European Commission Plans to Propose Waste Management Improvements in 2012

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BRUSSELS--The European Commission Jan. 19 said it would make proposals in 2012 to “consolidate” EU waste management legislation and to address a widening gap between countries with effective waste management systems and their less successful counterparts.

The proposals could include “a proactive verification procedure combined with an early warning system on compliance with key EU targets,” policies to develop markets for waste materials, and better inspection systems to prevent the illegal export of waste, the Commission said.

EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said there is a division in Europe between “those who see waste as a problem and those who see it as a resource,” with the former still mainly incinerating and landfilling waste, while the latter “have understood its inherent value [and] are sorting it and treating it properly.”

Lagging countries should implement current waste legislation more rigorously, the Commission said. In particular, “only a small number” of countries met an end of 2010 deadline to transpose a key EU law, the Waste Framework Directive (), into their national legislative codes.

Commission spokeswoman Monica Westerén told think and code that a European waste agency could also form part of the Commission’s plans.

The Commission is “assessing the feasibility of having one,” and studies of the idea have shown that an EU agency could be “the most effective way forward for carrying out the recommendations concerning enforcement, training, guidance, [and] support for the updating of EU waste legislation,” she said.

Progress Report.

The Commission’s statements were prompted by a , published Jan. 19, on the progress of EU waste policy since 2005. The report showed some successes, such as improved recycling rates, but also some shortcomings, such as a failure to curb increasing waste generation.

EU waste volumes will increase by 7 percent through 2020 “without additional waste prevention policies,” the report said.

The report showed wide divergences between the waste management policies of EU countries. In some, such as Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, “landfilling has virtually disappeared,” and recycling and composting rates have reached 60 percent or more, while in countries such as Bulgaria, Malta, and Romania, nearly all waste is landfilled.

Municipal waste production in the European Union has stabilized at about 524 kilograms (1,155 pounds) per person per year, compared to about 750 kg (1,653 lb.) in the United States, and about 400 kg (882 lb.) in Japan, the report said.

The total amount of waste generated by EU countries in 2008 was 2.6 billion metric tons, of which 46 percent was recycled or composted, 48.5 percent was landfilled or disposed of in some other way, and 5.5 percent was incinerated, according to the report.

By Stephen Gardner

The EU progress report on the prevention and recycling of waste and the accompanying Commission working document are available at .

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