MEPs bolster EU recycling and landfill targets

Members of the European Parliament's Environment Committee yesterday (24 January) moved to increase draft EU recycling and landfill targets that had been lowered by the European Commission in its re-tabled Circular Economy Package.

Supporters of the circular economy argue that there needs to be a shift towards sustainability, where as little of the planet’s finite resources are wasted as possible as the world population booms

The suite of six bills of rules for waste, packaging, landfill end of life vehicles, batteries and accumulators, and waste electronic equipment was put forward by the Commission in December last year.

It had previously withdrawn an earlier version of the package, prepared under the Barroso Commission, as part of its ‘better regulation’ strategy.

Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans promised that the new Circular Economy Package would be “more ambitious” than its 2014 predecessor.

But although it included new legislation to encourage easy-to-recycle design of products, it had lower targets for recycling and landfill than the first version.

MEPs in Brussels voted to restore the lowered targets to the level of the original proposal yesterday.

They backed a 2030 recycling target for municipal waste of 70%, the same as the 2014 package but 5% more than the new proposal.  They also called for a new 2030 reuse target of 5%. This sub-target aims to encourage the repair and fixing of products.

The 2030 target for packaging recycling was set at 80%, the same as in 2014, but higher than the 75% backed by the executive.

The file, led by Italian Socialists and Democrats MEP Simona Bonafè, must now be voted on in plenary. It is possible, although unlikely, that some of the amendments could be voted down in the full Parliament session, which is scheduled to take place in Strasbourg in March.

“The European Parliament voted today to restore the ambitious target of 70% of recycled waste by 2030, as well as a waste landfill target restricted to 5% by 2030, in line with what the Commission had originally proposed in  its more ambitious proposal in 2014,” Bonafè said.

The package will only be finalised once both the Parliament and Council of Ministers agree on an identical text. Malta, which holds the rotating EU Presidency, has said it will try to reach a deal with MEPs before 1 July, when its six month term ends.

Ambition welcomed

Green campaigners welcomed the increased targets but called for them to be retained during negotiations with the Council. The two sides are not thought to be too far apart, with some observers expecting the Council to back either the 70% or 65% recycling target.

Piotr Barczak, waste policy officer at the European Environmental Bureau, said: “The strong support shown for the recycling and repair sector by MEPs today can pave the way for over 800,000 jobs to be created across Europe by 2030. But for this boom to materialise, the Council must now put the economy and the planet first and support these ambitious targets.”

Meadhbh Bolger, resource justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “Yesterday’s  vote gives a strong signal to the Commission that lost ambition on cutting European resource use needs to be restored. It is now up to the whole Parliament and the Council to step up to the plate and keep these raised recycling targets and better measures to prevent waste and incineration.”

Common method

MEPs also called for a common EU-wide method of at what point in the recycling process recycling rates can be calculated from. Differences in methodologies across EU member states mean that data is not comparable.

The MEPs’ preferred point for calculating recycling is at the point of the final recycling process. Some countries calculate the rate after, for example, the first sorting of waste.

Guy Thiran is director general of Eurometaux, which represents non-ferrous metal producers and recyclers in Europe.

He said, “Under current rules, EU recycling rates do not reflect exactly what happens to collected and sorted waste. MEPs have sent a strong signal that this situation needs to change.”

The old package had an aspirational target of reducing waste going to landfill by 25% by 2025 and a total ban on the landfill of recyclable and compostable waste in 2030.

That was replaced with a mandatory target of 10% by 2030.  MEPs voted to further reduce waste going to landfill by supporting a 5% goal.

This was accompanied by language to discourage incineration of waste as an alternative to it going to landfill.

MEPs also strengthened legislation to halve food waste by 2030 in the EU. Although the wording was toughened up, the target remains voluntary and non-binding.

James Crisp

This article first appeared in, an edie partner

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