EU is one step closer to the circular economy

We owe it to our citizens to come up with ambitious and strong waste management legislation, says Piernicola Pedicini.

Piernicola Pedicini | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Piernicola Pedicini

Piernicola Pedicini (IT, NA) is a shadow rapporteur for Parliament’s Reduction of the Impact of Certain Plastic Products on the Environment report

25 Jan 2017

The discussions on the Commission proposal on the revision of the waste legislation are currently ongoing and I hope that Parliament's final position will be challenging and ambitious. We owe it to our citizens to protect their health and the environment in which they live.

Poor waste management can seriously damage the environment and human health. In Italy, we have, unfortunately, examples of mafia and corruption linked to waste management in areas where people's health has been permanently affected by bad waste management practices.

I am referring to an area, in the Campania region, in the south of Italy, known as 'the land of fires', where decades of illegal dumping and burning of toxic waste have resulted high rates of cancerous tumours and leukaemia, especially in children. A recent study, published by the Italian health institute, clearly showed this link.


When addressing waste management and planning a circular economy society, we cannot ignore these realities, the result of corruption and bad implementation of EU legislation.

It is therefore paramount to push member states for timely and correct implementation of the EU legislation and for the Commission to closely monitor the compliance of national law with the relevant EU law. The large amount of reasoned opinions by the Commission and European Court of Justice cases reflect important shortcomings in the implementation of EU waste legislation.

Nevertheless, within the Union there are also excellent examples of waste prevention and reduction programmes, as well as good waste management systems. The EU should ensure that countries that are succeeding inspire other countries that are lagging behind, through the exchange of best practices and twinning programmes.

The revision of waste legislation is a key instrument to improve waste management in the EU and to move towards a circular economy.

If we want to go in the direction of a closed loop society, we should ask member states to promote measures at the top of the waste hierarchy, namely prevention, reuse and recycling.

I strongly believe that waste prevention begins with the elimination of environmentally harmful subsidies, including those to fossil fuels and to incineration plants, as well as through eco-design and the fight against planned obsolescence.

Extended producer responsibility schemes can be a key instrument to stimulate the production of resource-efficient products.

Producers must take responsibility for the management of their products when they become waste. Managers should take on waste management costs - these should not be borne entirely by municipalities and, ultimately, citizens.

Products should be reusable, easy to repair and recyclable. In addition, the presence of hazardous materials in products should be addressed in view of substituting such materials with safer alternatives.

Reuse networks should be incentivised and supported with manuals and the necessary information to repair products and make them available again on the market. We advocate in this direction for separate targets on the preparation for reuse and for more ambitious recycling targets, compared to the ones proposed by the Commission. 

To guarantee high quality recycling, a good separate collection of waste must be put in place. It is unacceptable that, for instance, bio waste is still not separately collected in some areas. 

There is enormous potential in terms of nutrients in bio waste, which can be used to enrich the soil through composting and in areas where desertification is a real threat to the soil. We cannot loose such important resources.

Local and home composting are the right way to manage bio waste. In this regard, we have called for a food waste hierarchy, with waste prevention and reduction at the top, followed by edible food rescue (giving priority to human consumption over animal feed), local composting (over centralised composting), anaerobic digestion and at the bottom of the hierarchy, mechanical biological treatment.

Specific measures should also urgently be taken to reduce food waste at all stages, not just at retailer and consumer level but also regarding primary production, manufacturing and distribution.

In a good waste management system there is no room for incineration. This practice, with its emissions, is a threat to people's health and should be phased out and opposed.

For this reason we advocate for the phasing out of incineration plants. This practice is not compatible with the circular economy as, in an incineration process, resources from waste are lost instead of being recovered.

I am confident that, together with the rapporteur and the other shadow rapporteurs, we will adopt an ambitious report by a large majority. I am also confident that the Council understands the importance of this proposal and I hope that it will maintain the same level of ambition.


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