Environment Ministers water down EU waste policy

29 June 2007

Incineration promoted; Targets to recycle more and waste less avoided

Brussels, 29th June 2007 - Environmental NGOs today condemned the results of yesterday's Environment Council vote as a serious climb-down on more than 30 years of European waste policy. Ministers promoted incineration and missed the opportunity to modernise waste policy so that it increases Europe's resource efficiency and reduces its climate impacts.

The Ministers voted for a 5-step waste hierarchy, which should prioritise prevention, reuse and recycling ahead of energy recovery and landfill. But the Council also voted to reclassify municipal waste incineration as 'recovery' rather than 'disposal', pushing it further up the waste hierarchy and giving it a 'cleaner' image. Furthermore, they did not even attempt to reach agreement on the recycling and prevention targets proposed by the European Parliament in its First Reading, resulting in policy that does not back up the waste hierarchy and promotes more waste incineration.

Despite "diametrically opposing" [1] views on the issue of reclassification of incineration as 'recovery', Member States were able to come to an agreement due to concessions increasing Member States' ability to limit incoming and outgoing shipments of waste. In the view of environmental NGOs this reclassification is counter-productive and unnecessary, and is mainly driven by problems within a few Member States that should be dealt with within those Member States.

Doreen Fedrigo, EEB's Waste Policy Officer, said: "Overall, the Council Common Position reflects a demand by Member States to have more autonomy, including on whether waste will be allowed into their country, and on how to implement the waste hierarchy. This decentralisation of decision- making threatens to fragment further an already fragmented policy area. It is a dangerous development away from a unified EU waste management policy approach."

"The Environment Council has postponed discussion of the vital recycling and prevention targets - supported by Parliament in February - and has instead focussed on fiddling with the bottom of the waste hierarchy. This is deeply disappointing when the EU should be providing leadership on resource efficiency and reducing climate impacts," said Dr Michael Warhurst, Waste & Resources Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe.

"The Council decision on reclassification is short-sighted; it doesn't address the strategic challenge of waste management in Europe in the mid- to-long run. We call on the European Parliament to bring back the European approach and vision to the Directive during Second Reading," said Joan Marc Simon, Health Care Without Harm's Waste Policy Officer.



See also our briefing on the waste law review:

[1] As described by German Environment Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, at a press briefing yesterday afternoon.