VCI position paper

"A future-oriented waste policy"

With this position paper VCI wants to take part in the discussion on a future EU waste policy. The EU waste strategy is not only focussed on the prevention but also on the recycling of waste. In this connection, special emphasis is given on the benefit in terms of materials. This corresponds to the approach of a more substance-oriented, holistic waste policy pursued so far by the European Union.

Within the 6th Environment Action Programme the EU Commission has started – via communications on thematic strategies on the prevention and recycling of waste ("EU waste strategy"; COM(2003)301 of 27.5.2003) and the sustainable use of natural resources ("EU resource strategy"; COM(2003)572 of 1.10.2003) – an opinion-forming process whose results will decisively and lastingly determine European legislation and, consequently, the national laws of the Member States. A major step in the future direction is the planned amendment to the EU Waste Framework Directive.

Wastes invariably consist of substances or preparations. In the overall evaluation of benefits as materials under sustainability aspects (ecology, economy, social) it is essential that all properties of materials of the examined waste streams are considered and weighed up against each other. This includes expressly the energy content of wastes which, as yet, is of subordinate importance in the Commission’s strategies. As a result, they inadequately take into account the energy benefits of wastes and fall short of realities of modern waste management. Furthermore, energy recovery from wastes contributes to the preservation of primary energy resources and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Consequently, both options in the utilization of wastes - "Waste to Energy" (use of energy content) and "Waste for Recycling" (use of all other material properties) – are basically to be seen as alternatives on a par.

Wastes should be subdivided in the following categories which ensue from the above considerations:

  1. Waste for Disposal
    Substances or preparations without further benefit that are definitely removed from the economic cycle.
  2. Waste for Recovery (comprising "Waste for Recycling" and "Waste to Energy")

  3. 2.1 Waste for Recycling (Material Recovery)
    Substances or preparations which – directly or after treatment – replace raw materials.
  4. 2.2 Waste to Energy (Energy Recovery)
    Substances or preparations which – directly or after treatment – are used as fuels in such a way that they save natural primary resources.

The goal of an EU waste strategy must be the utilization of all properties of materials of wastes and to minimise waste for disposal. With a view to sustainability and based on waste properties, waste producers decide on their own responsibil ­ty which option to choose.

Therefore, it is essential for a future-oriented European waste policy to create framework conditions which facilitate the best efficient use of waste properties in the best possible options.

Frankfurt am Main, 19 December 2005

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Prof. Dr. Winfried Golla