Channel NewsAsia

EU rubbishes waste in drive for Green growth

The EU wants to ban the dumping of all recyclable rubbish in landfill sites as part of a social and economic revolution to re-use, repair and recycle.

BRUSSELS: The EU wants to ban the dumping of all recyclable rubbish in landfill sites as part of a social and economic revolution to re-use, repair and recycle.

"We propose to make Europe a society without waste," said environment commissioner Janez Potocnik as he unveiled a landmark plan for Green growth he called "one of the most important" put together by the European Commission.

Instead of using raw materials once and then throwing them away, the new EU vision is to move from a linear economy to a circular one. Where once it took a tonne of ore to produce a gramme of gold, 41 recycled cell-phones can produce the same quantity.

The Commission wants to see Europeans recycle 70 per cent of their municipal waste and 80 per cent of packaging waste by 2030, while banning outright the burial of recyclable rubbish in landfills from 2025.

This would save 600 million tonnes of reusable materials that are thrown away each year, the commission claims. It would also boost growth and help generate business, creating up to 600,000 jobs, most of which would be impossible to de-localise outside Europe, it said.

The head of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), Bernadette Segol, welcomed the proposals as "forward-thinking and progressive", saying the move to reduce waste would "mean investment and should create new jobs".

A French member of the European Parliament's Greens party, Karima Delli, also backed the package as a means of investing in new green technologies that would bring jobs and help fight climate change.

The Commission plan puts the emphasis on research and innovation to increase the lifespan of products, designing objects that are easy to repair, and encouraging consumers to rent rather than to buy.

Asked whether Brussels was confident manufacturers would choose durability at a time when the lifespan of electronic products was increasingly short, Potocnik said: "Either there will be Green growth or there will be no growth... The path we are following is not the right one for Europe or for the 21st century."

The half a billion people in the 28-member EU generated an average 492 kilos each of municipal waste in 2012, with Danes producing the most at 668 kilos per person while eastern nations such as Romania and Estonia produced less than 400 kilos per person.

The amount of waste recycled or composted in the last three decades has increased hugely, from 18 per cent in 1995 to 42 per cent in 2012.

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia