UK comes eighth in EU waste 'medal table'
The UK has come eighth on an EU 'medal table' that measures the country's performance in waste management against the other 26 Member States. This report by the European Commission grades the Member States against 18 criteria using green, orange and red flags with two, one and zero points awarded for each colour flag respectively.
The table looks at areas such as the total amount of waste recycled, the pricing of waste disposal, and infringements of European legislation.
Despite being third overall in the medal table at the London Olympics, the UK is ranked behind seven other nations including: Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Belgium and Luxembourg.
The UK was marked down for not introducing landfill restrictions or pay as you throw policies, for the amount of biodegradable municipal waste being sent to landfill and for not sending as much waste to energy recovery as some of its neighbours.
Taking the gold medal with 39 points is Austria, which achieved an almost clean sweep of green flags with only one red flag for the decoupling of waste from consumption and a further yellow flag for the total typical charge for the disposal of municipal waste to landfill. The Netherlands, which also scored 39 points, came second, and Denmark came third with 37 points. The UK scored a total of 32 points, putting it in eighth position.
Commenting on the report, environment commissioner Janez Potocnik, said: "The picture that emerges from this exercise confirms my strong concerns. Many Member States are still landfilling huge amounts of municipal waste - the worst waste management option - despite better alternatives, and despite structural funds being available to finance better options.
"Valuable resources are being buried, potential economic benefits are being lost, jobs in the waste management sector are not being created, and human health and the environment suffer. This is hard to defend in our present economic circumstances. "
Looking at the UK's performance in detail, the report shows it achieved a total of 32 points, with just a single red flag for there being no ban or restriction on the disposal of municipal waste to landfill.
However the UK was awarded seven yellow flags for activities including:
Decoupling of waste from consumption; Amount of municipal waste recovered to produce energy; Total typical charge for the disposal of municipal waste to landfill; Existence of pay-as-you-throw systems for municipal waste; Existence and quality of projection of municipal waste generation and treatment; Compliance of existing landfills for non-hazardous waste; and, Rate of biodegradable municipal waste going to landfills.
Meanwhile the European Commission judged that the UK performs well in areas such as waste prevention, access to waste collection services, and the fulfilment of the targets related to biodegradable municipal waste going to landfill.
Looking at the bottom of the table, green flags become scarce. Greece came last with singular green and yellow flags, giving it a total of three points. Other Member States at the bottom of the table include: Cyprus; the Czech Republic; Italy; Lithuania; and, Poland. The Commission said that these member states have the largest implementation gaps. It explained that the failings of the bottom ten Member States include: poor or non-existent waste prevention policies; a lack of incentives to divert waste from landfills; and inadequate waste infrastructure. The Commission said that the outlook for these countries is 'poor' as heavy reliance on landfilling means that better waste management options such as re-use and recycling are consistently underexploited.
The findings from the report will be used to prepare roadmaps for the ten worst performing States in a bid to help spread best practice. The roadmaps will contain tailor-made recommendations on how to improve waste management using economic, legal and administrative tools, and EU structural funds.
(Letsrecycle 14th August 2012)
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