Although waste management continues to improve in the EU, the EU's economy currently loses a significant amount of potential secondary raw material which are found in waste streams. In 2011, total waste production in the EU amounted to approximately 2.5 billion tons. From this total only 40% were recycled, with the rest being landfilled or burnt of which around 600 million tons could be recycled or reused. The EU thus misses out on significant opportunities to improve resource efficiency and create a more circular economy, create growth and jobs, take cost-effective measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce its dependency on imported raw materials.
The proposal's main goal is to make sure that valuable material embedded in waste is effectively re-used, recycled and re-injected into the European economy in order to help make progress towards a so-called circular economy where waste is more and more used as resource and new jobs are created. More than 180.000 direct jobs could result from this by 2030 and the reinjection of secondary raw materials into the economy could reduce the dependency on raw materials imports.
The EU Commissioner for Environment, Janez Potočnik, proposed a directive addressing the management of different kinds of wastes. It tries to streamline the existing laws by aligning definitions, removing unnecessary legal requirements and simplifying reporting obligations. Furthermore, the proposal sets new targets for recyling and waste collection: Member States have to prevent food waste generation along the whole food supply chain. These measures shall ensure that food waste in most relevant sectors is reduced by at least 30% between 1 January 2017 and 31 December 2025. Furthermore, Member States have to make sure that bio-waste is collected seperatel by 2025 and that the recycling target for municipal waste is increaed to 50% in 2020 and to 70% by 2030. Finally, the proposal introduces an early warning system to check if Member States actually comply with the recycling targets.
The legislative proposal was transferred to the European Parliament, where it was discussed in the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. However, in December 2014 the European Commission published its Work Programme for 2015 and announced to withdraw the legislative proposal on waste management. It was replaced by a new, more ambitious proposal to promote circular economy by the end of 2015.
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