Double the waste, half of it recycled: Are we happy or sad with this result?

Aug 06, 2019

One country with double the waste per capita in Europe, has implemented the goal of 50% municipal waste targets, and also managed to reduce waste per capita in the last 5 years.  I am not sure whether to be celebrating or commiserating German waste. This article looks at the perspective of how well the environmental performance of European countries has gone in the last two years in the second Environmental Implementation Review.

The key steps towards implementing circular principles in the broad European economy from a regional perspective is for municipalities and companies to be focused on the generally-agreed basic principles of circular development:
    •    Making savings in water and energy use - reducing need, increasing water re-use, sanitation processes, implementing smart metering and more on demand delivery
    •    Preventing waste and reducing need for creating waste - waste in the manufacturing and service deliver, waste from post-use of products and also including delivery
    •    Promoting and enabling product reuse and repair (before recycling)
    •    Eventual recycling of materials or separating items smartly for a greater use of secondary raw materials

While there are pioneer companies around Europe implementing various versions of these measures found here, here and here fundamentally, in the latest Environmental Implementation Review from the European Commission found that there are still 16 of the European Member States not efficiently supporting development in this area.

These countries are: Austria,  Bulgaria,  Croatia,  Cyprus,  the  Czech  Republic,  Estonia,  Germany,  Greece,  Hungary,  Ireland,  Latvia,  Malta,  Poland,  Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.

What certainly could help is a better understanding of voluntary instruments which enable countries and companies to get a better view of their activities as it pertains to greening or polluting the environment. There are three programs evolving at the EU-level which are industry-independent and pertaining directly to EU-related legislation.

EU Eco Label
Eco-Management and Audit Schemes EMAS
Green investment programs, such as LIFE Programme

Given that approximately half of the new laws impacting EU-businesses are coming out of Brussels, and the other half the capital city of the country in which they are registered; it is important for ambitious and future-looking companies to see both the local and regional programs relating to environmental standards and measuring.

Given that only a few European Countries have managed to achieve the recycling target of 50% of municipal waste (a goal set to be implemented by 2020) there is going to be a greater call to action from nation-states to their largest colleagues in waste production and management; the commercial market.

This pressure will become key to also those countries who have implemented sophisticated recycling programs already; Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg and Malta, because they produce at least twice the waste per capita of other European countries.

Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Slovenia have met the EU target of 50% of waste in recycling processes while the following countries are likely to miss the target by 2020: Bulgaria,  Croatia,  Cyprus,  Estonia,  Finland,  Greece,  Hungary,  Latvia,  Malta,  Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.

To improve performance of recycling, there is likely to be an increased in incentives or disincentives for recycling vs non-recyclable materials such as Extended Producer Responsibility, or Pay as you Throw schemes in addition to increased landfill taxes .

In a her book ‘Mindset’, Carol Dweck (ISBN: 0345472322) asks a vital for company owners and green investors of now:

'Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better?
Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them?'

Could we take the results of this review, and instead of trying to justify them, use it as nudge to get moving forward, faster?