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Rubbish poses problems for Member States

Some Member States may not be able to achieve the target laid down in European Union legislation to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill sites to 35% of the 1995 figures over the next 15 to 20 years, according to MEP Caroline Jackson (GB, EPP), who, on behalf of the En...
Some Member States may not be able to achieve the target laid down in European Union legislation to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill sites to 35% of the 1995 figures over the next 15 to 20 years, according to MEP Caroline Jackson (GB, EPP), who, on behalf of the Environment Committee, last week tabled 19 amendments to a Council common position under the Cooperation procedure (second reading).

This is a particular problem for countries, such as Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain and UK, where most waste, amounting to more than 80% of the total, is sent to landfill at present.

MEP Bernie Malone (Dublin, PES) expressed disappointment at the attitude of the Council which was, she felt, paying more attention to cost concerns and the concerns of industry rather than those of the public. The common position was very watered down, she believed, and she was particularly unhappy that the legislation did not set minimum distances between landfill sites and residential areas, for which a Committee amendment proposed 0.5km for municipal landfills and 2km for hazardous waste landfills.

Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard was able to accept 12 of the Committee's 19 amendments, including those that would:

- Reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste going to landfills within 15 years from 35% to 25% of the total amount of biodegradable municipal water;
- Have a recommended guideline of a minimum distance between residential areas and waste landfills;
- Call for the closure of illegal landfill sites.

Although broadly favourable to the use of economic instruments , such as tax on waste going to landfill, Commissioner Bjerregaard felt this should only come at Member State level.

After the debate, MEPs approved Council's common position designed to reduce the amount of waste going into landfill tips over a 15-20 year period with a number of amendments including one stipulating a 25% figure for the amount going to landfill instead of the 35% figure agreed by Council and another designed to reduce the extra time given to countries such as the UK and Ireland, where 80% of waste ends up in landfill, an extra 2 years to comply rather than 4 years agreed by Council.

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