Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "My old mobile phone contains gold, platinum, palladium and copper: all resources that we have too little of in Europe. A tonne of these handsets would contain about 280 grams of gold, 140 grams of platinum and palladium and 140 pounds of copper. This is not waste that we should bury or burn; it is a resource that we should respect. We are serious about making Europe a "resource efficient economy" as we set out to do in the Europe 2020 Strategy. This is not just about reducing negative environmental impacts and greenhouse gas emissions, it will also create jobs; in the waste recycling sector alone half a million jobs could be created."
The report shows that in most Member States overall waste generation seems to be increasing (or at best stabilising) but at a lower rate than economic growth. Over the last 10 years municipal waste generation has stabilised at around 524 kg per year per person, although household consumption has increased by around 16% during the same period. More could be done, therefore, to reduce the absolute generation of waste. For example, 25% of food bought by EU households is thrown away. Some 60% of this waste could be avoided, saving each household around €500 per year.
There are huge differences between Member States. Recycling rates vary from a few percent up to 70%. In some Member States land filling has virtually disappeared, in others more than 90% of waste is still buried in the ground. Waste still represents about 20% of all environmental infringement cases.
Only six Member States, including Malta, saw an increase in municipal solid waste (MWS) sent to landfill between 1995 and 2007. The report also places Malta among of group of Member States characterised by an emerging waste treatment and recycling capacity which is still not fully developed.
Together with Cyprus and Hungary, Malta has low levels of recycling and is showing low levels of increase in performance, with less than a 1% increase in recycling between 2001 and 2005. Malta is also showing low levels of MSW recycling and static or low associated rates of increase, high and static or increasing levels of land filling, and increasing levels of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the waste sector.
The Commission will continue to monitor the implementation and enforcement of waste legislation at national level, including the requirements of the new Waste Framework Directive. But it will also seek to develop support for Member States in designing appropriate strategies and policies upstream. To further consolidate its waste policies, the Commission will make further proposals in 2012 including setting out the concrete steps it will take in order to move closer towards an EU resource-efficient recycling society.
The report and its annex, which includes detailed results for individual Member States, is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/strategy.htm