Azara Blog: EU parliament votes for binding waste targets

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Date published: 2007/02/13

The BBC says:

Members of the European Parliament have voted for binding targets to reduce the amount of waste produced in the EU.

The parliament said production of waste should be stabilised at 2008 levels by 2012, and scaled back by 2020.

MEPs also said 50% of municipal waste and 70% of industrial waste should be recycled by the same 2020 deadline.

Each EU citizen produces more than 500kg of waste per year, with recycling rates varying from below 10% to above 50% in some countries.

Member states are expected to fight the parliament's proposals, but MEPs say the vote at least allows an important debate to begin.

"We are going to work very hard to sell it to the member states," said British MEP Caroline Jackson, who is guiding the legislation through the parliament.

"This is what our voters expect - they expect to be told not to produce so much waste."

The vote came as MEPs gave a first reading to a revised version of the EU's Waste Framework Directive, first adopted in 1975.

The European Commission, which put forward the revised directive in 2005, does not favour binding limits on waste production.

MEPs also modified the commission's proposal to allow incineration of waste to be classified as "recovery" rather than "disposal" when the incinerator is an efficient source of energy.

They accepted the principle that incineration could count as recovery, but did not define how energy-efficient the process needed to be in order to qualify.
Opponents of incineration say that it wastes materials that can be re-used, and creates greenhouse gases.

Advocates say it would apply to materials that cannot be recycled, would result in the consumption of less fossil fuel, and prevent waste going to landfill sites where it produces methane - a very powerful greenhouse gas.
If, as expected, governments reject binding waste prevention and recycling targets, the two sides will attempt to reach a compromise in a process known as conciliation.

Caroline Jackson said the recycling targets might be "unrealistic" but they provided something to aim at.

However, she said there were signals that the member states may accept another amendment introduced by the parliament, proposing a five-stage waste hierarchy.

This ranks waste treatment in the following order, from best to worst:

Caroline Jackson said this did not impose firm obligations on member states, but would establish a "general rule or guiding principle" which could shape the next 50 years of waste management.

The European Parliament is mainly a talking shop for the comfortable middle class who have little real-life experience (except how to fill out expense claim forms), who like to control freak over the rest of society (witness the hilarious claim that EU citizens are just dying "to be told not to produce so much waste"), and indeed who themselves create far, far more waste than your average EU citizen. So nobody needs patronising lectures from them.

On the other hand, the current EU waste directives focus totally on the recycling percentage, implying that it doesn't matter how much waste you create, as long as you "recycle" enough of it (i.e. hand it over to the State in tidy parcels so that they can industrially process it). This is nonsensical for various reasons. So addressing this stupidity makes sense.

But what faith can you have in the MEP do-gooders? Especially when the lead person on this issue admits that "the recycling targets might be 'unrealistic'". And a ten-year old could have listed the "five-stage waste hierarchy", we don't need overpaid and underachieving MEPs to spell out the obvious. And if the baseline is 2008, they are just saying that EU citizens should create as much waste as possible in 2008 in order to be able to more easily hit the later targets. And do these targets take account of population change, economic growth, etc.?

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