The European Commission proposes to define municipal waste as mixed waste and separately collected waste from households and “mixed waste and separately collected waste from other sources that is comparable to household waste in nature, composition and quantity”.
A lot of the debate has focused on the quantity criterion. We believe that this is the only objective and measurable criterion. The quantity criterion is needed to clearly distinguish between municipal waste on one hand, and commercial and industrial waste on the other.
While paper from commercial and industrial sources is already collected and recycled at high levels, an untapped potential exists for household paper collection and similar sources, for which the waste directive is setting targets. If the quantity criterion is removed, the target for municipal solid waste will unduly include commercial and industrial waste and affect the accuracy of statistical data.
Moreover, the collection of commercial and industrial waste should not be financed and cross-subsidised by public funds, ultimately resulting in additional costs for taxpayers. In the absence of the quantity criterion there is a genuine risk that the scope of municipal waste is widened and therefore the focus is diverted from areas where the need to increase collection is the most acute. In order to ensure that all streams remain open to competition, instrumental to preserving cost-efficient and innovative waste markets, we support two key actions:
- Maintaining the quantity criterion in the definition of municipal waste;
- Clearly stipulate into the definition of municipal waste that it is neutral with regard to the public and private status “The definition of municipal waste (…) is neutral with regard to the public or private status of the operator managing waste and to the ownership of the waste”.