Artikel European Voice batterijen

19-04-2004 13:13 19-04-2004 13:13

Prevention is more efficient than recycling

In the last plenary session of April in Strasbourg, the European Parliament has voted on two reports, which are important regarding recycling of waste. The first one is the report from colleague Florenz on the strategy on waste prevention and recycling, the second one is my report on batteries and accumulators.


In the EU waste strategy the order of priority is: prevention, recycling, disposal. This means that we should first focus on prevention. In this area I have to mention some disappointing facts. The average quantity of domestic refuse generated per capita of the population in the EU has risen from approximately 400 kg (in period 1995-1997) to approximately 500 kg (in period 1998-2000). The objective of stabilising waste production in 2000 at the 1985 level of 300 kg per capita of the population, as laid down in the Commission's Fifth Environment Action Programme, is not achieved. Member States should make far greater efforts to prevent and reduce waste generation and to put prevention or reduction of waste production as the first option in their waste management plans. The second aim of prevention should be the avoidance of hazardous substances in the waste stream. The European Parliament therefore regrets that the Commission has not yet adopted proposals to develop a set of quantitative and qualitative reduction targets covering all relevant waste, to be achieved at Community level by 2010.


Recycling rates for domestic refuse vary widely in the various Member States: five Member States (Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden) have achieved rates of over 40% while five Member States (France, Greece, Ireland, Italy and the United Kingdom) have achieved less than 10%. The most widely used method of waste disposal is still dumping. Five Member States even dump more than 60% of their waste. Incineration of waste with recovery of energy is the second most widely used method of disposal. Member States have to find ways to promote separate collection of recyclable waste, since this has been identified as a fundamental shortcoming in achieving higher levels of recycling.


It is very positive that in the new batteries directive, the industrial and automotive batteries may not be disposed of in landfill or incineration. This means that all industrial batteries have to be collected and recycled, for which a mandatory recycling efficiency is set.

Collecting portable batteries is however more complicated, because consumers do not feel a strong urge to return them. They are small and therefore do not get in the way but tend to be left lying in drawers, boxes and so on. In practice, the collection of only batteries containing mercury, lead or cadmium did not work, because consumers did not distinguish between batteries along these lines. Therefore the Commission proposed collection of all portable batteries in the new directive. The other reason is that valuable material from all batteries can be recycled, for which a mandatory recycling efficiency is set.

The difficulties with collecting all portable batteries will still lead to heavy metals in the waste stream. In order to avoid this, we have to look seriously to other possibilities than collection and recycling. In the directives of the Council and the European Parliament regarding end of life vehicles and regarding electrical and electronic equipment, the use of the heavy metals mercury, cadmium, lead and chromium(VI) are restricted. In line with these directives, we should also restrict the use of mercury, cadmium and lead in batteries and accumulators. When the waste stream contains less hazardous substances, recycling will be easier and more environment friendly.



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