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Europe's cities and regions set out ambitious targets on waste
Cllr Kay Twitchen OBE

The Committee of the Regions (CoR) has laid out ambitious targets on EU waste highlighting the important contribution waste management plays in creating a resource-efficient, more competitive Europe. In a full show of force, Europe's cities and regions called for all its recommendations to be taken on-board by the European Commission who is expected to release its proposals on the issue next year.

With waste management being one of the largest challenges facing Europe's local and regional authorities, the Committee was asked to prepare its position on EU waste targets ahead of the European Commission's communication expected to be published in 2014. Rapporteur for the CoR opinion, Mr Michael Lebrun (BE/EPP), had his report on EU waste targets endorsed by an overwhelming majority during the CoR's July plenary. He pointed out that, “Each year the European Union throws away 3bn tons of waste – 6 tons of solid waste per person per year. It's not just harmful for the environment but has a direct impact on human health. As we are still in an economic crisis, it is essential to ensure that all policies support economic development. Waste management is a priority that can support competition with the number one goal of decoupling waste production from economic growth".

Councillor Kay Twitchen OBE (UK/ECR) called for a realistic approach to the EU key waste targets. She welcomed the report on behalf of the ECR Group and underlined the need to ensure the feasibility of recommendations and the need to avoid over-regulation. Cllr. Twitchen underlined that the report made some important policy recommendations. However, she warned against recommendations undermining the principle of subsidiarity and introducing unnecessary bureaucracy. She said: "We need to respect the principle of subsidiarity and avoid recommendations that would lead to unnecessary bureaucracy. Give us the standards to meet and let us meet them."

The ECR Group does not support a standardised Europe-wide levy on each tone of waste that is landfilled and underlined the need to respect the principle of subsidiarity. The Group also does not support the call for industrial waste recycling targets, which it argues would be unfeasible in cases where industrial and commercial waste do not fall within the remits of local and regional authorities.

In light of the adoption of Mr Lebrun’s report Councillor Linda Gillham (UK/EA), who has been nominated rapporteur on an opinion on plastic waste to be debated later in the year, commented on the importance of EU waste and took the opportunity to reiterate the need for effective waste management.  Cllr Gillham, member of the UK's Runnymede Borough Council, said, "Too often we regard plastic as "rubbish" and forget it originated as a valuable resource as oil and passed through a complex procedure to become a useful material. We must change opinion to recognise its real value and prevent bags and other items being discarded as litter. Plastic can and should be recycled and reused in the EU. By doing this we can not only keep this valuable natural resource here but also provide jobs creating a circular economy".

Read more about the CoR’s opinion: "The review of the European Union's Key Waste Targets"