Mixed waste sorting key to meeting the EU’s Circular Economy Objectives

Mixed waste

Reloop and Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) have published a new study today (16 February) from Eunomia Research and Consulting which says that mixed waste sorting (MWS) is key to the EU’s (European Union) Circular Economy Objectives.

The study says that applying sorting systems to mixed waste before thermal treatment and landfilling can significantly support Europe’s climate objectives and contribute to achieving plastics and municipal waste recycling targets.

The report Mixed Waste Sorting to meet the EU´s Circular Economy Objectives studied whether the EU recycling targets can be met through improved recyclability of packaging and increased separate collections of municipal waste, and, if not, what measures could be taken to achieve them.

The study examined the role MWS could play in three EU countries with “high recycling performance” – Germany, Belgium, and Sweden.

It concluded that, in addition to separate collection and improved recyclability of plastic packaging, a full roll-out of effective MWS is “likely to be necessary” to ensure that recycling targets are consistently met and to ensure progress towards the EU’s wider carbon emissions reduction goals.

Commenting on the study, Clarissa Morawski, CEO of Reloop said: “Only when all member states introduce measures to effectively sort recyclables from mixed waste before thermal treatment and landfilling across the EU, will there be any degree of confidence that plastic and paper packaging recycling targets will be consistently met and circularity of resources maximised.”

The EU is already leading the way on the circular economy.

The study says MWS’s most important contribution would be the reduction in GHG emissions associated with waste as it’s an “effective method” for ensuring energy-intensive materials are not lost to landfill and energy recovery and can be recycled and displace the need for virgin materials.

It continues that the introduction of mandatory MWS would also help to ensure that plastic and paper packaging recycling targets for 2030 will be consistently met, and contribute between 2.9 and 8.2 percentage points to the municipal waste recycling targets.

In the three countries examined, the addition of mixed waste sorting before thermal treatment and landfilling is projected to raise recycling rates in 2030 from 50% to 62% in Germany, 53% to 65% in Belgium and 44% to 58% in Sweden.

Andy Grant, Technical Director at Eunomia Research & Consulting, commented: “The EU is already leading the way on the circular economy transition and the addition of mixed waste sorting systems alongside separate collection systems and improved packaging recyclability will continue to support this by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving recycling rates.”

ZWE and Reloop have also suggested several actions to enable a “quick transition” towards greater circularity. These include mandating the use of mixed waste sorting systems of a defined quality and banning incineration and disposal of recyclable/reusable materials.

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