Select Committee on European Union Forty-Seventh Report


18 NOVEMBER 2003

By the Select Committee appointed to consider European Union documents and other matters relating to the European Union.



10113/03  Communication from the Commission: Towards a thematic strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste (COM (03) 301)

10801/03  Communication from the Commission: Integrated product policy—building on environmental life cycle thinking (COM (03) 302)

13239/03   Communication from the Commission: Towards a thematic strategy on the sustainable use of natural resources (COM (03) 572)


i.  The European Commission has been seeking to develop a comprehensive and consistent policy on waste prevention and recycling within an overall objective of resource efficiency. Three initiatives form the basis of the Commission's future work in this area:

·  a consultation exercise on strategy for the prevention and recycling of waste;

·  a Communication which sets out the Commission's thinking on an integrated product policy approach;

·  a consultation exercise on strategy for the sustainable use of natural resources.

ii.  The aim of the Committee's inquiry has been to review current processes for developing Community legislation in the waste policy field and the impact they have had on the quality of legislation. The report considers whether implementation of the Commission's ambitious agenda requires changes to be made to these processes.

iii.  In the Committee's view, the European Union has in the past tended to base policy on inadequate evidence and data, leaving significant details to be agreed behind closed doors after framework legislation has been adopted.

iv.  Inconsistent definitions (e.g. of "waste" and "recycling"), confusing overlaps between Directives and inconsistent practices between different Member States in relation to the same Directive need to be reviewed.

v.  The Committee considers that placing waste in an overall context of sustainable use of natural resources is a rational approach, but that far better information is needed from which to develop workable, effective and proportionate legislative instruments in future.

vi.  Once EU legislation has been implemented, it should be monitored and evaluated in detail to find out whether it is having the desired effect. The Commission should make greater use of the European Environment Agency for collating data and ensure that Member States provide the Agency with sound and consistent data, which are essential to the proper discharge of its functions.

vii.  The UK has a poor record in influencing EU waste policy. It needs to operate at a more strategic level. It should initiate and innovate, not just react passively to legislative proposals from the Commission. This calls for a far greater level of collective working within Government, overseen and co-ordinated by a dedicated unit at the centre with the task of ensuring clear accountability for successes and failures.

viii.  The crucial interaction between central and local government in this field needs to be better recognised in policy-making.

ix.  The report concludes that:

·  significant improvements can be made to the policy-making process at the Community and national level;

·  the Commission should review the operation of the EU legislative process as it applies to waste; and

·  the results of this review must be fed into current consultations on Community strategies for waste management and recycling and sustainable use of natural resources.

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