The EU has an ambiguous policy when it comes to Zero Waste; on one hand it promotes recycling and separate collection and on the other hand it rewards energy generation from burning waste more than it rewards energy savings from prevention. In a former post we have highlighted these contradictions of EU’s waste policies. But the Resource Efficiency Roadmap published on the 20th September 2011 hints new ambitions for the EU to move towards a Zero Waste Europe.
The roadmap has a strong push towards “residual waste close to zero” -although there is no definition of residual waste at EU level- and it underlines that “incineration with energy recovery should be limited to non recyclable materials, landfilling is virtually eliminated and high recycling is ensured”. A portion of the text reads:
“Milestone: By 2020, waste is managed as a resource. Waste generated per capita is in absolute decline. Recycling and re-use of waste are economically attractive options for public and private actors due to widespread separate collection and the development of functional markets for secondary raw materials. More materials, including materials having a significant impact on the environment and critical raw materials, are recycled. Waste legislation is fully implemented. Illegal shipments of waste have been eradicated. Energy recovery is limited to non recyclable materials, landfilling is virtually eliminated and high quality recycling is ensured.
The Commission will: …
• Review existing prevention, re-use, recycling, recovery and landfill diversion targets to move towards an economy based on re-use and recycling, with residual waste close to zero (in 2014);
• Ensure that public funding from the EU budget gives priority to activities higher up the waste hierarchy as defined in the Waste Framework Directive (e.g. priority to recycling plants over waste disposal) (in 2012/2013);”
As explained in a previous post recycling is not enough and we need to move towards a Zero Waste economy, i.e. we have to reduce our resource use whilst making sure everything produced is recyclable and recycled. The EU is now starting to do the shift from being a Recycling Society to a Zero Waste Society. However, right now the Resource Efficiency Roadmap are just a pile of inspiring statements and visions, that need to be put into action. In order to do so lots of policy changes -such as increasing recycling targets or mandating separate collection of organics- will have to take place and it is then when we’ll see how serious we are about a Zero Waste future.