The Committee of the Regions (CoR) has laid out ambitious EU waste targets yesterday highlighting the important contribution waste management plays in creating a resource-efficient more competitive Europe. In a full show of force, Europe's cities and regions called for all its recommendations to be taken on-board by the European Commission who is expected to release its proposals on the issue next year, The opinion, presented by Michel Lebrun (BE/EPP), Member of the Parliament of the French-speaking Community, argues that to achieve success targets must reflect the differing levels of progress and resources available between Member States and local authorities.
With waste management being one of the largest challenges facing Europe's local and regional authorities, the Committee was asked to prepare its position on EU waste targets ahead of the Commission's communication expected to be published in 2014. Mr Lebrun, who had his report on the EU waste targets endorsed by an overwhelming majority, during the CoR's July plenary, pointed out that, “Each year the European Union throws away 3bn tons of waste – 6 tons solid waste per person per year. It's not just harmful for the environment but has a direct impact on human health. As we are still in an economic crisis, it is essential to ensure that all policies support economic development. Waste management is a priority that can support competition with the number one goal of decoupling waste production from economic growth".
On request from the European Commission, the CoR's opinion entitled "The review of the European Union's Key Waste Targets", argues that EU targets must consider the reasons for non-compliance with objectives being proportionate to account for the differing levels of services, infrastructure and financial investment in waste management between local authorities. Mr. Lebrun said "I hope that the forthcoming directive on waste enables the most advanced countries to move towards a zero waste society and encourages others to make progress allowing them to catch up".The Committee calls for the standardisation of measuring and defining of waste across the EU which will allow clear comparisons to be made between Member States and EU regions, enabling progress to be assessed and to ensure consistency. Individually designed agreements should also be drawn-up with each Member State and local authority with EU subsidies for waste management only made available after the submission of plans. Mr Lebrun's opinion also sets out clear EU targets in waste management and proposes:
reducing 2010 levels of waste by 10 % by 2020;
exploring options to raise the recycling of solid municipal waste target to 70 % by 2025;
ensuring 100 % of all waste is subject to selective sorting by 2020;
exploring options to raise targets for recycling plastics to 70 % and for glass, metal, paper, cardboard and wood to 80 %;
prohibiting the use of biodegradable waste for landfill by 2020;
banning the incineration of recyclable and biowaste by 2020, excluding plants which achieve efficiency through heat-only generation, Combined Heat and Power taking account of the physico-chemical characteristics of the waste.
To support local and regional authorities, medium-term and intermediate targets should be set. An emphasis on the "polluter pays principle" would reduce the burden on often over-stretched local governments and improved co-operation could help optimise infrastructure and resources. In this regard, the Committee proposes creating a European information platform that supports this process that would enable the exchange of information and development of best practise across the EU.
The Committee of the Regions
The Committee of the Regions is the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives from all 28 Member States. Its mission is to involve regional and local authorities and the communities they represent in the EU's decision-making process and to inform them about EU policies. The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council are obliged to consult the Committee in policy areas affecting regions and cities. It can appeal to the EU Court of Justice if its rights are infringed or it believes that an EU law infringes the subsidiarity principle or fails to respect regional or local powers.
CoR website: www.cor.europa.eu
Follow us on Twitter: @EU_CoR