The Mayor of Europe is an excellent initiative

  • 25 април 2017, 09:33
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George Kremlis, Head of Unit DG Environment European Comission
- Mr. Kremlis, how would you evaluate the waste management in the European Union?

- Overall the waste management performance at the EU-level has been steadily improving over the past decades. In the course of the last 15 years the recycling rate of municipal waste increased by 50%. In 2015 the EU recycled (including composting) 45% of municipal waste. However, it is important to highlight that there are large discrepancies between EU Member States and landfilling of municipal waste ranges from 1% to as high as almost 90%. This is very serious, and shows that some countries still need to put a lot of effort to redesign their national waste management system to comply with EU rules and in particular with the waste hierarchy.

- Regarding to this which countries have the best waste management plan?

- I would refrain from choosing between countries of the best waste management plans. Typically, the good performers will have a good plan, however what ultimately matters is how the plan is implemented. What is clear is that without a comprehensive and thorough WMP identifying the main challenges and needs and solutions (e.g. roll out of separate collection, planning of infrastructure to treat waste in line with the waste hierarchy, and the economic instruments to incentivize the citizens and businesses towards recycling) we cannot expect good progress to happen.

- How much waste has been recycled within the Union?

- I have provided the figure above but what is important is that Member States meet the 50% recycling target by 2020, and later on the more ambitious targets that will be decided in the circular economy package. This will improve significantly the overall performance and promote zero waste models across the EU.

- What kind of measures should be taken to enrich the citizens' culture in this direction and how can we encourage waste separation in different countries?

- It is indispensable to raise people's awareness of the importance to sort their waste and follow the guidelines given. The authorities should drive that change by educating their citizens but also giving them economic incentives to do it, e.g. by making collection of separated waste easier and cheaper than mixed waste, by charging the citizens for waste collection based on the amount of mixed waste they produce. This is the "pay as you throw" economic instrument that has not yet been implemented in Bulgaria, although the BG national WMP was adopted and fulfils the Ex Ante Conditionality, which means that BG can spend EU funds for waste projects.

Generally speaking, there are also some local circumstances that may need to be taken into account, e.g. how to organize collection of kitchen waste during summer in warmer countries as the food waste stream is becoming mandatory under the circular economy package. However, there are best practice examples available across Europe.  It takes some effort but in the end the citizens' satisfaction of doing something good for the environment (the feel good factor) kicks in and helps to establish good habits.

- What do you think about the project "Mayor of Europe"? Do you think that the exchange of good practices between European mayors could help to improve the environmental protection and recycling within the EU? 

- The Mayor of Europe initiative is an excellent one. BG has initiated it as a private initiative of Boyan Tomov and hopefully this visionary project will expand across Europe and lead from the Mayor of Bulgaria to the Mayor of Europe.
We in the European Commission are always in favor of exchanging good practice and supporting and spreading best practice examples in our contacts with the national and regional authorities. However, any bottom-up initiatives are very welcome as they reflect the real needs on the ground and enable the central and European level to become better aware of them and support them. The Mayors are next to the citizen and to the problems on the ground; they can provide ideas and solutions to bring Europe closer to the citizens and the citizens closer to Europe something we need more and more these days.