EU institutions have reached a provisional agreement with member states on crucial waste laws to accelerate the transition to a circular economy in Europe, with member states required to recycle at least 55% of their municipal waste by 2025, 60% by 2030 and 65% by 2035.
The targets are below the proposals set out by the European Parliament, which proposed a 70% recycling target by 2030.
The agreement also includes a 10% cap on landfill by 2035 and provisions for countries to restrict the use of single-use plastics.
The provisional agreement also includes improvements in the traceability of hazardous substances in products and waste, decontamination of hazardous waste as well as restrictions on oxo-degradable plastics and planned obsolescence.
The new laws will come into force in the beginning of 2018 and will need to be transposed to into national legislation within 24 months.
The agreed waste legislative proposals establish binding waste reduction targets and updated rules to “decrease waste generation, ensure a better control of waste management, encourage the reuse of products and improve recycling in all EU countries”, according to the European Council.
These new targets and rules aim to promote a more circular economy and will also set out to boost growth and jobs, protect the environment, encourage sustainability and improve people’s “health and well-being”, it says.
Siim Kiisler, Minister for the Environment of the Republic of Estonia – “This will help accelerate our transition towards a circular economy and minimise our impact on the planet”
In the EU, nearly a third of municipal waste is landfilled, with a limited share of the total being recycled. With this agreement, EU member states are committing to clear EU targets on reuse, recycling and landfilling and rules to improve the management of different waste streams.
“This will help accelerate our transition towards a circular economy and minimise our impact on the planet,”said Siim Kiisler, Minister for the Environment of the Republic of Estonia. “I want to sincerely thank the previous Council presidencies, the Parliament and the Commission for their dedication to this file. I hope the member states can now endorse this well-balanced and thoroughly negotiated compromise.”
This provisional deal comes after lengthy and tough negotiations with the Parliament since May 2017. It amends the following six pieces of legislation:
- Waste framework directive (considered the umbrella legislative act of the package)
- Packaging waste directive
- Landfill directive
- Directives on electrical and electronic waste, on end-of-life vehicles; and on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators
The key elements of the agreed text include:
- clearer definitions of key waste concepts
- new binding targets at EU level for waste reduction to be met by 2025 and 2030, and 2035. These targets cover the share of municipal waste and packaging waste recycling (with specific targets for various packaging materials), and also a target for municipal waste landfilled by 2035
- stricter methods and rules to calculate the progress made towards those targets
- stricter requirements for the separate collection of waste, reinforced implementation of the waste hierarchy through economic instruments and additional measures for member states to prevent waste generation
- minimum requirements for extended producer responsibility schemes. Producers under these schemes are responsible for the collection of used goods, sorting and treatment for their recycling. Producers will be required to pay a financial contribution for that purpose calculated on the basis of the treatment costs.
The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said that the new laws and targets will be crucial in supporting Europe to transition towards a circular economy, but regrets that member states slashed almost all targets proposed by a more ambitious European Parliament.
Piotr Barczak, waste policy officer at the EEB said: “This is not the outcome we all hoped for, but it is nonetheless a significant improvement compared with the laws that are currently in place. We are happy the discussions are now over. Now member states and EU institutions need to build on this decision to fully transition to a circular economy.
“Member states lacked the ambition shown by the European Parliament and Commission throughout the negotiations, especially with regards to recycling and preparation for reuse.”
The European Commission presented a revised circular economy package on 3 December 2015. It consists of four waste legislative proposals (waste package) and an Action Plan in the form of a Commission Communication.
The action plan was discussed during the Competitiveness Council on 29 February 2016 and the Environment Council on 4 March 2016. Taking into account both discussions from an economic and environmental perspective, the Council adopted conclusions on the plan in the Environment Council of 20 June 2016.
On 19 May 2017, following intense work and the involvement of three Council Presidencies (The Netherlands, Slovakia and Malta), EU ambassadors agreed a mandate on the waste package paving the way for informal negotiations with the European Parliament. The co-legislator already had its position adopted on 14 March.
The first trilogue took place on 30 May and since then, five additional negotiation rounds have been taken place.
EU ambassadors will be debriefed on the outcome of the last trilogue on 20 December. The final analysis of the text will take place under the incoming Bulgarian presidency with a view to confirm the agreement.
After formal approval, the new legislation will be submitted to the European Parliament for a vote at first reading and to the Council for final adoption.
- Commission proposal (waste framework directive)
- Commission proposal (landfill directive)
- Commission proposal (packaging directive)
- Commission proposal (electrical and electronic waste)
“It is, as expected, a compromise,” commented CIWM chief executive, Dr Colin Church. “But this headline agreement does provide the basis for improvement in some important areas, including separate collection of biowaste, stronger implementation of the Waste Hierarchy, provisions to restrict single-use plastics, and minimum requirements for extended producer responsibility schemes.”
“The certainty provided to the sector from recycling targets – whatever you think of the level – is welcome, although the implications of the method of calculation will need to be worked through. Achieving even 65% by 2035 will require strong action on demand-side measures to stimulate secondary material markets – a challenge that the UK government seems finally to be acknowledging.
“And perhaps a bright spot on the Brexit horizon might be an opportunity for the UK to devise smarter, impact-based national targets in the future that are focused on delivering better environmental outcomes beyond simple tonnage.
“Those who are disappointed not to see stronger action on reuse and waste prevention should also take heart. These imperatives are moving up the agenda thanks to a host of campaigns, initiatives and media attention, with issues such as ocean plastics stealing headlines on an almost daily basis.
“There are unilateral steps that EU Members can take outside the Circular Economy Package; last year, for example, Spain became the first European country to set a separate and binding national reuse target last year and Scotland broke new ground by setting a target to cut a third of all food waste in the country by 2025.
“The more responsible producers and retailers are coming to the table, and Michael Gove’s announcement this week that he wants to cut the total amount of plastic in circulation and reduce the number of different plastics in use shows that Westminster may also be planning to act in this space.”