Municipal Waste Management is a Service of General Interest (SGI).
(19 April 2011) Municipal Waste management should be under the responsibility by the local authorities, taking into consideration local needs and circumstances. Local authorities are free to choose how they organize the service. These were the conclusions of a meeting on 13 April 2011, held by Municipal Waste Europe (MWE) in which EPSU participated.
Municipal waste management is needed for all citizens and is based on environmental concerns to prevent and utilize waste in the best possible way. It became clear during the meeting that municipal waste management cannot be compared to other utility or commercial services. Market failures in municipal waste management would create environmental damage and impact on human health and put a large burden on future generations, which is unacceptable.
The European Commission representative confirmed that the intentions remain to keep the EU-legislation neutral when it comes to the local choice between tendering or in-house organization of services. The Commission intends to present a new legislative formula concerning concessions before the summer. However, the intention is not to limit possibilities for local policy choices. EPSU stated that concessions are a way of introducing competition and reality shows that competition favours the private MNC’s that have the capital to knock out small and local public service providers. The European Commission underlined the regulatory framework for municipal waste management as a Service of General Interest for which the local authorities have the responsibility and the freedom to organize. They have and will keep the options either to deliver the service themselves, through public cooperation, or by involving a private party. EPSU will follow the legislative proposals on concessions closely to make sure that public services of general interest will not become subject to market forces and failures.
Many European countries have assigned the responsibility for organizing the collection and treatment of municipal waste by law to the local authorities. This confirms the nature of this service as a service of general interest. There is a clear logic behind this approach. Municipal waste management cannot be considered to be a regular commercial activity:
The goal of municipal waste management is a mission of general interest: protection of human health and environment;
The continuity and the quality of the service is a necessity as the citizens are obliged to use it;
All inhabitants should have equal access to a reasonable service for disposal of their waste;
In case of failure of a collection system, it is impossible for the local authorities to stand aside;
Municipal waste management is a collective service;
An essential part of sustainable municipal waste management is to engage the public through promotion and consultation towards prevention of waste production, an activity which can hardly be expected from a commercial company.
Mentioned was that also the European Court of Justice has confirmed the nature of general interest for municipal waste management activities. It is inevitable that integrated waste management is organized close to the citizens. The way of collection should be decided on a local level, to make sure that the service provided meets the needs of all citizens. Local situations and needs can vary greatly both between and within countries, cities and regions and thus the organization of the waste management should be decided on the basis of the local conditions. Municipalities should be given the power to choose the best form of waste management on the basis of the local situation and needs, so as to achieve the environmental targets set at EU-level. Waste collection should be organized in a specific way, adapted to local circumstances. This allows optimal public service and full participation by all citizens. As the way of treatment often has an important impact on the way of collection, an integrated approach – from prevention up to treatment – should be publicly managed at the local level. EPSU fully agrees with the conclusions of the meeting and will cooperate with MWE to safeguard and promote quality public waste services.