Common standards for recycling had a role in establishing a level playing field that would allow the market to flourish and help optimise recycling rates, member states agreed.

Using economic instruments to encourage recycling and waste prevention were also discussed. Cullen said: On pay-as-you-throw schemes, we seem to be in agreement that if these are to be applied they should be developed at the regional/local level when local circumstances can best be taken into account in order to ensure that any negative impacts are avoided.

Cullen said the informal deliberations would be important in helping develop formal conclusions on the Thematic Strategy Communication for the June council. Ireland has the EU presidency until June 30.

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