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EU predicts 'waste tsunami'

Staff writer |
The European Commission is preparing new policy proposals to reduce waste and reach greater recycling rates, in order to move towards a zero-refuse economy.

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"The way in which our society has produced and consumed so far is simply not sustainable any longer," said Karl Falkenberg, who heads the European Commission's environment directorate, EurActiv reports.

Speaking at a EurActiv event, the Commission director-general warned that with a global population set to grow to 9.6 billion by 2050, the world had no choice but to dramatically cut down on waste or face a severe environmental backlash. "We are going to be hit by a tsunami of waste if all of those additional people coming to this planet – essentially in the developing world – start consuming like we do in Europe."

"But it requires a fairly fundamental change in our attitude. We need to ensure that waste is not a dirty marginal activity of our economies but that we put waste at the centre of a circular economy."

The EurActiv event focused on packaging waste, one of the five streams identified under EU waste rules, which are currently being revised. Giving the audience a foretaste of things to come, Falkenberg said his services were working to ensure that the best practices of leading member states were being shared by all.

"We think that there is a role for a European regulator to set targets," Mr. Falkenberg said. "We are not convinced unfortunately that, on their own, industry, consumers, municipalities, or nations are sufficiently fast-moving in the direction where we need to move if we want to be sustainable. So we think we need to set targets for those different [waste] streams."

The proposed revision may introduce an overall recycling objective of up to 70% and a landfill ban, according to industry sources in Brussels. But perhaps the Commission's biggest challenge will be getting European countries to streamline their national waste collection and recycling schemes.

You can read the whole coverage of the EurActiv event here.

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