10/02/2012 Europe and you: waste, biocides, food wastage and the priorities of the European Parliament

Every week, gives the highlights of what the European Union has been doing for you, your rights, your health and your daily life. Recently, the European Commission has expressed its desire to create employment in the waste management sector, the European Parliament has been working on regulation of biocides and calling for action on food waste while European citizens want the European Parliament focus on addressing poverty and exclusion.

Waste as an employment generator

The European Commission published a study on waste management in the European Union in order to encourage Member States to implement the related EU legislation in an efficient manner. If this legislation was correctly applied, the savings would be in the region of €72 billion per year. In addition, 400,000 extra jobs are expected to be created in this sector by 2020; there are already 2.4 million people working in the sector.

A lack of controls and know-how are among the reasons that the legislation is being badly applied which in turn enable illegal waste treatment operations to flourish. Another reason is the practice of resorting to landfill rather than treating waste as a resource. A Data Centre on Waste aiming to provide better quality date and systematic follow-up on how the legislation is being applied, was recently set up by Eurostat.

Currently, the Roadmap to a resource-efficient Europe and the thematic strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste encourages economic and legal measures such as taxes, banning landfills, extension of the producer liability systems and setting up payment systems based on volume of waste.

2013, European year of the fight against food waste ?

MEPs have adopted an own-initiative report calling on the Council, the Commission, the Member States and stakeholders in the food chain to deal with the problem of food waste. The commission and the Member States should exchange best practice, promote public awareness campaigns, invest in methods to reduce waste and encourage agri-food producers, wholesalers, shops, distribution chains, public authorities and NGOs  to become more involved in the fight against waste.  Labelling with two expiry dates (a sell by date and a best before date) as well as promotional sales of products that are damaged or nearing expiration would be effective ways to prevent waste upstream.

Every year in Europe, up to 50% (according to some estimates) of healthy and edible food is wasted all along the food chain and thus becomes waste. The production of food waste in Europe is thought to be about 89 million tonnes, i.e. 179kg, per person every year. If no preventive measures are put in place, food waste is expected to rise to about 126 million tonnes (a rise of 40%) by 2020. MEPs are calling on the Council and Commission to declare 2013 “European year against food waste”.

Stricter controls on biocides

Household disinfectant, pesticides, insecticides, anti-fouling paints for ships and material preservatives i.e. all chemical products for eliminating damaging organisms (insects, bacteria, microbes etc.) can be harmful to human and animal health as well as to the environment.

In order to limit the risks related to using these products, on January 19th MEPs voted in favour of stricter controls on biocides as well as simplifying the approval process for companies wishing to market these products. According to the provisional agreement with the Council, the most dangerous substances (particularly carcinogens) that affect genes along with hormones which have toxic effects on reproduction would be banned.

Furthermore, the existing approval procedures would be simplified for companies giving the possibility for new biocides to be put on the market sooner than is currently the case. Recognising approvals between Member States will also be facilitated. Companies will have to share their data in order to avoid duplicating experiments on animals. The rules on biocides are expected to enter into force in 2013 and will be directly applied by Member States.

What are the European Parliament’s priorities in 2012 ?

According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, the European Parliament should prioritise fighting poverty and social exclusion. This is the opinion of half of European citizens who consider coordinating economic, budgetary and fiscal policy to be the second highest priority (with a significant increase in responses within the Eurozone – 42% +13). On the other hand, certain policies that are not directly associated with the current crisis have seen a significant decrease such as the fight against climate change, agricultural policy, the fight against terrorism and immigration policy.

What’s more, 40% of Europeans would like more information from the European Parliament on possible ways to deal with the crisis. In the current context, the image of the European Parliament is not evolving in a positive way as is the case for other European institutions, parliaments and national governments. 26,594 European citizens aged 15 and over took part in the survey.

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