In a vote on 13 February, the European Parliament gave an overwhelming backing to proposed waste legislation supported by its Environment Committee in November last year (EurActiv 29/11/06). The main provisions of the reports include:
- The introduction of a five-step waste 'hierarchy' that gives priority to prevention, reuse and recycling over landfills;
- EU waste-prevention targets to stabilise waste production by 2012 to the level produced in 2008, and for waste production to start declining from 2020, and;
- a rejection of the Commission's proposal to reclassify incineration from "disposal" to "recovery" for energy production.
The Parliament also introduced targets for reuse and recycling. By 2020, 50% of municipal solid waste and 70% of waste from construction, demolition, industry and manufacturing must be re-used or recycled. In principle any waste must, wherever possible, at least be recovered.
At present, large difference exist among member states' recycling rates. While some recycle up to 65% of wate, others recycle only 10% and send the rest to landfill.
The Commission's original proposal had called for a three-step hierarchical system that did not prioritise between reuse, recycling and recovery. Packaging groups favoured this option as it was seen to be more flexible and avoid potentially costly impact studies justifying one form of packaging over another.
However, MEPs have voted in favour of the five-step hierarchy, which lays down the order of preference for waste options, while giving manufactures the option to submit lifecycle assessment reports and cost-to-benefit analyses if an alternative treatment option is better. Rapporteur Caroline Jackson had experessed concerns that: "For a country such as Ireland, which came to this late, there are worries that they could move straight to incineration, without doing anything to promote recycling, with the three-stage hierarchy."
Finally, the Commission was also called upon to propose a Directive on Biowaste by 2008.