Waste & Recycling


Waste Initiatives in the EU

It's interesting for a change to look at waste in Europe, to compare and contrast with Canada. Statistics from the European Environment Agency indicate that 1.3 billion tonnes of waste is discarded ea...

It’s interesting for a change to look at waste in Europe, to compare and contrast with Canada. Statistics from the European Environment Agency indicate that 1.3 billion tonnes of waste is discarded each year in the EU. This equates to about 3.5 tonnes of solid waste for every person. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), between 1990 and 1995, the amount of waste generated in Europe increased by 10 per cent and it’s estimated that, by 2020, there could be 45 per cent more waste generated than in 1995.

The EU’s Sixth Action Programme identified waste prevention and management as one of the top four priorities. The EU approach is based on three principles: waste prevention; recycling and reuse; and improving final disposal and monitoring of waste. Waste prevention is a key factor in any waste management strategy, and the EU views improved manufacturing methods and influencing consumers to demand greener products and less packaging as the means for making progress on waste prevention.

In terms of recycling and reuse, the European Commission is directing its efforts to specific waste streams, including packaging waste, end-of-life vehicles, batteries, and electrical and electronic waste. The EU Directive requires that member states introduce legislation on collection, reuse, recycling and disposal of these waste streams, and several EU countries are already recycling over 50 per cent of packaging waste. In terms of waste that cannot be recycled or reused, the EU approach is that such materials should be incinerated, with landfills being used only as a last resort. This contrasts with the Canadian approach, in which incineration is more controversial.

Packaging and packaging waste

European Parliament and Council Directive 94/62/EC deals with packaging and packaging waste. The Directive requires that member states take measures, which may include national programmes, to prevent the generation of packaging waste and to develop packaging reuse systems.

Member states are required to introduce systems for the return and/ or collection of used packaging in order to achieve specified objectives. By December 31, 2008, at least 60 per cent by weight of packaging waste must be recovered or incinerated at waste incineration plants with energy recovery, and between 55 and 80 per cent by weight of packaging waste must be recycled. By December 31, 2008, certain targets for materials contained in packaging waste are to be attained. These targets are 60 per cent by weight for glass, paper and board; 50 per cent by weight for metals; 22.5 per cent by weight for plastics; and 15 per cent by weight for wood.

There’s an exemption for Greece, Ireland and Portugal, which are not bound by the targets until 2011.

In order to ensure the availability of data on waste management, member states must ensure that databases on packaging and packaging waste are established on a harmonized basis. This is intended to permit monitoring of the achievement of the targets established under the Directive.

Waste oils

Directive 75/439/EEC applies to any mineral-based lubrication or industrial oils that have become unfit for their originally intended use. Member states must ensure that waste oils are collected and disposed of (by processing, destruction, storage or tipping above or underground) and must give priority to the processing of waste oils by regeneration.

The Directive bans the discharge of waste oils into inland surface water, ground water, territorial sea and drainage systems and any deposit and/or discharge of waste oils harmful to the soil and any uncontrolled discharge of residues resulting from the processing of waste oils. The Directive also bans any processing that causes air pollution which exceeds prescribed levels. Member states are to conduct information and promotional campaigns to ensure that waste oils are properly collected and stored.

Batteries and accumulators

Directive 2006/66/EC prohibits putting on the market certain batteries and accumulators containing mercury or cadmium content above a certain threshold. In addition, the Directive promotes increased collection and recycling of waste batteries and accumulators. The objective of the Directive is to decrease the amount of hazardous substances, namely, mercury, cadmium and lead that end up in the environment by reducing the use of these substances in batteries and accumulators, and by treating and re-using the amounts that are used.

The Directive prohibits batteries and accumulators from containing more than 0.0005 per cent by weight of mercury, and portable batteries and accumulators from containing more than 0.002 per cent cadmium content by weight (except for portable batteries and accumulators for use in emergency and alarm systems, medical equipment or cordless power tools).

In order to ensure that spent batteries and accumulators are recycled, member states must take whatever measures are needed (including economic instruments) to promote and maximize separate waste collection, and to prevent batteries and accumulators being discarded as unsorted municipal refuse. States must also make arrangements enabling end-users to discard spent batteries and accumulators at collection points and to have them taken back at no cost by the producers.

The Directive sets targets for collection rates of at least 25 per cent by September 26, 2012 and 45 per cent by September 26, 2016. Member States are also required to ensure that, by September 26, 2009, batteries and accumulators that have been collected are treated and recycled using the best available techniques and that recycling options exclude energy recovery.

Rosalind Cooper, LL. B., is a partner with Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, with offices across Canada. Ms. Cooper is based in Toronto, Ontario. Contact Rosalind at rcooper@tor.fasken.com

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