The European Parliament’s environment committee made significant strides on Wednesday, backing EU targets aimed at curbing the staggering levels of food and textile waste across the bloc. The proposed regulations mark a crucial step towards achieving a more sustainable future, but questions remain about their practical implementation and impact.

Under the proposed amendments to the EU’s Waste Framework Directive, the Parliament seeks to bolster waste reduction targets substantially. Specifically, lawmakers advocate for increasing targets for food processing and manufacturing to at least 20%, up from the previous 10%, and setting a 40% per capita reduction goal for retail, food service, and household waste, compared to the initial 30%.

However, environmental advocates have raised concerns about the discrepancy between the current proposal and previous commitments outlined in the European Parliament's 2020 resolution on the Green Deal, which aimed for a 50% reduction in food waste from farm to fork.

In addition to addressing food waste, the revised directive introduces an extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme for textile products, clothing, and shoes. This scheme mandates that manufacturers cover the costs associated with the collection, sorting, and recycling of their products.

While the move has been praised for its inclusivity, with non-household products, carpets, mattresses, and online sales also falling under its purview, critics point out a significant gap: the absence of waste reduction targets for textiles.

Moreover, amendments encouraging improved separate collection and sorting of mixed municipal waste have drawn both support and criticism. While proponents argue for enhanced waste management practices, critics, including the EU association of waste-to-energy technologies (ESWET), highlight the lack of a thorough cost-benefit analysis and the potential strain on infrastructure.

The road ahead for these proposed regulations remains uncertain. While the European Parliament is set to vote on the revised directive in March 2024, the Council of EU member states has yet to adopt its position. Consequently, a final agreement on the directive is not expected until the latter half of the year, post-EU elections.

As stakeholders continue to weigh in on the directive, calls for further improvements and a comprehensive review beyond 2026 are growing louder. With sustainability at the forefront of global agendas, the urgency to address waste management practices has never been more apparent.

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