New research shows which EU members states will support proposals aimed at boosting EU waste policy in the negotiations taking place in Brussels in the coming weeks. Of the six measures, the UK failed to disclose its position.
This is according to NGOs led by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Friends of the Earth Europe and Zero Waste Europe.
The proposals, already approved by the European Parliament in March, include higher recycling targets for municipal solid waste; targets for preparation for reuse of municipal solid waste and reuse of packaging; better separate collection of all waste streams, including biowaste; EU-wide rules for producer responsibility; and objectives to reduce waste generation by 2030.
According to the investigation, the reform of EU waste laws is “under attack by a number of countries”.
In a statement, it said: “If a regressive position is to prevail in the negotiations, plans to accelerate the transition to a circular economy in the coming years will most likely stall.”
Recent leaks of the Council’s current common position show that the “laggards” are winning out, the NGOs state, despite what it calls “higher individual ambition” by some member states in areas including recycling targets, extended producer responsibility and biowaste separate collection.
Countries opposing most of the proposals include Denmark and Finland. Other countries set to categorically reject higher ambition are Hungary, Lithuania and Latvia.
While eventually supporting a 65% recycling target, countries such as the Czech Republic, Italy, Sweden, Portugal, Luxembourg and Slovakia are expected to oppose plans to make preparation for reuse mandatory, set a 10% target for packaging reuse and set waste prevention targets–all top priorities in a circular economy.
“We hear every day that governments are committed to reducing waste in order to reap the benefits of the circular economy. But what happens in the negotiations, behind closed doors, is sometimes a completely different story.”
The UK, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Slovenia and Croatia have so far been unwilling to share their position, highlighting a long-standing transparency problem during negotiations between member states, as well as member states and EU institutions. The NGOs say this creates barriers between EU citizens and their national governments, and is at odds with the progressive and transparent stance adopted by the European Parliament.
Southern countries that generally struggle with waste management, such as Greece and Romania as well as Spain, are calling for stronger support for recycling, waste prevention, preparation for reuse and better separate collection, the NGOs state.
Other “progressive” countries supporting the reforms are France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Piotr Barczak, waste policy officer at the EEB, said: “We hear every day that governments are committed to reducing waste in order to reap the benefits of the circular economy. But what happens in the negotiations, behind closed doors, is sometimes a completely different story.”
He added: “Without higher targets for recycling and binding measures for prevention, which would inject confidence into the market, governments will struggle to find the investment opportunities necessary to trigger the transition to a circular economy. Providing long term ambition and binding requirements is what drives change.”
High representatives from member states will meet before the end of the month to define the position of the Council of the European Union.
By the end of May, all three EU institutions – the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union – will enter the final inter-institutional negotiations before agreeing on the final text of the new waste laws.