Impact Assessment on the Thematic Strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste and the immediate implementing measures

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Waste is a growing issue for all modern expanding economies. The amount of waste generated is keeping pace with or in some cases outpacing the growth of recycling and is resulting in increased landfill. Waste management is currently responsible for 2% of greenhouse gas emissions. Other important aspects of the waste problem include dioxin emissions from incinerators, soil and groundwater pollution due to uncontrolled landfills, and exports of hazardous waste to developing countries. Waste is also an economic burden. Management of hazardous and municipal waste alone is estimated to cost industry and citizens up to EU75 billion a year. In addition, the regulatory environment sometimes discourages waste recycling. Recycling saves a lot of energy, resulting in reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduces the production costs of materials such as cement, paper, glass and metals, reduces the energy demand and related pressure to increase oil prices and contributes to improving the competitiveness of EU industry. Trade between Member States in waste for recovery increased by 130% between 1995 and 1999 and close to 50% of European paper, metals and glass is made out of recycled materials. The waste sector has a turnover of over EU95 billion for EU-25 and provides 1 200 000 to 1 500 000 jobs. The EU legislation on waste developed over the last few decades has set a regulatory framework addressing the most acute negative environmental impacts of waste management. Important parts of this legislation remain to be implemented by the Member States in the years ahead and will result, inter alia, in cleaner incinerators and landfills and increased recycling of packaging, cars and electronic equipment. This policy is delivering significant environmental benefits but a continued focus on specific waste flows would do little to improve the environment further and would be increasingly costly. The overall objective of waste policy is to reduce the environmental impact of waste generation and management and, in this way, contribute to reducing the overall environmental impact of resource use. Against this background, a set of preferred options has emerged from this IA that will increase the environmental efficiency and the cost-effectiveness of EU waste policy. This will involve: – linking waste policy to product and resource policies (i.e. introducing life-cycle thinking in waste policy), national waste prevention programmes and increasing recycling and recovery of waste through framework approaches; EN 5 EN – moving to a European recycling society (i.e. a society that uses wastes as resources rather than discarding them in landfills) by developing common environmental requirements for recycling and allowing waste to circulate more freely across the EU; – modernising the legislative framework by revising the waste framework legislation, adopting interpretative guidelines and repealing the priority given to regeneration of waste oils. Overall, this new policy will increase the focus on important environmental issues and deliver improvements in the regulatory environment. It will entail negligible costs for industry and in the longer run could generate economic benefits for the EU. Given the framework character of this policy, Member States will shoulder much of the responsibility for delivering the benefits.

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