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UK ranks eighth in EU waste management report
While the UK is in the middle of an historic medal tally at the London Olympics, a new EU ‘medals table’ has ranked the nation eighth in Europe for its waste management practices.
The new ‘Screening Report’, published by the European Commission today (8 August), has graded the 27 EU member states against 18 waste management criteria, and ranked them by score. The report assigns a green (2 points), orange (1 point) or red (0 points) flag to each nation in each category, indicating the best to worst grades, respectively.
Categories of criteria include total waste recycled, pricing of waste disposal and infringements of European legislation. The results are part of an on-going study to help member states improve their waste management performance, and form a roadmap to help the ten worst performing member states to improve their practices.
At the top of the rankings table are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, with the UK just behind in eighth position. All of these countries have at least 10 green flags and no more than two red flags.
The UK was awarded only one red flag for failing to have a ban or sufficient restrictions on the disposal of municipal waste into landfills. It was rewarded yellow flags on practices including: decoupling of waste from consumption; amount of municipal waste recovered; total typical charge for the disposal of municipal waste in a landfill; existence of pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) systems for municipal waste; quality of projection of municipal waste generation and treatment; compliance of existing landfills for non-hazardous waste; and the rate of biodegradable waste going to landfills.
At the bottom of the medal table are Cyprus, Romania, Lithuania, Malta, Bulgaria and Greece, all of whom have between 11 and 16 red flags and no more than four green flags. These lowest scoring nations show consistent weaknesses in the amount of municipal waste recycled and recovered, and have been penalized for the amount of municipal waste disposed and lack of restrictions for the disposal of waste into landfills and PAYT systems for municipal waste.
"The picture that emerges from this exercise confirms my strong concerns”, said Janez Potocnik, the EU’s Environment Commissioner.
“Many Member States are still landfilling huge amounts of municipal waste – the worst waste management option – despite better alternatives, and despite structural funds being available to finance better options. Valuable resources are being buried, potential economic benefits are being lost, jobs in the waste management sector are not being created, and human health and the environment suffer. This is hard to defend in our present economic circumstances."
The report identifies shared weaknesses among even the highest scoring nations, which include improvement in waste prevention and addressing overcapacity in the incineration sector.
In order to implement recommended changes, the European Commission will develop tailored roadmaps for the 10 lowest scoring nations, which will be discussed at bilateral seminars beginning in September.
The Commission also plans to change the procedures surrounding EU structural funds in order to better promote the objectives of EU waste policy. The proposed Multiannual Finance Framework 2014-2020 will stipulate conditions which must be met by a nation (including development of a Waste Management Plan), prior to receiving funding.
The European Commission estimates that full implementation of EU waste legislation could result in savings of €72 billion (£56.7 billion) per year, increase the annual turnover of the EU waste management and recycling sector by €42 billion (£33 billion), and create more than 400,000 jobs by 2020.
The full ‘Screening Report’ can be found on the European Commission’s website.
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