Managing hazardous waste sustainably has become a major issue in Europe, estimated to cost Euro 25 billion per year. This being so, Cefic welcomed the enactment of the revised Waste Framework Directive in November 2008, which appeared to be a positive step for hazardous waste management in the EU. We continue to monitor the implementation of the revised Directive as well as reviewing new proposals for the existing one.
The 13% increase in hazardous waste between 1998 and 2002 was a source of major concern in Europe at a time when the EU sought to reduce the impact of waste production, waste management and their side effects on the environment. The entire issue still needs to be addressed to find the most appropriate solutions and to identify where further investments should be made.
For the European chemical industry, the steep costs of managing waste cannot be ignored. It is therefore committed to allocating the necessary resources to sustainably reducing waste and ensuring appropriate waste disposal.
Cefic position on reducing the impact of waste
In order to decouple the production of products from the production of waste, it is necessary to invest more heavily in innovation. If appropriate investment is made, waste could become an asset – for example as a source of recycling material or as a source of energy. It is essential that solutions consider proper life cycle analysis of products and post usage processes in order to ensure waste is managed in a sustainable way to benefit the environment, society and the economy.
A proper definition of waste is also essential because it will have a direct impact on the legislation. For example, incineration of household waste is seen as a recovery operation rather than disposal, provided it meets a certain energy efficiency standard.
In the current system, a five stage hierarchy is foreseen, promoting first prevention, then re-use, recycling, other recovery operations and finally safe disposal. This hierarchy only makes sense if derogations are possible - not as a way of evading legislation, but as a way of showing that sustainable benefits may not always adhere to this legislative hierarchy. The specific qualities of products, materials and processes involved should be taken into account, as well as the choice of appropriate time to act.
Cefic contribution to the improvement of the sustainability
Cefic advocates further developing the life cycle approach - a logical strategy that avoids unnecessary bureaucracy. Cefic expects that new definitions of recovery and disposal will contribute to improving sustainability.
The challenge of sustainably managing our waste cannot be ignored. By 2020, it is envisaged that 50% of waste materials such as paper, metal and glass from households or similar waste streams and 70% of non-hazardous construction and demolition waste will be re-used and recycled. Incineration of household waste will be seen as a recovery operation rather than disposal, provided it meets a certain energy efficiency standard.