Managing Waste and Recycling

medium_laurel3.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

You may not be based in the European Union (EU), but you can still benefit from some of its ideas, even the whacky ones. In fact pinching the ideas without being bound by EU implementation and compliance rules is probably a better option for many countries and businesses. The latest interesting EU idea we’ve come across is the Waste Framework Directive (WFD). The WFD outlines how local authorities, councils and the like should, wherever technically, environmentally and economically practical (TEEP,) collect the four main recyclable materials: paper, metal, plastic and glass. You can already see how much of an information thicket this is turning into for EU member states, but unlike non-EU countries, they have no choice.

By the 1st January 2015 EU member states have to have some sort of guidance in place for implementing this directive. WFD does at least get governments thinking, even if those trying to follow the rules will probably struggle to comply. That is unless they are in the printing industry because in this sector printers and recycling companies already have established supply chains for paper and aluminium recycling and for waste disposal. The EU rules may seem onerous, but they aren’t really. The language is intended to encourage behavioural change rather than providing the basis for draconian mandates. For instance the WFD says “member states shall take measures to promote high quality recycling …”, but doesn’t specify anything more. And there is also the TEEP caveat, which allows for a pretty elastic interpretation.

Within the EU, governments are scrambling to come up with advice for local authorities and businesses. Beyond it other countries can look at what the EU is up to and consider ways of applying similar ideas for their geographies, but doing so more effectively. For instance the WFD requires that any company undertaking waste treatment, such as deinking to produce pulp suitable for recycled papers, must have a permit. Governments are also encouraged to set up integrated networks for waste recovery and recycling. In many European countries this starts with roadside collection of recyclables, but that only works if is is properly planned and managed.

Having local governments impose yet more business rules and regulations adds to an ever more exhausting tangle of red tape. Bureaucratic nonsense saps productivity and distracts people from building their businesses. Printers are very good at recycling because it provides them with a revenue stream. For printers who are already good at waste management, the red tape will be less a tangle than a route towards further demonstration of print’s carbon footprint reduction.

– Laurel Brunner

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