Environment Committee takes first steps to sort waste directive

Pressmeddelande   •   Nov 29, 2006 09:42 CET

The Environment Committee gave its backing to the principle of a "hierarchy of waste" - which ranks waste treatment solutions by their environmental impact - when it voted on Tuesday on the draft revision of the framework directive and the thematic strategy on waste proposed by the Commission. MEPs also called for various clarifications, including a clear distinction between waste and useable by-products.

Around 500kg of waste is produced per person per year in Europe. The amount is increasing faster than GDP and less than a third of it is recycled. In September 2005, the European Commission proposed an overhaul of the 1975 directive, largely in order to lay down rules on recycling and to require Member States to draw up binding national programmes for cutting waste production.

At its vote on Tuesday, under first reading of the co-decision procedure, the Environment Committee adopted nearly 140 amendments to the Commission text (of the 600 or so tabled). Among them were 14 compromise amendments negotiated by rapporteur Caroline Jackson (EPP-ED, UK), which were all approved by a large majority. "There are a number of problems with this directive because it is so wide-ranging (…). We absolutely must clarify it to avoid constantly having to go to the Court of Justice", she said.

Five-stage waste hierarchy to stay

The Environment Committee regards the new approach suggested by the Commission, based on the "life-cycle" of a product, as too theoretical. It prefers to stick "as a general rule" to the current policy of a waste hierarchy, which ranks treatments in five categories, from the most to the least environmentally-sound: 1. prevention, 2. re-use, 3. recycling, 4. other recovery operations, 5. disposal. It says Member States should be allowed to depart from this hierarchy "when life-cycle assessments and cost-benefit analyses indicate clearly that an alternative treatment option shows a better record".

Waste and by-products to be distinguished better

MEPs also want to clarify the distinction between waste and by-products which can still be used industrially such as glass, metal or compost. They want the Commission to issue "interpretative guidelines on the basis of existing jurisprudence" and to propose if appropriate "criteria for determining case by case" when such materials or substances cannot be regarded as waste. If appropriate the Commission should also propose environmental criteria to be met by each category of waste which could be used as a secondary product, material or substance, two years after entry into force of the directive. Five years after enty into force it should also, if appropriate, state what specifications should apply to compost, aggregates, paper, glass, metal, end-of-life tyres and second-hand clothing.

Binding targets

MEPs are calling for total waste production to be stabilised by 2012 (compared to the 2008 position). The Commission is asked to propose indicators by 2008 for assessing progress made by Member States and to formulate by 2010 a product eco-design policy as well as targets for waste reduction.

Member States' duties

The Environment Committee also wishes to simplify the requirements for national waste management programmes, to make them less bureaucratic and more compatible with the subsidiarity principle. MEPs say the requirement for the Member States to ensure that "all waste undergoes recovery operations" should apply "where practicable". National authorities must also do whatever is needed to ensure that the collection, production and transportation of hazardous waste, as well as its storage and treatment, are carried out in conditions providing optimum protection for the environment, and to ensure that mineral waste oils are collected separately. And all hazardous waste treatment installations must have a permit.

Thematic strategy

In addition, in an own-initiative report drafted by Johannes Blokland (IND/DEM, NL), MEPs approved a package of recommendations to the Commission's thematic strategy. These seek to ensure that, in waste policy, the Commission's use of comitology (implementing decisions taken by committees of experts) is restricted to technical and scientific matters, and to underline the importance of the five-stage waste hierarchy. MEPs also call on the Commission to put forward various legislative proposals (on practical measures for waste prevention, new indicators, specific directives on biodegradable waste, construction and demolition waste and sewage sludge, and a revision of the directive on storing waste).

Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety
Chair : Karl-Heinz Florenz (EPP-ED, DE)
Plenary vote on the two reports: February 2007

Ref.: 20061127IPR00318
Hélène Cuisinier
Press Service
Telefonnummer : +32 (0)2 283 26 92
E-postadress :
Mobilnummer : +32 (0)4 98 98 32 82