Environment: a new medals table for waste management

Published on Wednesday, 08 August 2012 11:20
Posted by Scott Buckler

A new report on how Member States manage their municipal waste shows startling differences across the EU

The report grades the 27 Member States against 18 criteria, using green, orange and red flags in areas such as total waste recycled, pricing of waste disposal, and infringements of European legislation. The resulting scoreboard forms part of an on-going study that will help Member States improve their waste management performance. Top of the table are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden, none of which have more than 2 red flags. But the pattern is reversed at the other end of the scale, where green flags are scarce.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "The picture that emerges from this exercise confirms my strong concerns. Many Member States are still landfilling huge amounts of municipal waste – the worst waste management option – despite better alternatives, and despite structural funds being available to finance better options. Valuable resources are being buried, potential economic benefits are being lost, jobs in the waste management sector are not being created, and human health and the environment suffer. This is hard to defend in our present economic circumstances."

The Member States with the largest implementation gaps are Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. Failings include poor or non-existent waste prevention policies, a lack of incentives to divert waste from landfills, and inadequate waste infrastructure. Heavy reliance on landfilling means that better waste management options such as re-use and recycling are consistently underexploited. The outlook is accordingly poor.

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden by contrast have comprehensive waste collection systems and landfill less than 5 % of their waste. They have well developed recycling systems, sufficient treatment capacity, and they perform well with biodegradable waste. Typically, they blend legal, administrative and economic instruments to good effect in their waste management policies.

A number of Member States have made rapid progress from reliance on landfilling to its virtual elimination. But even the best performers face a number of challenges such as stepping up waste prevention and addressing overcapacity in the incineration sector, which may hamper recycling and require imports of waste to feed incinerators.

Source: ©Europa

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