Headlines: June 18th, 2008

MEPs have adopted new EU rules designed to tackle the 1.8 billion tonnes of waste generated each year in Europe.The vote followed a series of negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. The text now passes to the Council of Ministers, which is expected to confirm the vote at its next meeting.

The new legislation set a target of 50 per cent re-use or recycling by 2020 of waste materials such as paper, metal or glass from households and a target of 70 per cent re-use or recycling for non-hazardous construction and demolition waste, also by 2020. There is also an obligation on EU Member States to set up waste management plans and waste prevention programmes and to create national legal frameworks for a five-category hierarchy for dealing with waste embracing prevention, re-use, recycling, recovery and safe and environmentally-sound disposal.

A majority of MEPs also backed a definition of incineration as a ’recovery’ operation, provided it meets certain energy efficiency standards, but the issue remains contentious. It was argued that incineration cannot be viewed as a waste management option on a par with recycling and reuse because it will just attract further investment into incinerators and directly undermine the waste hierarchy.

There is some concern that manufacturing and industrial waste, which have a huge potential for reuse and recycling, have been left out altogether.