moving towards recycling society but progress needed
The European Commission published a report
on member states’ performance in the prevention and recycling
of waste. This shows that some member states have made excellent
progress, but that they are still some way from achieving the
long-term goal of becoming a recycling society – one that not
only avoids producing waste but also uses it as a resource.
The report shows that in most member states, overall waste generation
seems to be increasing (or at best stabilizing) but at a lower
rate than economic growth. Over the last 10 years municipal waste
generation has stabilized at around 524 kg per year per person,
although household consumption has increased by around 16 percent
during the same period. More could be done, therefore, to reduce
the absolute generation of waste. For example, 25 percent of
food bought by EU households is thrown away. Some 60 percent
of this waste could be avoided.
There are huge differences between member states. Recycling rates
vary from a few percent up to 70 percent. In some member states
landfilling has virtually disappeared, in others more than 90
percent of waste is still buried. This shows a significant margin
for progress beyond the current targets.
Waste still represents about 20 percent of all environmental
infringement cases. As recent events in Hungary and Italy have
shown, full implementation of waste legislation is vital to protect
the environment and human health.
The new Waste Framework Directive, which should have been transposed
by December 2010, has still not passed into national law in many
EU countries. Member states had a transitional period of two
years to put the necessary measures in place to comply with the
new directive. However, only a small number have so far informed
the Commission of the transposition of the legislation. The commission
is monitoring the situation closely and, if necessary, will take
action against those failing to implement the directive.
The directive modernizes the waste policy around the concept
of life cycle thinking. The directive introduces a binding waste
hierarchy defining the order of priority for treating waste.
Top of the list is waste prevention, followed by re-use, recycling
and other recovery operations, with disposal such as landfill
used only as the last resort. The directive obliges member states
to modernize their waste management plans and to set up waste
prevention programs by 2013. They must also recycle 50 percent
of their municipal waste and 70 percent of construction and demolition
waste by 2020.
The commission will continue to monitor the implementation and
enforcement of waste legislation at national level, including
the requirements of the new Waste Framework Directive. But it
will also seek to develop support for member states in designing
appropriate strategies and policies upstream. To further consolidate
its waste policies, the commission will make further proposals
in 2012 including setting out the concrete steps it will take
in order to move closer towards an EU resource-efficient recycling