[GRRN] Recycling is a Trade Barrier - Says American Chamber of Commerce

Bill Sheehan (zerowaste@grrn.org)
Mon, 1 Mar 1999 21:08:10 -0500

[Forwarded by Carolyn Chase <cdchase@sdearthtimes.com>]

The EU Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce
(Amcham) has warned that some of the European Commission's
ideas on promoting recycling industries might harm industry
as a whole or create de facto barriers to trade.

In a position paper released today, Amcham gives a broad
welcome to a strategy paper published by the Commission last
year, setting out possible ways to stimulate the EU's
recycling industry (ENDS Daily 24 July 1998). But the
organisation, which represents US-parented firms operating
in the EU, goes on to claim that many of the Commission's
suggestions could in fact harm industry in general.

Amcham argues that new policies must not give recycling
preferential treatment over other forms of waste treatment
such as incineration with energy recovery or composting
"where these are more suitable". Amcham says it supports
the EU's current waste hierarchy - which sets out how
preferences for the way waste is treated - which sees
incineration with energy recovery as slightly less good than
recycling, but far preferable to waste disposal.

Frank Koelwijn, chairman of Amcham's environment
sub-committee, said the EU should move away from a rigid
interpretation of the hierarchy and, instead, allow member
states to apply the "best practical environmental option,"
under a more flexible EU framework. "The Commission may
have gone wrong in the past when it took a vertical
approach" to waste management, he said.

Amcham is also concerned about possible bans on products or
their constituent substances as a way to facilitate
recycling. It points to the scrap cars (end-of-life
vehicles) proposal currently being debated at EU level as an
example of proposed bans being "problematic". The
Commission's proposal to restrict the presence of heavy
metals in cars going for recycling is proving to be one of
the most controversial issues in the European Parliament and
Council of Ministers.

Amcham says that otherwise it supports the use of product
design policies, which the Commission is also currently
considering, as a way to increase the possibilities for
recycling, but stresses that economic and social factors
should be an integral part of any such policy developments
(ENDS Daily 9 December 1998).

It also warns against the use of public procurement to
generate a market for recycled products, an idea mooted in
the Commission's strategy. Mr Koelwijn said procurement had
often been used as a trade barrier in the past and might
become so again if used in this way. The position paper
says that this would be exacerbated if public bodies were
required to buy only products or services carrying EU
ecolabels or which are produced by firms registered to the
EU's eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS).

Contacts: Amcham (http://www.eucommittee.be), tel: +32 2
513 6892.