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bvse urges EU to close landfills in Europe

Germany – Efficient structures for collection and recycling, a strict landfill ban and the abolition of subsidies for incineration plants in Europe are key ingredients for a successful circular economy, according to the German Federal Association for Secondary Raw Materials and Waste Management (bvse).

The Circular Economy Package, which was published by the European Commission in July this year, has been welcomed by the bvse, with executive director Eric Rehbock expressing his appreciation of the target to increase the recycling of municipal waste to 70% by 2030. The organisation believes sophisticated technologies and know-how for the recovery and use of secondary raw materials in Europe have not yet been fully utilised.

′The right political signal′

′More than 50% of the municipal waste in Europe is still being landfilled,′ Rehbock states. ′These ticking environmental time bombs are continuously threatening soil, water, air and climate. The bvse therefore believes that it is of vital importance to set the course for a modern circular economy forcefully and appreciates that the Circular Economy Package of the EU Commission sends the right political signal.′

In particular, his organisation is urging the European Commission, the European Parliament and member states to stop financial support for new landfills and to establish a binding road map to the closure of landfills in Europe. The German association insists that the Circular Economy Package should be more than mere political gestures and so warns against over-regulation.

′This may lead to negative effects,′ Rehbock argues. This policy area is not about solving disposal problems but about generating secondary raw materials from waste in an important industry with a growing, dynamic market and a great number of market actors, it is added.

′An indispensible driver′

According to the bvse, the European economy is facing a substantial loss of potential secondary raw materials given that 500 million tonnes of recyclables are landfilled or incinerated. The bvse calls for the development of separate collection of waste throughout Europe. Rehbock explains: ′Separate collection guarantees that quality materials are available for economically sound recycling. Despite the existing sorting technologies, separate collection remains an indispensable driver of quality that needs to be developed further.′

The bvse also urges the European Commission to provide a legislative framework that enables commercial collection structures to be maintained, developed and set up, as well as European subsidies for investments in collection systems, both in cities and in rural areas.

For the period of transition, a progressive landfill tax could form a financial incentive to dump as little waste as possible. Tax revenues could fund new collection and sorting structures. The bvse also believes that initiatives beyond the closure of landfilling are needed.

Simultaneously, the capacities available for incineration should be reduced to a necessary minimum. Given that existing incineration capacities are mostly adequate, the bvse considers EU funding for incineration plants to be no longer necessary.

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