The EU must do a better job of using and recycling resources for the sake of its future economic growth and the environment, according to MEPs voting in the Environment Committee on Wednesday. Cutting waste landfilling and incineration and smart use of environmental taxation are among the committee's suggestions to improve resource efficiency and boost the EU's competitiveness.

"Europe is addicted to cheap resources and rising prices are the biggest threat to our industry. Instead of paying record prices for resources we should recycle and recover our valuable waste," said rapporteur Gerban-Jan Gerbrandy (ALDE, NL) after his non-binding report was adopted with 48 votes in favour, 3 against and 5 abstentions.


"Improving resource efficiency is a golden opportunity and we simply cannot afford to take twenty years for the transformation towards a sustainable economy. Competitive global markets and the spectacular rise of emerging economies do not give us this much time," added Mr Gerbrandy, who will lead the Parliament delegation at the UN Rio+20 sustainable development summit in June.


Landfills and incineration


The report calls for a gradual phase-out of landfill of waste and calls on the Commission to make proposals to that effect by the end of 2014. The committee notes the success of some Member States' use of landfill taxation.


The Commission should also revise the 2020 recycling targets set in the Waste Framework Directive and ensure, by the end of the decade, that there is no incineration of waste that could be recycled or composted, according to MEPs.


The EU stands to gain from better designed products, say MEPs, who call on the Commission to propose an update to the eco-design directive to include non-energy related products and to demand better durability, recyclability and reparability of goods.


Taxation and subsidies


The report urges Member States to shift towards environmental taxation, which MEPs say should allow cuts in other taxes, such as those on labour. Incentives, such as reduced VAT on certain secondary materials, could also help to correct market failures and promote innovation.


MEPs also call on the Commission and Member States to come forward with plans to eliminate environmentally-harmful subsides by 2020, echoing previous Parliament resolutions. "As well as harming the environment, these subsidies also hamper innovation," says Mr Gerbrandy.


The public sector can play a further part by tightening rules on "green public procurement", say MEPs, who call on the Commission to look into applying such environmentally-friendly conditions on EU-funded projects.


Resource efficiency plans


To expand improvements in resource use, the committee calls on the Commission to create task forces to develop European Resource Efficiency Action Plans in the areas of food and drink, housing, and mobility.


The report is due to be put to a vote in Parliament's 21-24 May plenary session.


In the chair: Matthias Groote (S&D, DE)