FoE urges EC to make resource efficiency central to policymaking
Environmental campaigning body Friends of the Earth Europe (FoE Europe) has released a new report calling on the European Commission (EC) to make resource efficiency central to policymaking.
‘Preventing Waste’ argues that EC policy needs to take the waste hierarchy into account when writing new policies to prevent waste of natural resources and make the economy more ‘circular’ by keeping resources in constant use, rather than using and disposing of them.
It claims that, at the moment, resource-efficiency policy has suffered from a ‘non-binding character’, leaving member states to decide whether or not to introduce the measures. As such, different interpretations and levels of ambition in member states have led to a ‘two-speed Europe’, with countries like Germany and Austria developing their own resource use agendas, while others fail to address the issue.
FoE Europe also highlights that the EC’s Circular Economy Package (which was withdrawn in December 2014 to make room for a ‘more ambitious’ proposal) could create more than 180,000 direct European jobs by 2030, avoid 62 million tonnes CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gases, and save €72 billion (£52 billion) a year. However, it argues that it is ‘absolutely vital that… the scrapping and re-tabling of the Circular Economy Package is not used to weaken and remove important aspects at the bidding of backward-looking business lobby groups – but contrary to the needs of progressive businesses, people and planet’.
The campaigning group goes on to state that when it comes to waste, the poor implementation of existing EU waste legislation is only part of the problem, as current policies ‘do not sufficiently focus efforts towards the top of the waste hierarchy’.
It adds that although there are already ‘proven solutions’ to prevent waste, such as repair cafes (for example, those run by the Restart Project) and pay-as-you-throw schemes, these are usually promoted by small, non-profit organisations.
As such, FoE Europe argues that more support from the EC could help extend the social, environmental and economic benefits of waste reduction.
The report reads: ‘Waste is an output of our socio-economic system. Even if we recycle 100 per cent of a particular material, the prevailing norm of high and growing consumption of goods in Europe means that demand for virgin resources as an input remains high…
‘Europe cannot face the challenges of a resource-constrained world unless waste legislation becomes part of a wider strategy to reduce resource use… communities dotted across Europe are starting to lead the much needed transformation. However, without changes to EU legislation these best practices can only remain marginal and localised activities.
‘By doing more to facilitate these kinds of sustainable and local initiatives, member states will see financial savings, job creation, less costly waste, and greater environmental protection.’
FoE Europe makes several policy recommendations that the EC should implement to enable sustainable best practices to become the norm. These include:
- developing an ‘ambitious and equitable’ EU-wide strategy on resource use, starting by measuring the four footprints: land use; materials use; water use; and greenhouse gas emissions;
- making land, carbon, water and material footprints a central part of impact assessments to ensure that ‘unintended negative consequences’ with regards to other resources are avoided;
- reversing ‘environmentally harmful subsidy’, such as those given to incineration and fossil fuel technologies;
- reforming environmental tax to shift the tax burden from labour to resource use, helping to promote labour-intensive reuse and repair activities, and making consumption of new products less attractive;
- increasing taxation on landfill and incineration to ‘actively promote activities further up the waste hierarchy’;
- providing economic incentives for leasing or other similar business models to prompt manufacturers in designing sustainable products;
- introducing mandatory and monitored policy instruments that actively promote the top of the waste hierarchy (waste reduction and reuse);
- promoting the introduction of pay-as-you-throw schemes so that those who generate more residual waste are penalised for doing so by having to pay more than those who generate less;
- setting reuse targets, particularly sector specific preparation for reuse targets (e.g. for furniture, textiles), via a percentage-based approach to reflect the different baseline scenarios in different member states;
- introducing lower VAT for reuse activities; and
- establishing a framework on food waste, including minimum targets for the separate collection of organic waste, binding targets for food redistribution, and providing incentives for the harvesting of farm crops that are rejected by retailers because of their aesthetic appearance.
We must ‘stop living outside the sustainable boundaries of our planet’
Speaking about the launch of the report, Ariadna Rodrigo, Resource and Consumption Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “We can see that another, less wasteful way of production and consumption is possible. We can't rely on a few dedicated people and projects to carry the burden for Europe’s massive overconsumption. The EU and our governments need to see the excellent work done to prevent waste and then implement policies to make these practices the norm in Europe.
“We have been living outside the sustainable boundaries of our planet, and this has to stop.”
Read FOE Europe’s ‘Preventing Waste’ report.