We can reduce waste by using our own coffee cup, but not always is up to us the waste management. Can we decide if Subway give three package for our sandwich. In some way we can, by acting as responsible consumers (sending e-mails or calling to the company; or simply not buying their products). But sometimes is not so easy and we have to accept what market offers.
In addition, not all the people know this problem, or they think that the problem is not serious enough to worry about it.
Thence, we have two options: we can live consumers and “the invisible hand” of the market stimulate an environmental friendly behavior, or we can persuade people and industries to behave correctly through public policy.
The European Community chose the second option via the DIRECTIVE 94/62/EC, that aims to “harmonize national measures in order to prevent or reduce the impact of packaging and packaging waste on the environment and to ensure the functioning of the Internal Market.”
What is DIRECTIVE 94/62/EC?
It is a Directive that covers all packaging placed on the market in the Europe Community and all packaging waste, whether it is used or released at industrial, commercial, office, shop, service, household or any other level, regardless of the material used. It requires Member States to take measures in order to prevent the formation of packaging waste, and encourage packaging reuse systems.
“It contains provisions on the prevention of packaging waste, on the re-use of packaging and on the recovery and recycling of packaging waste.”
Goals of the Directive
All the states must meet the following targets, by no latter than 2008:
- at least 60% by weight of packaging waste to be recovered or incinerated at waste incineration plants with energy recovery;
- between 55 and 80% by weight of packaging waste will be recycled;
- the following recycling targets must be met for materials contained in packaging waste: 60% by weight for glass, 60% by weight for paper and board, 50% by weight for metals, 22.5% by weight for plastics and 15% by weight for wood.
This year, the European Parliament and the Council are supposed to set targets for 2009-2014 period.
The genuinely objective of this directive is reduce all the one-time-use package that is possible to reduce. However, some NGOs , as Ecologistas en Acción, said that these is not what is happening now. Since the directive is to vague many states are implementing collection and recycling schemes that helps to reduce waste, but are not the best solution.
The best strategy that states, and people too, have to take is reducing; reuse and recycle are secondary options (3R concept said -1st Reduce, 2nd Reuse, 3rd Recycle, what you couldn’t reduce or reuse). According to Ideas, the countries chose this policy because of the pressure that companies, as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, etc, does via groups as EUROPEN or ERRA.
Despite the controversy, public policy is useful and necessary. Lobby groups try to defend their own interest always. That’s why public policy is essential. The fact that the EC Directive doesn’t work as it should doesn’t mean is usefulness, it means that we have to do more efforts and improve the legislation.
Consumer pressure is a way to act on behalf of the environment, but not enough. May be, some companies introduce environmental policies in order to appeal responsible consumers. Merely, the big changes are made by public policy. And public policy is made by concerned citizens and voters.
So, the conclusion is that we have to pressure as consumers (choosing the best products we can) and as citizens voting and demanding our representatives for effective legislation (in favor of the society and not private interests).