The best features in recycling
Making waste a resource in the EU
According to the European Commission (EC), some member states are successfully recycling 70 per cent of their waste and burying very little while others are still sending over 70 per cent to landfill. A new report, ‘Use of Economic Instruments and Waste Management Performances’, out this week explains that it’s those countries using a mix of economic instruments that are managing to turn waste into a resource.
The EC report suggests that a mix of landfilling and incineration taxes and bans, producer responsibility schemes and pay-as-you-throw prove to be the most effective tools in shifting waste streams to more sustainable paths. The report goes on to imply that if the EU is to meet the objectives set out in the Resource Efficiency Roadmap – zero landfilling, maximising recycling and reuse, and limiting energy recovery to non-recyclable waste – these economic instruments will need to be introduced more widely across all member states.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said: "Waste is too valuable to just throw away, and if you manage it right you can put that value back into the economy. Six member states now combine virtually zero landfilling and high recycling rates. Not only do they exploit the value of the waste, they have created thriving industries and many jobs in the process. This report shows how they achieved it: by making prevention, reuse and recycling more economically attractive through a selection of economic instruments. We now have a common responsibility with the member states and local authorities to ensure that these instruments are effectively used and spread across the EU. This is one of the central goals of the Resource Efficiency Roadmap."
The UK has successfully reduced the amount of municipal waste going to landfill over the last decade: between 2002 and 2009, the UK cut the amount of waste going to landfill from 464 kilogrammes (kg) per capita to 259 kg. However, it remains well behind Europe's best performers in avoiding the use of landfill. A report by Eurostat on 27 March revealed that Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Sweden and The Netherlands all landfilled less than three per cent of their municipal waste in 2010, while the UK proportion remained at around 48 per cent. It aims to reduce this to 10 per cent by 2020 and five per cent by 2025. Nine member states – Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Greece and Malta – still send more than 75 per cent of waste to landfill. France sends 31 per cent, Italy 51 per cent and Spain 58 per cent.
This week’s report shows that a combination of the following instruments is the best way to improve waste management:
- Landfill and incineration taxes and/or bans – the results of the study are unequivocal: landfilling and incineration rates have decreased in countries where bans or taxes have driven up costs for landfilling and incineration.
- ‘Pay-as-you-throw’ schemes have proved very efficient in preventing waste generation and encouraging citizens to participate in separate waste collection.
- Producer responsibility schemes have allowed several member states to gather and redistribute the funds necessary to improve separate collection and recycling. But cost-efficiency and transparency vary greatly between member states and between waste streams, so these schemes need careful planning and monitoring.
Meanwhile the Commission is encouraging member states to implement existing waste legislation more effectively, noting that waste management and recycling industries in the EU had a turnover of €145 billion in 2008, representing around two million jobs. An EC report earlier in the year suggested that compliance with EU waste policy could create an additional extra 400,000 jobs within the EU and an extra annual turnover of €42 billion.
The report and detailed results for each member state can be found here: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/use.htm
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