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Economic and Social Policies, PUBLICATIONS

Putting its money where its mouth is: reducing waste at the EP

Written by Gregor Erbach

One third of food produced globally may be wasted – at a time when many don’t have enough to eat. We can all play a part in reducing this waste, and its role as co-legislator, the European Parliament has had a great influence on waste-related legislation in Europe. It is therefore unsurprising that the Parliament itself pays great attention to reducing waste in its daily operations. To make sure that environmental issues, such as waste, are tackled in a systematic and effective manner, Parliament uses EMAS, the European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme. The Parliament’s current EMAS Action Plan contains two specific targets related to waste:

EMAS* reduce per-capita office and catering waste by 5% from 2012 to 2016

* recycle 68% of office and catering waste by 2016

We are proud to report that the waste reduction target was already over-achieved in 2013 with an 8.3% reduction compared to 2012, according to the EP’s environmental statement. However, more effort will be needed to achieve the waste recycling target: 60% of the waste was recycled in 2013, compared to 46% in 2008.

Whilst households are actually the major producers of food waste, catering services also have their part to play. The EP’s restaurants for Members and staff are no exception, and are working to reduce food waste, in line with the EP’s 2012 resolution on avoiding food wastage, which calls for halving food waste by 2025. Regular information campaigns by the EP’s catering services raise awareness of the food waste issue. In addition, food is now paid by weight, thus encouraging staff to only take as much as they can actually eat. Their objective is to reduce the waste of healthy, edible food by approximately 20% by the end of 2014. Any food that is left-over and no longer edible goes to treatment facilities where the energy contained in the food is recovered by turning it into biogas or biodiesel.

A good example for waste reduction at the source is Parliament’s printshop. After realising that a lot of printed paper was wasted because demand was over-estimated, the printshop started working with its users to estimate demand-level more accurately. It also began to print smaller initial quantities, and produce more copies ‘on demand’ if and when they are needed. These measures have resulted in paper savings of 6 to 8% per year. Further reductions in paper use should result from replacing paper with electronic documents.

And of course all EP services and staff make a contribution, by sorting their waste in the facilities provided and avoiding unnecessary packaging.

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