Environmental groups say proposed mininmum recycling targets could cut CO2 emissions by 89m tonnes per year

Proposed binding minimum EU recycling targets of 50% for municipal waste by 2020 could save emissions equivalent to more than 89m tonnes of CO2 per year, said a new study.

This is equivalent to taking 31m cars off the road. The study builds on a UK report which found that most studies showed that recycling was better for the climate than incineration.

Dr Michael Warhurst of Friends of the Earth Europe said:“Recycling our waste helps to tackle climate change, and targets are the best way to make sure recycling really happens across Europe. This study shows the massive potential benefits from targets for municipal waste. Friends of the Earth believes it is crucial that targets for business waste are also agreed, as these will also have massive benefits, and we all need to do our bit.”

The study also calculates the climate benefits of waste prevention, and finds that if waste volumes were stabilised at 2006 levels, a total of 1.1bn tonnes of CO2 equivalents would be saved by 2020.

Nathalie Cliquot of European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said: “This study provides further evidence that we must make waste prevention a reality, as it has the potential to save significant quantities of climate-changing emissions, not to mention avoiding environmental damage in the use of natural resources. The European Parliament has already supported a target to stabilise waste production across the EU at 2008 levels by 2012 – they must not let EU Governments dodge this crucial issue.”

The new research is released exactly a year after the European Parliament voted in its first reading for the following binding EU targets for prevention and recycling:

• Stabilisation of total waste generation in each EU country at 2008 levels by 2012

• A minimum recycling rate of 50% for municipal waste by 2020, with the option of a 5-year delay for those countries with very low recycling rates.

• A minimum recycling rate of 70% for industrial, commercial, construction and demolition wastes by 2020.

The EEB said in a release: ‘EU Governments have ignored the European Parliament’s vote in their first reading Common position, and the second reading is now starting with recycling targets as one of the main issues of negotiation. Five EU countries have already achieved the 50% recycling rate for municipal solid waste, with others having set similar targets, demonstrating that this target really is achievable.’