New circular economy package: The reaction

The European Commission has launched an "ambitious" new circular economy package that it says will boost competitiveness, create jobs and generate sustainable growth. But what does the industry think?

Launched this morning by Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, the new package includes weakened recycling targets, tools to halve food waste by 2030, and measures to promote reparability in the design phase of products.

Before its announcement, UK experts and green groups were asking questions as to whether the Commission would stay true to its word and be ‘broader and more ambitious’ with its second version of the package.

But have those questions been answered?

edie has rounded up the latest reaction to the new circular economy package below…

Richard Kirkman, technical director, Veolia UK and Ireland

“These new targets from the EU are a big step to delivering a circular economy. Research by Imperial College London has found that there could be a £29bn boost to UK GDP, plus 175,000 jobs if we move to an economy where goods have a second, third and fourth life.

“However, any percentage target must be supported by the material having a value and this means manufacturers need to start creating products that are truly recyclable and made from recycled materials.

“With recycling rates in the UK plateauing we need to find ways of making it easier to separate these materials and industry needs to take the lead on this. There are still a lot of consumer products that cannot be recycled. This could be a great British success story – we just need to make it as easy as possible for residents to recycle in the first place.”

Nick Molho, executive director, Aldersgate Group

“The package today provides a decent starting point but it is not yet detailed enough to give the resource efficiency makeover the EU economy needs.

“The package needs a clear overall resource efficiency goal, clear standards to facilitate material reuse across all key products, quality standards to boost consumer confidence in secondary materials, and a clear strategy to favour those businesses that are more resource efficient through public procurement policy.

“The Commission should be given credit for having reintroduced a new circular economy package today, having made it a priority across departments and showing a desire to drive much greater investment in the EU’s circular economy.”

Susanne Baker, head of environment and compliance, techUK

“The package has profound implications for those making electrical and electronic products. While there are valuable elements, such as innovation funding and the dismantling of regulatory barriers, we think the Commission has missed a trick.

“There is little to try and get consumers to buy into this vision for a circular economy. And once again we see an overly disproportionate focus on “waste” and prescriptive regulation, rather than creating strong incentives to encourage remanufacturing and service innovation. This is disappointing, as it’s in these tighter circles of the circular economy where the strongest environmental and economic benefits can be found.”

Peter Gerstrom, chairman, Environmental Services Association (ESA)

“The waste and resources industry has been calling for more leadership from policy makers so that it can plan ahead and make the investment needed to progress towards a more circular economy. So it is welcome that the Commission’s revised proposals are now on the table for discussion.

“While there is much to debate in the detail of the Commission package, the overall direction of travel seems right; better product design, more re-use and recycling, and less landfill. And there is a welcome emphasis on implementation.

“However the proposals must also address the demand side and that should be a key focus for the discussions that will now follow – markets for secondary raw materials are currently weak, with little or no sign of recovery. Without sustainable markets for these materials it will be very difficult to deliver the Commission’s vision of higher recycling rates and a more circular economy.”

Howard Chase, director of government affairs (Europe), Dow Chemical Company

“The circular economy package released by the European Commission today represents a constructive set of proposals which should be welcomed. Indeed, the documents align well with our own recently announced 2025 sustainability goals.

“As with any such proposals, the details are important. Recycling targets, in particular, must be calibrated to ensure they promote rather than hinder sustainability, and it is right that the proposal does not take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

“What is technologically and economically feasible today will evolve over time thanks to innovation. For example, today there is an optimum point beyond which it is less resource efficient to recycle than it is to incinerate certain plastics for energy recovery. It will be important to ensure that recycling targets take factors such as energy recovery from waste fully into account.”

Peter Faross, secretary general, European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME)

“UEAPME welcomes the EC’s communication on the new Circular Economy Package but emphasises that SMEs need to be fully on board to successfully transition from a linear to a circular economy.

“In order for SMEs to move forward with this transition, the following measures – only partially accounted for in the new package – are required: an SME-friendly legislative framework, awareness raising actions, technical assistance at local level, improved access to finance, capacity building for SME organisations, and upgrading of employees’ skills.

“Announcements for improving access for SMEs to innovative technologies and finance are made with the new Circular Economy Package, now concerted action and effective implementation needs to follow the announcements.”

Magda Stoczkiewicz, director, Friends of the Earth Europe

“This has been a year of unnecessary delay. Under the guise of Better Regulation, the Commission has totally undermined claims of ‘ambition’ by watering down binding measures and giving Member States a free pass to shy away from tackling our overconsumption crisis.

Compared with the previous one, this package is not Better Regulation but short-termist Bad Regulation.”

The draft legislation will now be debated and amended by MEPs and ministers in the EU Council.

[<a href=”//” target=”_blank”>View the story “EU circular economy package: Twitter reaction” on Storify</a>]

Luke Nicholls

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