Luxembourg, 31 January 2013
“The effectiveness of EU funding for municipal waste management infrastructures was limited due to the poor implementation of supporting measures” – say EU Auditors
In 2010, it was calculated that the average EU citizen generates approximately 500 kg of municipal waste annually, which if not collected, treated and disposed of properly, can cause negative environmental impacts. However, proper waste management can lead to an improvement in the use of resources, because treated municipal waste can also be a source of raw materials. As a result, the EU has introduced common standards and targets in the form of directives for the management of municipal waste and co-finances waste management infrastructures in specific regions. EU contribution to waste management infrastructures is significant: structural measures earmarked amounts represented 10.8 billion € during the 2000-2013 period.
EU Auditors found that the effectiveness of EU structural measures funding for municipal waste management infrastructures was limited. Only the performance of projects relying on an appropriate separate collection at the source was satisfactory. Regions that implemented supporting measures (such as the running of information and awareness campaigns, the redesigning of administrative procedures or the putting in place of financial incentives or disincentives), including economic instruments, achieved EU waste policy objectives. EU funding spent in other regions lead to only minor improvements in the management of waste. The implementation of these supporting measures was not a condition for receiving an EU grant.
The Court noted significant weaknesses regarding the reporting of achievement of EU targets, making it difficult for the Commission to monitor performance. Although in almost all the regions selected, some improvements in the management of waste were observed, per capita waste generation increased in six of the eight regions. Only one quarter of the regions significantly increased the separate collection rate, resulting in a reduction on the reliance on landfilling, and generally met EU targets. Waste was generally landfilled without any pre-treatment or following a deficient one.
“Europeans are consuming more, and producing more waste. The EU Waste Directive requires that Member States treat and dispose of waste without risk to water, air and soil and without causing noise or odour problems,”, said Ovidiu Ispir, the ECA member responsible for the report, “As you can see from our report, this is just not being done”.
Notes to the editors:
European Court of Auditors (ECA) special reports are published throughout the year, presenting the results of selected audits of specific EU budgetary areas or management topics.
This special report (SR 20/2012) entitled “Is Structural measures funding for municipal waste management infrastructure projects effective in helping Member States achieve EU waste policy objectives?” directly assessed the performance of 26 sampled waste management infrastructures and reviewed the achievement of EU waste policy objectives as well as the implementation of supporting measures in eight regions where the infrastructures were located. The role of the Commission was also examined.
The Court’s audit focused on EU co-financing of municipal waste management infrastructures and examined whether the funding was effective in helping Member States achieve EU waste policy objectives.
The Court concluded that, although in almost all the regions selected some improvements in the management of waste were observed, the effectiveness of structural measures funding for municipal waste management infrastructures was hampered by the poor implementation of supporting measures: (a) The performance of the co-financed infrastructures was highly dependent upon waste collection strategies. Concerning landfills, waste was deposited without adequate treatment and in general insufficient financial amounts were put aside to cover closure and after-care costs; (b) The reporting on the achievement of EU targets was hampered by the reliability of data, making monitoring by the Commission difficult. Although in almost all regions some improvements in waste management were observed, per capita waste generation increased in six of the eight regions audited. In the two regions which contributed to the achievement of EU targets, biodegradable waste was collected separately and landfill taxes more widely implemented resulting in a reduction of the reliance on landfilling. Waste was generally landfilled without adequate treatment; (c) The effectiveness of EU funding was not maximised due to the weak implementation of supporting information, administrative and economic measures. The implementation of these supporting measures was not a condition for receiving an EU grant. Weaknesses were also noted in EU waste regulatory framework and EU guidelines.
The Court recommends that (a) Member States should focus on waste management infrastructures treating waste previously segregated at source; (b) Member States should set up reliable and complete waste management databases and the Commission should test the reliability of the statistics received from the Member States. The Commission, the Parliament and the Council should consider linking EU financial support to the achievement of EU waste policy objectives. (c) Member States should pay greater attention to public participation and adherence, focus on separate collection, including biodegradable waste when cost effective, and impose landfill taxes to encourage waste prevention and recycling ; reduced rates of assistance should be applied when the “polluter pays principle” is not applied. (d) The Commission should make the EU contribution subject to the implementation of supporting measures, propose waste prevention targets, and clarify the concept of treatment before disposal
The Commission should request the implementation of these recommendations from the Member
States before granting EU financial support.
Press Officer European Court of Auditors
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