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Zero Waste Europe statement on waste management in the context of COVID-19

Zero Waste Europe Statement on Waste Management in the Context of COVID-19

April 2020

Europe's Zero Waste Statement on Waste Management in the Context of COVID-19

The European Commission issued guidelines on waste management in the context of the coronavirus crisis on April 14. Although the guidelines are non-binding, it makes recommendations to Member States on how to ensure a high degree of protection of human health and the environment, while preventing and reducing the interruption of appropriate waste management services in the context of COVID-19.

What the guide says

The Commission’s (COM) guidance states that “there is currently no evidence that standard waste management procedures are unsafe or inadequate with regard to the risk of COVID-19 infection, or that household waste plays a role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2” or other respiratory viruses.

The Commission specifically recommends that member states ensure the overall continuity of appropriate municipal waste management services, including separate collection and recycling, which continue to comply with and comply with current EU waste regulations.

In this regard, the Commission recommends that any adjustments to waste collection practices must continue to comply with European Union waste laws. Any changes in waste collection practices must be "commensurate with the goal of protecting human health", and changes and adaptations must be limited to "absolutely necessary areas and time periods", and must be "based on the latest scientific recommendations" with no room left. Decide arbitrarily.

The most important point in this guide is that any transitional adjustments to the waste management system must "strive to maintain the overall goal of separate collection and recycling consistent with waste levels."

What does this mean in practice

The European Zero Waste Support Committee recognizes the importance of science-based decision-making and warns that the risks of short-term decisions may undermine the EU's long-term circular economy goals.

In addition, through bio-stabilization methods, it is possible to effectively dispose of residual waste, while also addressing the need for waste disinfection during the COVID-19 crisis, and ensuring compliance with EU Directive 99/31 on landfill. In fact, there is solid scientific evidence that emphasizes the efficiency of temperature achieved through biological stabilization in ensuring proper virus inactivation. Importantly, biostability may use capacity that can be converted into compost at a later stage, thus ensuring flexibility and being fully consistent with the EU’s long-term roadmap for a circular economy.

Currently, EU member states are still discussing the size and structure of the financial mechanism for recovery after the COVID-19 crisis. The current crisis provides an opportunity for the European Recovery Fund to invest in economies that use recycling materials to lead the transition to a zero-waste, zero-carbon future.

When public authorities may increase their priorities and optimize cost savings, our zero-waste approach can provide municipalities with a localized and flexible system, and is less capital intensive, providing multiple opportunities to reduce waste management expenditures. These opportunities include reducing waste collection rounds, such as due to reduced waste generation and reuse or increased household composting, as well as additional income derived from having higher quality recycled materials and reduced costs for expensive waste disposal methods, Such as incineration.

In addition, it is worth noting that, while achieving cost-effectiveness, the Zero Waste Program shifts the local economy to one that provides more local employment opportunities and less capital expenditures. In order to create a circular economy model to prevent the generation of waste, while providing more employment and economic growth in a sustainable way.

The COVID-19 crisis provides us all with an opportunity to reflect on our lives, our society, and the future we want to build. As the committee’s guidelines emphasize, waste collection and recycling can and should continue uninterrupted. ZWE hopes that governments will pay attention to and apply the results of this guide when considering changes to their waste management practices. However, once the COVID-19 crisis is over, it would be wrong to simply call for the restoration of “business as usual”.

2020 marks the first year of the recycling target set in the EU Waste Framework Directive, requiring member states to achieve a 50% recycling rate. Current estimates indicate that less than half of EU member states can achieve this goal.

Therefore, it is not enough to resume normal business. What is needed is greater ambition, backed by practical and meaningful implementation.

Our zero-waste approach provides a template for how cities can achieve recycling rates of 70-80% and higher. It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and the need for environmentally hazardous waste treatment and incineration methods, helping to save costs and at the same time uniting communities.

After the COVID-19 crisis, these principles and goals should be included at the forefront of any economic recovery plan decided by the government.

Zero Waste Europe

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