The European Environmental Bureau welcomes the strong support by Central European 'Visegrad Group' Ministers for re-using and recycling waste instead of incinerating it, ahead of the Council working party on waste to be held tomorrow in Brussels . The four Environment Ministers, representing the Czech Republic , Hungary , Poland and Slovakia , issued a joint statement on Friday, 5 th May pushing back against the Commission's recent proposal on the Waste Thematic Strategy package. The Visegrad Ministers expressed strong reservations about the Commission's proposal to classify municipal waste incinerators as 'recovery' facilities, and not 'disposal', facilities. Also, an independent report published last week concluded that waste incinerators that generate electricity emit a third more greenhouse gases for the electricity they produce than gas fired power stations. The report, ‘A Changing Climate for Energy from Waste?’, carried out for Friends of the Earth by waste consultants Eunomia, can be found online at: http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/reports/changing_climate.pdf

By rejecting the Commission's approach to municipal waste incinerators, the Visegrad Ministers recognise that the Commission's proposal is unacceptable. The classification of municipal waste incinerators as recovery facilities is an attack on several fronts," said Stefan Scheuer, EEB's EU Policy Director. "This would allow companies to move waste for burning much more easily. Central Europe must not become a dustbin for its richer neighbours."

The Commission aims to classify municipal waste incinerators as 'recovery facilities' once they achieve a certain level of energy efficiency , reversing a ruling by the European Court of Justice that they are, in fact, disposal facilities.

The Commission claims its proposal is justified by the need to promote energy efficiency in incinerators. But the Commission really seems to be mainly concerned with promoting incineration to help Member States carry out their obligation to divert biowaste away from landfill sites instead of promoting recycling.

"The Visegrad statement stresses that there are other ways of enforcing the Waste Incineration Directive's existing requirements to achieve energy efficiency than the Commission's recovery dodge," said EEB's Melissa Shinn.

"We want other countries, especially Germany , to recognise the need to take a different approach from that of the Commission. The EU's waste policy should not make it easier for people to burn waste, especially recyclable biowaste. Nor should it go against the 'proximity' principle of keeping waste as close to home as possible, and maintaining political pressure to find better solutions both for the environment and jobs, by preventing, reusing and recycling waste".

The policy encouraging producers to curb waste generation will be undermined by weakening the 'self-sufficiency' and 'proximity' principles. But those are not the only waste management principles that this approach threatens.

Defining municipal incinerators as 'recovery facilities' will not only damage the policy driving waste producers to cut or recycle and compost their waste output it will also 'green' the image of incineration which can be very relevant for distorting the application of EU Structural funds. EU subsidies for incineration result in an un-level playing field for investment in re-use and recycling. Re-use and recycling not only deliver better long-term environmental advantages but also provide far greater job opportunities.