For immediate release
“Embracing a comprehensive European waste policy”
Brussels, 19th June 2012: “The need to recycle is not a fad but responds to a real resource problem in Europe, as well as to the global problem of climate change. Intelligent recycling is one of the solutions to reducing our carbon footprint and the ecological impact of our consumption trends,” said MEP Gaston Franco, Member of the ENVI and ITRE Committees of the European Parliament and co-chair of the EP Intergroup on “Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development.”
This meeting took place as the European Parliament Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) services organised the EU Sustainable Energy Week, promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency throughout Europe and providing examples of good waste management.
Diana Oancea, Policy Officer in charge of Waste Management in DG Environment, said that the European Commission’s middle-term objective is to turn waste into a resource. The Packaging Waste Directive was the first EU directive directly dealing with the management of specific waste streams through recycling and recovery schemes, she argued; yet, further incentives are needed for Member States to improve their recycling rates. “There are also significant differences in the ways packaging waste is managed in different Member States; more ambitious objectives and further guidance on implementation will be needed in the future,” advocated Ms. Oancea.
Maarten Labberton, Director of the Packaging Group of the European Aluminium Association (EAA), promoted the contribution of small packaging items to sustainability: “Statements claiming that non-renewable materials are gone once used are false in the case of metal, which is an infinitely recyclable material,” he argued. However, national collection systems should be more consistent in their sorting instructions towards consumers and should promote the use of innovative sorting techniques such as Eddy Currents. Christophe Boussemart, Sustainable Development Project Manager at Nespresso, presented the case of coffee capsules that are often land filled because of stringent and confusing legislation that gives an opening for national Green Dots to refuse recycling this highly recyclable material. Indeed, Nespresso capsules are not accepted in the packaging collection bins in most EU Member States, which has led the company to invest in its own collection points and to finance a parallel system of recycling. Yet, “the recycling rates are low because it demands a
lot of effort from the consumer,” he deplored. “Instead, this money could be invested to improve packaging sorting centers to sort and recycle metals,” he argued.
The Green Dot System in Germany (DSD) was pioneer in promoting extended producer responsibility for packaging and in finding sorting and recycling solutions. Industry and retailers in Germany took on the full responsibility for packaging compliance and provided a comfortable recycling infrastructure for consumers. Also, a ban was put on land filling of untreated waste in 2005. Mr. Santiago Vila Danès, Engineer and Manager at Ambiensys, said that operational alternative technologies currently exist to transform waste into organic raw material to be re-used in the industry, or into biomass and ethanol, to produce energy. “We must do anything to avoid land fill and today we have the means to avoid it," he said.
“Recycling is about resource management,” argued Ms. Giulia Carbone, Deputy Head of the Global Business and Biodiversity Programme at IUCN; “It is about making sure that resources become valued by the consumers who see it as precious materials that can be brought back into the production cycle.” This message was echoed by Marc Teyssier d’Orfeuil, Managing Director of the Light Steel and Aluminium Packaging Club (CELAA), who underlined the fact that the main actors in the entire recycling cycle are the consumers who will decide to recycle or not. Yet, he argued, all efforts should be made to recycle material out of steel and aluminium to avoid it being land filled or incinerated. “The European Commission must encourage Member States to recycle more and should not be restrictive in the definition of packaging waste to include in the long run related wrappers,” he concluded.
All presentations have shown that it is possible and desirable for both economical and ecological reasons to recycle small packaging waste and metals, in many cases infinitely recyclable and re-usable materials. All speakers called for a relaxation of the European legislation to include more materials in the collection of packaging waste in order to improve European and national recycling rates.
The meeting was organised by the Secretariat of the European Parliament Intergroup “Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development,” run jointly by the European Bureau for Conservation and Development (EBCD) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).