Commission waste package needs attainable goals for member states

Parliament was finally able to move forward on circular economy proposals, but it's important that not all member states are in the same boat, writes Kateřina Konečná.

By Katerina Konecná

25 Jun 2015

This month, parliament's environment, public health and food safety committee voted on our Finnish colleague Sirpa Pietikäinen's report on resource efficiency: towards a circular economy. I am very pleased that we have managed to move forward on the topic, after the commission's rash withdrawal of the original waste package. 

This may only be a non-binding resolution, but with a vast majority of 56 votes to five, with five abstentions, the committee has given the commission a clear sign that it demands a well-developed and meaningful proposal.

I am glad that I could participate in shaping the document as shadow rapporteur, because for many years, I was involved in preparation of waste legislation in the Czech national parliament. The topic is complex and treacherous, and the saying that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" rings true. It's very difficult to balance regulation at European level, because there are huge differences across the EU. 


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The Nordic states - where our rapporteur comes from - have a system that is completely different from what is in place in the south. 

There also notable differences between eastern and western European systems, therefore all of the shadow rapporteurs approached the negotiations with a completely different outlook. 

Personally, I believe the new package is all about balancing three closely linked recommendations.

The first is to set up a legally binding waste reduction target by 2025, with a mandatory margin of waste reduction of 30 per cent. 

During the discussions among the shadow rapporteurs, an even more ambitious and radical proposal to increase this limit to 40 per cent was suggested. In my opinion, the debate shouldn't be about outbidding other MEPs by proposing the highest number and becoming the most environmentally friendly deputy. Instead, we should discuss whether that target is realistic and if member states would be able to reach it. 

Therefore, I expect the commission's new waste package to also include a quality analysis, focused on what goal would be attainable. There's nothing worse than a directive setting values which member states then bypass, or for countries to creatively adapt these numbers. This makes a mockery of us all.

The second - and in my eyes, most important - recommendation concerns so-called ecodesign. Only by amending the directive can we ensure that producers are obliged to make goods that are reusable, renewable and repairable. 

In recent years, manufacturers have gotten used to selling relatively expensive products that barely survive their warranty period, then break beyond repair and must be discarded. 

This trend must be reversed. It might be understandable for something to have a shorter shelf life in the field of electronics - computers and mobiles, for example - where there is rapid technological development, but elsewhere, this is unacceptable. 

A product having to be thrown away just because of a small broken lever is not only environmentally unfriendly - it's also annoying for consumers.

The third topic I find important is waste to energy, which is certainly a controversial topic. We must realise that waste management is very different in each member state. 

There are countries where over 50 per cent of waste is combusted, which is definitely too high. But in others, especially in the east, waste is hardly used at all for the production of energy. 

Instead, these countries bury their waste in the ground. Therefore, it makes sense to build several incineration plants in these areas. In the next few decades, we won't be able to recycle all waste, so there's no reason to stop using incineration as a means to produce heat and electricity.

I hope the commission will respect our recommendations. I hope the package comes with high quality analyses, and that based on these analyses, we are able to decide on and adopt a directive that will enable us to make better use of resources and reduce unnecessary waste, without having to hold out for pie in the sky.

 

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