The European Litter Prevention Association

European Parliament recommends 50% litter reduction target by 2030

9 June 2016

The European Parliament's take on the future of EU litter prevention policy is getting clearer. On the table we now have: an EU-wide 50% reduction target of land-based litter by 2030, a definition for "litter" as well as for "littering". The land-based litter reduction target is seen as a means to achieve a 50% reduction of marine litter by 2030. Following the precedent set by single-use plastics carrier bags, the Parliament is also proposing to allow EU countries to restrict single-use products for the sake of litter prevention.

The European Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy Committee made a first set of recommendations at the end of May. Meanwhile the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (which is leading the Parliament's work on this issue) has released its position earlier this month. On Wednesday 15 June they will debate these recommendations together (streaming available here - session scheduled from 9:00 to 12:30 hrs Brussels time).

The Parliament is proposing defitions for litter and littering. It is important for these terms to be defined, notably because “the English term 'littering' is not easily translatable into all languages”.

litter means waste in publicly accessible rural and urban areas, including surface water, that has been improperly discarded or has resulted from inadequate waste management; — (Gen. Waste Am. 54) littering means any action or omission by the waste holder, whether wilful or negligent, that results in litter; — (Gen. Waste AM. 55)

The European Parliament also wants to use product labelling as a means of litter prevention:

prevention of littering is preferred over clean-up. It is therefore essential to change inappropriate behaviour of consumers. To that end, producers whose products are likely to become litter should promote the provisions of information on sustainable product use and the use of education programmes for citizens. — (Gen. Waste Recital 25 Am. 31 new)

Finally, the European Parliament proposes to add the obligation for EU Member States to prevent waste generation by "prevent[ing] littering, in particular, by discouraging the marketing and the use of single-use products". (Gen. Waste AM. 94)

The current discussions going on in the European Parliament are one step in the legislative process - but a very important step. It will be another couple years before this legislation makes its way into each EU Member State's legal system.