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Waste management: Which way for the circular way?

Workshop hashtag: #EndWasteSTOA


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Written by Nera Kuljanic with Sarah McCormack,

On 15 June 2016, the EP Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel, represented by its First Vice Chair Eva Kaili (S&D, EL), will host a workshop to discuss waste management in the EU. It will bring together policy-makers, experts from the academia, industry representatives and NGOs to assess the practices in place and options for going forward.

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In Europe 600 million tonnes of waste materials are lost every year. The sheer scale of this waste cries out to be tackled. To make sure the EU capitalises on this potential, the European Commission (EC) has adopted a proposal on Circular Economy in December 2015. With this approach, Europe should move away from the current ‘take-make-use-throw away’ practice to a closed loop of products’ lifecycles by encouraging recirculation of materials and products. For a comprehensive overview of the Circular Economy package check this EPRS briefing.

The purpose of the STOA workshop is to examine the five themes in view of realising the targets set by the Circular Economy package for the year 2030: recycling 65% of the EU municipal waste and 75% of the EU packaging waste, and reducing landfill practices to a maximum of 10% of municipal waste.

The theme ‘volume versus value’ will be considered based on the perspectives from the construction and bio-waste sectors. Initiatives focused on increased recycling and diverting waste from landfills can result in setting up large centralised facilities processing mixed waste streams. The issue with this is that it can potentially impact the quality of the resulting secondary materials and in turn their ‘value’. So, what do best practices look like, from a valorisation perspective? Experts from the Belgian Building Research Institute (BBRI) and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) will speak about this.

The EU 28 Member States sent over 1.1 billion tonnes of waste for landfill disposal in 2012, equating to 48% of the total waste generated and well above the 2030 target of 10%. Mineral and solidified waste accounts for 88% of the total waste landfilled (almost 1 billion tonne). What environmental policies, sector or material specific targets or market interventions are required to divert mineral and solidified waste from landfill? A representative from the European Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services (FEAD) will address this topic.

Technologies for recovering energy from waste could hinder efforts to reach the 65% recycling target for municipal solid waste (MSW). Technologies such as incineration and waste-to-energy are widely used in some Member States, but this means less waste is recycled or re-used. How can Circular Economy initiatives and Member State and EU energy strategies work hand in hand? Some clues will be given in a presentation by the expert from the Technical University of Denmark.

How waste is collected has a substantial impact on recycling rates: up to 80% of material is recycled when segregated collection systems are used in comparison to less than 25% when the waste is collected mixed. Collection methods vary across the EU28. Should segregated collections be enforced through policy interventions? Representative from Municipal Waste Europe will speak about this.

Last but not least: the best waste management strategy is to avoid waste in the first place. Easier said than done, not only because waste prevention requires behavioural change which is more challenging to implement than technological change. Significant prevention could be realised concerning MSW due to its high level of variability, waste from electrical and electronic equipment, which is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the EU, and food waste. For example, France has recently passed a law which forbids supermarkets from throwing away unsold food, and instead they must donate it to charities and food banks. How can waste prevention be given greater priority? A representative from Zero Waste Europe will examine this topic.

Interested? Click here to register for the workshop before 9 June and have your voice heard during the debate.

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