The review of the European Waste Framework Directive
Századvég Konjunktúrakutató’s latest webinar focused on waste related consumer behaviour and the review of the European Waste Framework Directive. The workshop touched upon how waste collection and sustainability objectives could further be streamlined with manifested consumer behaviour and how this could be better reflected in EU-level sectoral rules. Our webinar sits well in with the European Commission’s ongoing revision of the EU Waste Framework Directive and also with the recent modifications of municipal waste collection and management in Hungary.
The webinar, steered by Pál Belényesi, welcomed four panellists:
László Kökény, Senior Advisor, Climate & Energy Advisory at Századvég;
Mr. Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea, Director of Circular Economy, DG Environment, European Commission
Ms. Anett Tóth, Senior Expert, EU Regulatory Affairs, MOL Group, Hungary; and
Ms. Szilvia Szentesi, Senior Legal Expert of Circular Economy, Ministry for Technology and Industry, Hungary.
Key outcome of the discussion:
There is a gap between declared consumer attitude and manifest consumer behaviour concerning waste management and recycling in Hungary. One of the reasons is the lack of information, the other is the limited extent of financial incentives.
The European Commission will not give up on the goals already embedded in the 2018 modifications of the WFD, but will revise them by 2023 in order to better address textile and food waste, critical raw materials and product durability. The planned modifications will better reflect consumer expectations.
While Hungary has made progress regarding the goals of the WFD, such as banning single-use plastics, introducing a Food Rescue Centre, a more effective municipal waste management is currently to be developed. Expectations are high therefore regarding the new concession system.
MOL Group, the winner of the concession tendering, has committed to invest ca. 0.4 billion euros in its infrastructure with the aim to increase efficiency in recycling of plastic and the separate collection of textile and oil waste.
Both the industry and the European Commission found that municipal waste has increased in the last decade. This is the case especially for specific waste streams: oil and textile. The Commission is currently engaged in a stakeholder consultations and the WFD recast is scheduled for 2023.
During the panel discussion, Mr. Kökény presented Századvég Konjunktúrakutató’s research, which assessed the general attitudes and opinions of Hungarian households regarding waste re-use, waste generation and waste reduction.
Studies have already shown that in industrialised countries the development of people's soft skills, i.e. their psychological and social characteristics, could be key to their successful involvement in waste management. Századvég’s research, however, also asked interviewees about their actual participatory behaviour and their opinions on how they perceive the responsibility of waste generation. According to the respondents, the most important motivating factor is knowledge but financial rewards are important too.
Hungarian households resulted to be committed to the matter: more than 80% of them has a positive attitude towards waste management, while 60% of them actually carries out selective waste collection, composting, waste minimisation, conscious consumption and reduction of food waste. The gap between attitudes and actual behaviour suggests that there is still significant work to be done on the decision-makers' side.
It is important to note that, Hungary’s poorer regions have a higher proportion of people with actual waste-reducing and -recycling behaviour than its richer regions. An important factor influencing the gap is that the products used are often of unsatisfactory quality and have a short life time; as consumption is higher in richer regions, subsequent waste generation is also higher there. Altogether, reducing the gap between attitude and actual behaviour is a pressing issue.
Reasons why positive attitude in itself is not enough
Századvég suggests therefore that when drafting the new Directive, the following considerations should be taken into account:
The role of industry and global companies in waste generation cannot be ignored. The WFD recast should not omit this.
An important factor is the improvement of MS’s resource efficiency and the coverage of waste collection points.
Waste processing and its support must also be improved.
Product quality requirements should also be considered, as in many cases households are unable to buy products of good quality or that are more environmentally friendly. What is considered “good quality” must be established by law, based on actual consumer preferences, and not only attitudes. This requires behaviour research and evidence-based legislative planning.
Geographical, cultural and economic circumstances of the Member States must be considered.
Kökény emphasised that developing the soft skills and motivatorsis important but not enough. Significant focus should be put on ensuring the technological and infrastructural development.
Mr. Ciobanu-Dordea of DG ENVI mentioned how the Commission is monitoring the EU Member States for the implementation of the 2018 WFD modifications. in addition, the 2023 modifications will focus on:
Food waste and the lost potential this represents; and the growing amount of textile waste.
Before intervening at EU level, for waste oil, more evidence is needed.
Instead of constantly changing regulations, better implementation of the existing rules would be beneficial. The Commission will soon release the next generation of early warning reports during Q1 2023.
The plans regarding the revision of the Framework need to be viewed in the wider context, for this the Commission will bring out legislative proposals in multiple areas, including the durability of products. The Commission recently put forward a comprehensive product regulatory framework to make sure that a wide category of goods can be produced sustainably. Soon a product specific guide will follow, which envisages a horizontal framework focusing on durability, reparability or recyclability.
Soon – by the end of November – a draft proposal on packaging and packaging waste will come out, too.
Potential future modifications of the Framework Directive would likely include critical raw materials as the pressure on global supply chains negatively impacted the Member States. The Critical Raw Materials Act, among others will address the issue of recyclability and separate collection of goods including critical raw materials. The Commission will try to address this through a single intervention to the Directive in conjunction with introducing food waste targets and provisions for extended producer responsibilities for textiles.
Ms. Szilvia Szentesi stated that Hungary considers switching to the circular economy a crucial issue. The goal is to increase the competitiveness of the waste management areas. Hungary wants to adhere to the goals set in the EU directives and action plans, therefore has made the following commitments:
Among others, sanctioned illegal dumping, ruled out single-use plastic products; a deposit system for bottles and metals cans will be introduced from 2024.
Also, to eliminate the issue of food waste, a Food Rescue Centre has been set up in 2021 to coordinate the allocation of surplus food from supermarkets to charitable organisations.
Due to observed inefficiencies in waste management, a tender to restructure the waste management system was tabled and a new concession for 35 years will start on 1 July 2023.
This plan also contains apart from addressing food waste and the concession the reduction of construction and demolition waste generation.
The outline of the National Waste Management Programme
Ms. Anett Tóth represented MOL Group, which won the waste management tender:
Through the concession, MOL is responsible for the collection and management of 4,7 million tonnes of mainly solid municipal waste.
Hungary and the CEE region is significantly behind in reducing landfilling to 10% by 2035, and in achieving 65% of waste recycled by 2035. MOL is investing ca. 0.4 billion euros in infrastructure development to introduce the EPR and DRS systems, and also to introduce the separate collection of new household waste streams, such as oils and textile.
To reduce waste generation better methodology and data is needed to identify the main sources of waste generation. As for re-use of waste, the company is committed to a life cycle approach.
Regarding the treatment of plastics, the current mechanical recycling has to be improved because of their serious limitations, therefore they are looking into chemical recycling proposed by the waste framework directive.
To improve separate collection, 80% of the investment will go towards new containers, new vehicles and waste sorting yards and pay as you throw systems.
You can access the presentations of the event here:
Századvég Konjunktúrakutató is a member of the Századvég Group. As a key player in the domestic advisory market it seeks to support public administration and businesses in the private sector in their policy-making and strategic operations with its knowledge, experience and approach. Its eight business units are: development policy, education and innovation, digital economy, social research, energy and climate, health, macroeconomics and rural development. Századvég’s policy expert capacities are complemented by its primary research capacities, which use multiple qualitative and quantitative methodologies, including recent surveying technologies such as social listening or eye tracking analyses.