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Commission puts litter prevention on the map at EU level

Christine Cahoon   Fri 04 Dec 2015   updated: Wed 20 Jan 2016

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful welcomes the pioneering measures put forward by the European Commission to tackle litter prevention. These were put forward recently as part of the new legislative proposals on waste released as part of the EU Circular Economy package. The waste proposals specifically recognise that: “Littering has direct detrimental impacts on the environment and the wellbeing of citizens, and high clean-up costs are an unnecessary economic burden for society. The introduction of specific measures in waste management plans and proper enforcement by competent authorities should help eradicate this problem.”

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful has calculated the average cost to ratepayers of cleaning our streets at £38m a year and the Clean Europe Network, of which the charity is a founding member, estimates that litter clean-up costs the taxpayer €11 to €13 billion annually in the EU, public money which could, in part at least, be better spent on other priorities.

The wind and waterways carry litter all across the continent to the seas and the ocean. As 80% of marine litter comes from the land, the problem in our seas cannot be tackled realistically without stopping littering on the land. The Commission proposals presented on 2 December are thus a major step forward for litter prevention across the EU.

Ian Humphreys, CEO of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said: “The Commission has started a process at EU level which we believe will lead to a better sharing of responsibility for litter prevention among all stakeholders. The Commission is giving impetus to work that will make a difference to all our lives. Given our unique engagement with citizens concerned with litter across Northern Ireland, we are eager to assist central and local government, public agencies and industry bodies to develop meaningful action plans and long term strategies that will engage the public and deliver positive change to the littering behaviour of people who live here.”

If adopted, the legislation will require governments to develop a litter prevention strategy in their national waste management plans. The latter must be prepared periodically and shared with Brussels. From now on, these national plans will need to combat all forms of littering and clean-up all types of litter (that could include, for example, tobacco waste, chewing gum, packaging, newspapers and magazines, tissue paper, and others). The legislation will also require EU member states to implement proper enforcement and penalties.

The proposals require producers to take on the communication of litter prevention information to citizens. This obligation would be implemented in practice via the so-called “producer responsibility organisations” (set up at national level) to manage collectively the individual responsibility of companies to guarantee appropriate collection and waste management of end-of-life products.