MEPs have adopted 7 “breakthrough propositions” for sharing responsibility for litter prevention as part of the revision of the EU’s 2008 Waste Directive, designed to promote a circular economy in Europe.
The Clean Europe Network estimates that litter clean-up costs the EU taxpayer €11 to €13 billion annually, public money which could, in part at least, be better spent on other priorities.
“EU member states must accept and implement these smart, no-nonsense measures to share responsibility for litter and prevention of littering”
The wind and waterways carry litter all across the continent to the seas and the ocean. It says that as 80% of marine litter comes from the land, the problem in our seas cannot be tackled realistically without stopping littering on land.
The 7 breakthrough propositions add up to what it calls a “major step forward” for litter prevention across the EU.
Breakthrough Proposition 1
The first ever definition of “litter” at EU level was put forward by the European Parliament. Agreeing a definition opens the way to clear implementation in the 28 EU member states of shared responsibility for litter and prevention of littering, as proposed by the Commission.
Breakthrough Proposition 2
It is proposed that dropping litter become an offence in all EU countries. Citizens who do not take their responsibility seriously will be breaking the law and subject to fines or other sanctions.
Breakthrough Proposition 3
For the first time, member states must develop a national litter prevention strategy as an integral part of national waste management plans. Research by the Clean Europe Network shows that the vast majority of existing national waste management plans contain no substantive strategy whatsoever on litter prevention. In future, national plans will be required “to combat all forms of littering and clean-up all types of litter” (that could include, for example, tobacco waste, chewing gum, packaging, newspapers and magazines, paper personal hygiene products, and others).
Breakthrough Proposition 4
It is proposed to develop a common European methodology to measure litter so that member states can monitor and assess their litter prevention measures. Without having a common method to measure, it is hard to make any sense out of litter reduction targets, on land or in the sea.
Breakthrough Proposition 5
Member states must identify the products that are the main sources of littering in the natural environment and take measures to reduce them. This can help address the marine litter problem.
Breakthrough Proposition 6
Producers will be required to pay for public information and communication campaigns on prevention of littering: today’s on-the-go lifestyles increase the risk of products being dropped as litter.
Breakthrough Proposition 7
For the first time, the definition of municipal waste has been explicitly extended to cover collected litter: by doing this the Commission and Parliament have clarified the share of responsibility for litter that falls to local authorities covers cleansing activities.
“If they are serious about making a difference, EU member states must accept and implement these smart, no-nonsense measures to share responsibility for litter and prevention of littering,” said Derek Robertson, current President of the Clean Europe Network and chief executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful.
“The Clean Europe Network’s goal to achieve a litter free Europe by 2030 is a step closer today. These recommendations by MEPs and the Commission will help get it done – with the people of Europe, producers, local authorities and central governments all working together.”