Brussels, 19 March 2013
Environment: Commission helps Member States to get on track with sustainable waste management
Every year, each European citizen generates over 500 kilos of municipal waste, more than one third of which goes directly to landfill. Whereas some Member States manage to put those resources to productive use, recycling or composting around 60% of their municipal waste, others struggle to manage it. Today Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik is participating in a high level seminar in Brussels to help Member States that are lagging behind in sustainable waste management practices. The aim is to help optimise their waste policies through tailored Roadmaps with practical recommendations, focusing on the effective implementation of EU waste legislation. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia were present at the seminar. In parallel, the European Environment Agency (EEA) published an in-depth analysis of the past decade's achievements in municipal waste management policies in the EU.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "Many Member States still rely too heavily on landfilling and this is not in line with our efforts to achieve a more resource efficient Europe. Burying our waste is a huge loss of precious materials and a lost opportunity to create more jobs, economic growth and reduce the impacts of waste on human health. In the present economic circumstances we need to find ways to improve waste management, and use it as a trigger to create employment while easing the pressure on natural resources."
Although significant progress has been achieved across the EU as regards waste management and implementation of the waste legislation, further improvements are needed in most, if not all, Member States.
The Roadmaps emphasise the need to use economic instruments to improve municipal waste management, such as landfill and incineration taxes and bans, producer responsibility schemes, and incentives to promote waste prevention, reuse and recycling (e.g. "pay as you throw" systems). Improved monitoring and statistics, intensifying separate collection, better governance, updating waste management strategies, and measures to increase public participation are other recommendations in the Roadmaps.
They also note that future investments in waste management should prioritise prevention, reuse, recycling and composting – the preferred options in the waste hierarchy set out in the Waste Framework Directive. This recommendation echoes the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020, where new ex-ante conditions in the context of EU structural funds stipulate that projects to be financed should be consistent with the waste hierarchy and should help Member States meet legally binding EU targets, such as the 50 % recycling target for municipal waste.
The Commission plans to hold additional seminars on municipal waste management in other Member States in co-operation with the European Environment Agency. National Waste Management Plans and Waste Prevention Programmes – to be finalised and submitted to the Commission by the Member States by December 2013 – will be analysed in depth.
A process to review key legally binding targets by the end of 2014 included in EU waste legislation has also started. The review may result in proposals to reinforce existing targets to boost resource efficiency.
In August 2012, the Commission issued a scoreboard grading Member States' performance in municipal waste management. The main challenges are over reliance on landfilling (up to 95 %), poor recycling rates (lower than 20 %) due to weak separate collection schemes and a lack of infrastructure, and insufficient incentives to promote waste prevention, re-use and recycling. Member States that perform best in these areas – Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden – have comprehensive waste collection systems, landfill less than 5 % of their waste, and make full use of economic instruments to stimulate effective waste management. However, there is room for improvements even in Member States where high incineration rates may be hampering the development of better waste management options like re-use and recycling.
The Waste Framework Directive sets up a waste management hierarchy, favouring prevention, reuse and recycling over incineration, with energy recovery, with landfilling or incineration without energy recovery as a last resort. A recent study prepared for the Commission estimates that full implementation of EU waste legislation would save EUR 72 billion a year, increase the annual turnover of the EU waste management and recycling sector by EUR 42 billion and create over 400 000 jobs by 2020.
This seminar is part of a broader compliance-promotion initiative. After issuing the scoreboard in August 2012, the Commission held bilateral seminars in the last quarter of 2012 to have a better understanding of the situation in each of the ten Member States and to draw up national roadmaps with specific options to improve waste management.
For more information:
Roadmaps for each Member State:
Press release of the European Environment Agency
Target Review process:
Eurostat Environmental Data Centre on Waste:
Commission website on waste management:
Press Release on Green Growth: IP/12/18