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Commission helps Member States to get on track with sustainable waste management

19.03.13 | News

Every year, each European citizen generates over 500 kilos of municipal waste, more than one third of which goes directly to landfill. Whereas some Member States manage to put those resources to productive use, recycling or composting around 60% of their municipal waste, others struggle to manage it. Today Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik is participating in a high level seminar in Brussels to help Member States that are lagging behind in sustainable waste management practices. The aim is to help optimise their waste policies through tailored Roadmaps with practical recommendations, focusing on the effective implementation of EU waste legislation. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia were present at the seminar. In parallel, the European Environment Agency (EEA) published an in-depth analysis of the past decade's achievements in municipal waste management policies in the EU.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "Many Member States still rely too heavily on landfilling and this is not in line with our efforts to achieve a more resource efficient Europe. Burying our waste is a huge loss of precious materials and a lost opportunity to create more jobs, economic growth and reduce the impacts of waste on human health. In the present economic circumstances we need to find ways to improve waste management, and use it as a trigger to create employment while easing the pressure on natural resources."

Although significant progress has been achieved across the EU as regards waste management and implementation of the waste legislation, further improvements are needed in most, if not all, Member States.

The Roadmaps emphasise the need to use economic instruments to improve municipal waste management, such as landfill and incineration taxes and bans, producer responsibility schemes, and incentives to promote waste prevention, reuse and recycling (e.g. "pay as you throw" systems). Improved monitoring and statistics, intensifying separate collection, better governance, updating waste management strategies, and measures to increase public participation are other recommendations in the Roadmaps.

They also note that future investments in waste management should prioritise prevention, reuse, recycling and composting – the preferred options in the waste hierarchy set out in the Waste Framework Directive. This recommendation echoes the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020, where new ex-ante conditions in the context of EU structural funds stipulate that projects to be financed should be consistent with the waste hierarchy and should help Member States meet legally binding EU targets, such as the 50 % recycling target for municipal waste.