Agreement has been reached in Strasbourg by Euro-MPs to set new waste recycling targets, with tough penalties for non-compliance. By 2020 50% of household rubbish and 70% of construction and demolition waste must be recycled – with mechanisms to penalize governments through court action when the targets are not enforced. The new standard is, for some, a clear statement of the ongoing progressive, environmental mindedness emerging from the European centre. For others it is a compromise; it is too weak a solution that will not change the fundamentals of consumerism and problems surrounding waste management that persist with modern lifestyles.
The Waste Framework Directive increases recycling levels, requires the preparation of national programmes for waste management, international partnerships and more stringent measures for waste incineration. The author of the waste report, conservative MEP Caroline Jackson suggested that:
“this is the best deal available. Anyone who thinks that we could get anything better would be deceiving themselves.”
Furthermore, the conception of waste as an opportunity emerges within the agreement:
“This deal marks a shift in thinking about waste from an unwanted burden to a valued resource and helps to make Europe a recycling society, said European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.”
Entry into the Waste Framework Directive places an obligation on governments to meet new standards; it sets a level of waste management to be complied to. However, localised implementation measures will be required to monitor the programme, so as to avoid mismanagement because of lower targets and any increase in malpractices, such as fly-tipping, waste mixing and illegal dumping.
This initiative is an important step towards integrated management and improving waste practices, but also, by creating a standard the risk emerges that this is as good as it will get. The bottom line becomes the goal, being the double-edge sword of prescriptive governance. But with that said, momentum towards the improvement of waste management should be viewed positively and it is hoped that revolutions in waste management continue to evolve.
More information about the agreement can be read on: