EU's fight against waste

The waste will be prevented!

As part of the support of the transition to a circular economy, the European Parliament and EU Council have adopted a fundamental legislative package (only waiting for the formal execution), which gives priority to the prevention of packaging waste.

EU's fight against waste
EU's fight against waste
EU's fight against waste

The European Parliament and EU Council have added the prevention of packaging waste and reuse of deposit-return packaging to the original bill of the European Commission as the first priority. In the new legislation, binding for all EU Member States, the prevention of packaging waste is the most efficient way of improving the reuse of resources and reducing the waste impact on the environment. EU Member States take measures and actions to encourage the increase in the share of reusable packaging placed on the market and the reuse of packaging. These measures may include the introduction or expansion of deposit-return schemes and other incentives, such as the setting of quantitative targets at the national level, the inclusion of reuse in in achieving the recycling targets and differentiated financial support for reusable packaging within the existing systems of extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging. The Member States should adopt effective measures to encourage the acceptance of reusable packaging and to cut down the consumption of non-recyclable packaging and any excessive packaging.   

The solutions chosen shall not compromise food hygiene and safety or put the consumer at risk in any other way. Likewise, they should not compromise the quality and authenticity of packaged products and should ensure the appropriate protection of intellectual property rights. The measures should further make it possible to achieve a 30% decrease in food waste by 2025 and 50% by 2030 (in conformity with the UN objectives for sustainable development, SDGs).

Deposit-return schemes shall have an open character with the engagement of economic entities in the branches involved and under the participation of public administration authorities. Likewise, they shall include imported products under non-discriminating terms and conditions.

The foregoing is essential for putting into practice the widely accepted Waste Hierarchy, which gives preference to the prevention of packaging waste and reuse over recycling and disposal. Land deposits and incineration without any reuse of the energy are at the bottom of this hierarchy. The cut-down of land depositing is one of the main goals of the entire legislative package. By 2035, land deposits should be used for 10% of municipal waste as maximum.

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The Czech Republic should start preparing a draft of its deposit-return packaging circulation scheme as soon as possible. Such scheme should be as much flexible as possible, so that more and more types of packaging can be added in the future. Moreover, the scheme must be simple with the deposit set in an appropriate amount to motivate people to return the packaging, but at the same time to eliminate cheating. We can take Estonia as an example of a country with a functioning deposit-return system. Other activities should focus on the motivation to cut down the use of non-reusable packaging and excessive packaging in B2B environment, mainly in food, where non-reusable packaging prevails.

The Czech Republic will need to report to the European Commission until the end of 2024 about how it manages to cut down non-reusable packaging. In the event that the Member States are not able to reduce non-reusable packaging effectively the European institutions will consider putting in place mandatory targets for reusable packaging.

According to the Euroactiv server, the leading environmental organisation European Environmental Bureau (EEB) commended Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria for their efforts during the three-year process of preparation. On the other hand, some countries including the Czech Republic were criticised for their attempts to cut down the mandatory targets. 

More: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/summary.do?id=1530977&t=e&l=en

Bio-Marek Havrda

Economist and sociologist by training (Charles University, Warwick Business School, Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown University). Marek is on a long-term personal leave from the European Commission, where he contributed to the Impact Assessment of new legislation and to the use of behavioural economics for policy formulation. Previously, he worked in think-tanks and private sector (with multinational innovation leaders in telecom and material industries). After returning to the Czech Republic in 2012, he has been working on various behavioural science inspired projects, in particular neopas.com, a start-up connecting behavioural sciences and information technology. Since 2016 he has been supporting GoodAI, a private R&D company focusing on development of Artificial General Intelligence and AI applications.  He has also served as Advisor to the Czech Ministry of Education and Ministry of Finance and as a member of the Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) Board he advises the Czech Government on potential impacts of draft legislation.

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