Environment ministers must reject EU plan to promote incineration

26 June 2007

Brussels, 26th June 2007 - Environmental NGOs today called on EU Environment Ministers to reject a plan to redefine waste incineration from 'disposal' to 'recovery', arguing that the redefinition would promote environmentally-damaging incineration and is, in any case, unnecessary.

Under current EU law, most incinerators are defined as disposal installations, and installations can only be defined as 'recovery' (a step up the waste hierarchy) if their 'primary purpose' is the generation of energy - i.e. if waste was not available they would buy in fuel. The Commission has proposed a new 'efficiency equation' to define recovery instead - but even the UK's Environment Agency has stated that they believe that this equation will not have any environmental benefits [1].

The Environment Council, which is set to decide its position on the revision of the Waste Framework Directive at its meeting on Thursday 28th in Luxembourg, is currently split on this issue, with a blocking minority opposing the redefinition [2]. The European Parliament deleted the redefinition formula in its first reading vote on February 13th 2007.

Dr Michael Warhurst, Waste & Resources Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said:
"EU governments should be focussing on promoting recycling and waste prevention, as these give real gains in climate and resource efficiency. Incineration is a climate problem, not a climate solution, and should be being phased out, not encouraged."

"This redefinition has no environmental benefits, it is happening because of problems with laws in a few Member States. These problems should be solved within those Member States, not by damaging our EU environment laws" said Doreen Fedrigo, EEB's Waste Policy Officer [see note 3 for examples].

"We are concerned about the increased health risks created by this potential promotion of incineration, and strongly believe it should be rejected," said Joan Marc Simon, Health Care Without Harm's Waste Policy Officer.

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Notes:
See also our briefing on the waste law review:
http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2007/FoEE-EEBWastebrief-Apr07.pdf

[1] "Response To The Consultation Paper By The Department For Environment Food And Rural Affairs And Welsh Assembly Government: Proposal For A Directive Of The European Parliament And The Council On Waste", Environment Agency, January 2007

[2] "WASTE DEBATE TO DOMINATE BUSY ENVIRONMENT COUNCIL EU countries still deadlocked over incineration status ahead of final environment ministerial under German presidency" ENDS Europe DAILY, Monday 25 June 2007. http://www.endseuropedaily.com/

[3] For example, in Germany the private sector cannot be involved in the disposal of municipal waste, but can be involved in the 'recovery' of this waste. In the UK, by contrast, the private sector is involved in both, and the UK Government's impact assessment predicts this redefinition will have little impact.