European Parliament Demands Tougher Waste Management

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – Waste management is one of the most important and consumer-salient frontiers of the quest for a more sustainable society. The European Commission (EC) argues that “food and textiles are the first and the fourth most resource-intensive sectors respectively”.

    However, according to a 2023 report by the EU’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), the bloc is estimated to have produced a total of 12.6 million tonnes of textile waste in 2019. “Clothing and footwear waste amounted to 5.2 million tonnes, equivalent to 12kg per person per year in the EU,” the EC warns. The issue is particularly relevant in Sweden where H&M has been accused of inadequate recycling practices several times. Similar estimates also suggest that the EU produces 58.4 million tonnes of waste annually, equivalent to 131kg per person or 10% all food supplied in retail, food services and households.

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    The EP Vote

    The 2008 Waste Framework Directive (WFD) has guided recycling and waste management in the EU for the last fifteen years. To address short-comings in the existing WFD and to account for the changes in approach and priorities of the EU over the last two decades, the EC proposed an amendment to this directive in July 2023. Last week, the European Parliament (EP) has overwhelmingly adopted a common position to negotiate the amendment with the Council. MEPs adopted their first reading position on the proposed revision of the WFD with 514 votes in favour, 20 against and 91 abstentions.

    “Parliament has come up with targeted solutions to reduce food waste, such as promoting ‘ugly’ fruits and veggies, keeping an eye on unfair market practices, clarifying date labelling and donating unsold-but-consumable food. For textiles, we also want to include non-household products, carpets and mattresses, as well as sales via online platforms,” said rapporteur Anna Zalewska (a member of the EP from Poland sitting with the rightwing European Conservatives and Reformist (ECR) group).

    Toughening the EC’s Proposal

    The EP proposes an increase in binding waste reduction targets of at least 20% in food processing and manufacturing (up from the 10% proposed by the EC) and 40% per capita in retail, restaurants, food services and households (instead of the 30% proposed by the EC) which should be met at national level by 31 December 2030. The EP also asked the EC whether these targets should be increased to at least 30% and 50% respectively by 2035.

    On the textile front, MEPs also agree to extend producer responsibility schemes, through which producers selling textiles in the EU would have to cover the costs for collecting, sorting and recycling them separately. The EP also accelerates the deadline for member states to establish these schemes from the 30 months (proposed by the EC) after entry into force of the directive 18 months.

    Next Steps

    Normally, the vote by the EP would be followed by the proposal being given similar attention by the Council. However, the amendment to the WFD is not expected to be adopted by the EU before the EP elections due to take place at the start of June. According to the EP press release on this occasion, “the file will be followed up by the new Parliament after the 6-9 June European elections.”

    Image courtesy of Pete Linforth from Pixabay
    Filipe Albuquerque
    Filipe Albuquerque
    Filipe is an economist with 8 years of experience in macroeconomic and financial analysis for the Economist Intelligence Unit, the UN World Institute for Development Economic Research, the Stockholm School of Economics and the School of Oriental and African Studies. Filipe holds a MSc in European Political Economy from the LSE and a MSc in Economics from the University of London, where he currently is a PhD candidate.
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