Making the case for an EU law on biowaste
9 February 2011, ENDS Europe
As a consultation on biowaste recycling targets has just come to a close, a member of environmental group CEE Bankwatch Network in Croatia says that a biowaste directive is the only way to implement the EU waste hierarchy in eastern countries.
Many policymakers seem to think that the Waste Framework Directive (WFD) and the 1999 landfill directive are sufficient to implement EU waste goals. But the behaviour of some countries, particularly in eastern Europe, points to the contrary.
As good as these two pieces of legislation are, without a specific law to clarify the biowaste regime, perverse effects are created, as Central Eastern European (CEE) countries rush to meet targets set out in the landfill directive. The WFD is a recycling booster for countries where landfill targets are already met, but not for CEE countries which currently lag behind in waste management practices.
While the landfill directive has led to more recycling measures in some member states, it has also made others (again, especially in CEE) to plan on increasing incineration and treatment rates in order to reduce landfill volumes.
In Poland alone, eleven new incinerator projects are in the pipeline, using up most EU funds available for waste management initiatives in the country. The planned incinerators are unpopular with the public, and they create fewer new jobs than cheaper recycling measures would, and do not help address over-consumption.
Another issue arises from the practice of relying on energy recovery from organic waste to meet renewable energy targets set out in the EU’s 2020 strategy. When mixed waste is burnt in incineration facilities, such as waste-to-energy plants and cement kilns, it not only creates low-efficiency electricity, but also toxic gases and ash.
The WFD sets out a goal of recycling 50% of European waste (including household waste) by 2050. It also establishes a waste hierarchy, the fact that preference should be given to waste prevention, then reuse, recycling and recovery, with disposal as the last resort. Last month, the European Commission said infrastructure projects funded through the cohesion policy to fully adhere to this hierarchy.
The only way to make sure that these EU objectives and requirements, as well as to avoid perverse effects such as the increased use of incineration in eastern European countries, is be to adopt a biowaste directive with binding recycling targets.
Without such targets, member states will continue to resort to incinerators and existing disposal facilities, neglecting more sustainable and profitable waste management options in the long-term. This is particularly important in the case of CEE countries, which currently completely ignore the EU’s waste hierarchy and lag behind other member states in terms of waste law implementation.
Institution: EU Funds