Woman putting banana peel in recycling bio bin in the kitchen. ©AP Images/European Union-EP        
44% of all municipal waste in the EU is recycled or composted ©AP Images/European Union-EP 

Parliament’s environment committee votes on Tuesday 24 January to amend a European Commission proposal on waste management, the so-called waste package, which is a priority for the EU for this year. In previous resolutions Parliament has called for more ambitious targets. This vote is the first step towards entering negotiations with the Commission and Council.

According to statistics from 2014, 44% of all municipal waste in the EU is recycled or composted. This compares to just 31% in 2004, and by 2020 member states should be recycling or composting over 50% of waste.


This still leaves a lot to be either landfilled or incinerated however, and this week the environment committee votes on a legislative package with more ambitious EU targets for 2030.


The new proposals aim to manage rubbish in a more efficient and effective manner. It is the first step towards a circular economy, where most if not all products and materials are recycled or re-used again and again (through repairing, refurbishing and recycling).


Better management of waste would benefit the environment, public health and even the economy as waste can be a source of income. For instance, if 95% of mobile phones were collected for re-use, savings on material costs of more than €1 billion per year could be generated.


The package includes four separate directives on waste, landfills, packaging and vehicle, battery and electronic equipment recycling.


Municipal waste


Mainly generated by households, municipal waste represents around 10% of the total waste generated in Europe. Between 2004 and 2014, the total municipal waste generated in the EU declined by 3% in absolute terms. However, there has been no uniform trend across countries. Whereas Denmark substantially increased the quantity of municipal waste per capita, other member states like Spain, decreased it considerably.


Landfills


Currently in the EU the landfilling of untreated waste is banned and as of 2016 the share of biodegradable municipal waste ending up in landfills is limited to less than 35% of 1995 levels. However most EU countries are behind the current targets and 16 member states have obtained derogations.


In 2014 countries including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden sent virtually no municipal waste to landfill, while others such as Cyprus, Croatia, Greece, Latvia and Malta still landfill more than three quarters of their municipal waste. The Commission is proposing to limit landfill waste to 10% of overall waste by 2030.


Packaging


Materials used for packaging in the EU include paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, wood and metal. Plastic and wooden packaging hold the lowest share of recycling, although there are wide variations in recycling rates across the member states.


The proposed legislation also includes proper recycling of end-of-life vehicles, batteries (only 40% of which were recycled in 2013) and e-waste.