Circular Economy Package will be binned – what’s next?

The European Commission's decision to scrap the widely-favoured Circular Economy Package has been confirmed, leaving the UK's resource and waste management sector waiting in anticipation for what comes next.

Legislation to implement the Package, which was launched last year under the stewardship of former Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik, will be officially abolished in the next couple of months.

EU sources told EurActiv “the final decision has been taken and nothing could be foreseen that would change the executive’s mind at this stage”. It is understood the Commission wants to combine the circular economy package with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s new Investment Plan.

The draft Circular Economy Package featured a proposed 70% recycling and reuse target for 2030, as well as a requirement for Member States to recycle 80% of packaging waste by 2030.

But its fate was effectively sealed last month by the Commission’s Vice-President Frans Timmermans at the plenary session of the Work Programme for 2015, following weeks of speculation from the resource and environmental management industry and green groups.

Those same groups seem slightly more optimistic about what might happen next, after Timmermans insisted the Commission wanted to “put something on the table that is more ambitious”.

Industry reaction

British and European waste-management lobby groups expressed their disappointment at the announcement, saying that the political uncertainty could discourage investment and hamstring the industry. 

“Nevertheless,” said Environmental Services Association (ESA) executive director Jacob Hayler. “We will continue to work closely with the Commission, the Parliament, and the Member States to help develop the “more ambitious” Circular Economy package which Vice President Timmermans has promised to re-table later this year.

“This new package will need to retain key elements of the existing proposals, while adding measures to prevent waste and strengthen the markets for recycled and recovered materials”.

The European arm of the ESA lobby, FEAD, also released a statement, calling on European leaders to keep developing the circular economy proposal.

FEAD vice-president Peter Kurth said: “The envisaged targets on waste, recycling and waste prevention are ambitious. Nobody will deny that. And everyone recognizes that they will require serious efforts, in particular from the new EU Member States that have only just begun to develop a proper waste management infrastructure.

“There is no doubt that the Package has its shortfalls, especially with regard to the financial instruments needed to reach the targets. But no Commission proposal has ever come out of a legislative procedure without amendments and improvements. This is exactly the role of the European Parliament and the Council. To withdraw a legislative proposal welcomed by a large majority in both institutions would be unacceptable.”

Luke Nicholls & Brad Allen

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