Euro MEPs press ahead with waste recycling law
STRASBOURG, France - The European Parliament approved higher recycling targets for packaging waste this week, flying in the face of critics who say the planned measures will cost the EU\'s less efficient nations dearly.
Legislators approved on first reading a bill requiring EU states to recycle 65 percent of their waste by weight to protect the environment, against a current minimum of 55 percent.
The legislation, which also broadens the definition of packaging material, is due to come into force at the end of 2006. But critics say the time frame is unrealistic and hope to secure changes before the second and final reading.
\"We\'re going to have to really rush now that 2006 is on the agenda,\" said British Labour MEP Eluned Morgan, a member of the Parliament\'s Environment Committee.
She noted the bill set specific targets for plastics, paper, metal and glass that were not in previous EU legislation.
Parliament also adopted an amendment stipulating that member states may not export waste to meet the new targets.
EU countries have widely different recycling rates.
Germany and Sweden are most efficient and already meet the proposed new targets, while Ireland and Greece are at the bottom of the table and would need to invest heavily in recycling plants to avoid hefty fines if the bill becomes law unchanged.
Environmental groups have broadly welcomed the proposals but have doubts about incineration as a means to process waste.
Industry groups say a hike in minimum recycling rates would make it harder for less efficient countries to catch up with leaders in recycling.
\"Given the current achievements, if we put targets much higher...it
would reinforce the differences between member states and make it more difficult to catch up,\" a spokesman for the EU Confederation of Food and Drink Industries said.
The bill, tabled as a revision of the EU\'s 1994 law by Dutch socialist MEP Dorette Corbey, envisages that competition between packaging firms to improve environmental standards will force them to invest in recycling capacity. It also offers incentives to promote goods derived from recycled packaging waste.
Corbey\'s proposals also redefine packaging materials to include new items, under certain circumstances, such as CD cases, tea bags, ink cartridges and even flower pots.
\"Business has taken on a lot of the responsibility up until now,\" Morgan said, referring to the waste situation in Britain.
\"By setting this target slightly higher again, it means for the first time that local authorities will have to get more involved. People will have to start separating their rubbish.\"
Story by Jeremy Smith
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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