Saturday 23 March 2019

European manifesto favours one packaging recycling scheme per country

Eleven European waste recycling schemes have launched a joint manifesto aimed at successful household packaging. The manifesto explains the essence of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and the key aspects to achieve the best recycling results at a national level – both economically and environmentally – which the eleven organisations, including Malta based GreenPak Cooperative Society, consider as essential.

EPR means that after a product has been sold, the company takes upon itself the responsibility to finance the collection and recycling of the product, once it becomes waste. Among the key points, the manifesto speaks about the division between multiple operators within the same country. The document states that such division hinders rather than facilitates the country’s ability to achieve the designated recycling quotas.

This has so far been the case in Malta. A recent study published by the European Environment Agency reported that in 2010 Malta was generating a high proportion of waste per capita measured at 538kg per inhabitant. Not only is the amount 80kg higher than the EU per capita average, but Malta was also among the least countries that were recycling. With only 13 per cent of all solid waste collected being recycled, the report adds that Malta needs to make an extraordinary effort to achieve the EU required annual targets of 50 per cent household recycling by the end of 2020.

Malta’s small size makes economies of scale difficult. Compounded to this, Malta’s waste recycling infrastructure is disjointed and fragmented. If high recycling quotas are to be achieved, then Malta must move towards uniformity and towards single industry-led systems. The European manifesto just released, says that there is a big advantage for having one EPR operator, rather than multiple organisations in each country. Amongst the many benefits, governments can execute effective and efficient control; the obliged companies are treated in a non-discriminatory manner; and that there are effective market-driven awareness campaigns aimed at waste prevention and waste recycling.

“Though we have made some progress in our ability to recycle waste, we are still rock bottom when compared to other EU counties. To truly achieve results we need to accept that the fragmentation of the national effort is causing the country to year after year, fall short of its EU quotas. Whilst GreenPak is a tried and tested system with a demonstrated track record of how to operate a cost effective, high performance waste recovery scheme, we are still hindered from achieving our full potential due to the imposed fragmentation and insular approach adopted by government in the past years” said GreenPak CEO Ing Mario Schembri.

“GreenPak is backed and supported by credible international organisations that are behind the high recycling performance in Europe,” said Ing Schembri.

“Furthermore the EPR manifesto, which is fully endorsed by GreenPak in Malta and ten other national operators from Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belgium, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, highlights the importance that such schemes should be viewed not as a business venture, but rather as a cooperation of businesses coming together to fulfil a social and environmental need,” he added.

“With companies responsible for the collection and recycling of packaging at the end of life, EPR is a practical way to implement the ‘producer pays’ principle. By applying the principles of the Manifesto, organisations are making an important contribution to ensure that packaging waste is collected and recycled in a cost-effective and practical manner” said William Vermeir, Managing Director of Fost Plus, the system operating across Belgium.

The manifesto covers other key areas such as:

i)       EPR organisations should be owned by the obliged companies and run on a not for profit basis;

ii)      there needs to be strong governmental monitoring and support;

iii)     the EPR organisation needs to be set up in a way that ensures sustainable financing;

iv)    the EPR organisation should contribute to packaging optimisation and waste prevention.

Zbyněk Kozel, CEO of EKO-KOM, the system in the Czech Republic, said “We have drafted an ambitious manifesto. By adhering to the principles of the manifesto, obliged companies ensure that their EPR organisation provides added value across the product life cycle and that it involves all stakeholders from government to local authorities and the broader waste management sector”.

Through active promotion, the eleven organisations are calling on industry to support the principles of the Manifesto and hope to obtain endorsement by the authorities.

An association has been setup to pursue these key EPR aspects, promote best practice and disseminate information as well as intensify international cooperation and exchange of best practice in the waste management sector. The official launch of the new association is taking place in Brussels, details of which will be publicised soon.

The eleven organisations behind the EPR manifesto are: CONAI (Italy), EcoEmbes (Spain), Ecopack Bulgaria, ECO-ROM Ambalaje (Romania), EKO-KOM (Czech Republic), Envipak (Slovakia),  Fost Plus (Belgium), Green Dot Cyprus, GreenPak (Malta), Nedvang (the Netherlands) and Valorlux (Luxembourg).

– EPR organisations should be owned by the obliged companies and run on a not for profit basis. The best guarantee for the lowest cost to society and compliance with environmental and legal objectives is for an EPR organisation to be founded, run, financed and controlled by the obliged companies (i.e. the companies who put products on the market and are required to collect and recycle these products/ packaging once they have reached their end-of-life stage). 

– There needs to be strong governmental support and monitoring. National legislators should therefore set out clear criteria for the accreditation of EPR organisations. Municipalities also have a role to play, which is why it is crucial that there is a close partnership between the local authorities and the EPR organisation.  

– The EPR organisation needs to be set up in a way that ensures sustainable financing. It is of key importance that the organisation is set up in a way that ensures that all necessary finances are provided to ensure effective implementation in accordance with the applicable legislative framework.

 – The EPR organisation should contribute to packaging optimisation and waste prevention. This contribution can constitute of advising the obliged companies how to improve the environmental performance of their packaging, inter alia through better design, functionality and material use. The EPR organisation should also ensure that effective and targeted awareness and communication campaigns are run among inhabitants, about the importance of sorting and recycling.

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