The European Union has long had a reputation for micro-managing on every aspect of the region's life – from multibillion euro building projects to the colour of passports. Now the EU has found another pressing matter: toilet flushing.
The executive branch of the EU, the European Commission, will adopt criteria next week that will eventually set a standard across the continent for the amount of water that can be used when flushing toilets and urinals. This will form part of a new Ecolabel, which is designed to attract consumers who want to save money or be more environmentally friendly. It will be up to companies to choose whether to apply for the standards approval so that they can display the labels.
"The primary aim of establishing criteria for toilets etc. is to increase water efficiency during operation," a spokesperson for Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik told EurActiv, an EU news service.
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According to the documents, the new EU standard will set a maximum full flush of six litres and one litre for urinals. There was a suggestion of limiting toilet units to a maximum five litres for the full flush, but apparently that would have caused "some legal problems for some Member States."
Flushing as a percentage of household water use differs from country to country in the EU. Britons use 30 percent of their water use on flushing, compared to just 14 percent from the Finns. Luxembourg households use the largest percentage of their water on flushing: 34 percent.
According to a European spokeswoman quoted in The Times of London, the research involved in concluding the new criteria for flushing cost 89,300 Euros ($122,000).
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The move comes just a few weeks after Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president,promised that the would cut back on bureaucracy, arguing that the EU needed to be "big on big things and smaller on smaller things." David Cameron also recently stressed the need to rid the EU of its policy pile-up.
Martin Callanan, a British member of the European Parliament, has long argued against EU bureaucracy and said, "I always thought flushes were pretty bog-standard, without the EU sticking its nose in, so speak. However there seems to no limit whatsoever to the Commission's self-conferred licence to interfere."
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Callanan added, "It makes a mockery of Barrosso's article in The Daily Telegraph last week supporting our call for less unnecessary red tape. He needs to get a grip of his own bureaucracy."
Once applied, the new criteria would apply to all new toilet and urinal units in the EU applying for the Ecolabel. In 2011, 21.9 million toilet units and 2.2 million urinal units were sold in the EU, according to the European Commission.