The European Commission has today (2 July) adopted proposals to move Europe towards a “circular economy”, which will see higher targets for recycling and packaging waste and also a ban on recyclable waste going to landfill.
The targets will mean that member states will need to recycle 70 percent of municipal waste and 80 percent of packaging waste by 2030, and ban burying recyclable waste (e.g. plastics, metals, glass, paper and cardboard, and biodegradable waste) in landfill as of 2025.
A target is also included for reducing marine litter along with food waste reduction objectives.
Achieving the new waste targets would create 580 000 new jobs, while making Europe more “competitive and reducing demand for costly scarce resources,” according to the Commission.
The new targets are part of its ambitious drive towards transitioning Europe from a linear to a “circular economy”.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik (pictured) said: “We are living with linear economic systems inherited from the 19th Century in the 21st Century world of emerging economies, millions of new middle class consumers, and inter-connected markets. If we want to compete we have to get the most out of our resources, and that means recycling them back into productive use, not burying them in landfills as waste.
“Moving to a circular economy is not only possible, it is profitable, but that does not mean it will happen without the right policies. The 2030 targets that we propose are about taking action today to accelerate the transition to a circular economy and exploiting the business and job opportunities it offers.”
Janez Potočnik – “The 2030 targets that we propose are about taking action today to accelerate the transition to a circular economy and exploiting the business and job opportunities it offers”
As part of the circular economy package, the Commission also adopted a legislative proposal to review recycling and other waste-related targets in the EU (draft).
The proposal aims to:
- Increase recycling/re-use of municipal waste to 70% in 2030;
- Increase packaging waste recycling/re-use to 80% in 2030 with material-specific targets set to gradually increase between 2020 and 2030 (to reach 90% for paper by 2025 and 60% for plastics, 80% for wood, 90% of ferrous metal, aluminium and glass by the end of 2030);
- Phase out landfilling by 2025 for recyclable (including plastics, paper, metals, glass and bio-waste) waste in non hazardous waste landfills – corresponding to a maximum landfilling rate of 25%;
- Reduce food waste generation by 30% by 2025;
- Introduce an early warning system to anticipate and avoid possible compliance difficulties;
- Ensure full traceability of hazardous waste;
- Increase the cost-effectiveness of Extended Producer Responsibility
schemes by defining minimum conditions;
- Simplify the reporting obligations and lighten obligations affecting SMEs;
- Harmonise and streamline the calculation of the targets and improve the reliability of key statistics;
- Improve the overall coherence by aligning definitions and removing obsolete legal requirements.
Iain Gulland, Director, Zero Waste Scotland said of the targets: “I’d like to welcome this heightened ambition to advance a resource efficient economy across Europe. Scotland is already leading the way through its Zero Waste Plan, which in effect offers a ‘blueprint’ for many of these new proposals… We look forward to working with the Scottish Government and others to ensure the detail of the Commission’s proposals support the outcomes we’re working to achieve.”
Ray Georgeson, Resource Association – “We applaud the linking of the Green Employment Initiative with the package of targets on recycling and the circular economy and very much welcome the emphasis on the positive economic and employment benefits of this ambitious package”
Resource Association chief executive, Ray Georgeson, said: “There is considerable merit in the Commission’s proposals for a 70 percent municipal recycling target and higher targets for packaging materials.
Together with the focus on separate collection of food waste, the use of an overall indicator and target for resource efficiency, a strong focus on eliminating recyclable wastes from landfill and the emphasis on building a recycling society with greater employment opportunities this is a package that should fire up the ambition of Europe for a more circular economy and provide a step change in the way we think about and treat resources formerly regarded as waste.
“We applaud the linking of the Green Employment Initiative with the package of targets on recycling and the circular economy and very much welcome the emphasis on the positive economic and employment benefits of this ambitious package.”
“Now is the time for the UK to engage with Europe and share in this ambition. No doubt elements of the proposals will be seen by some as too ambitious, but we do not share this view. Stretching targets and clear policy signals send the right message to the resources management industries. A European recycling society that prizes the quality and value in its discarded resources and maximises their economic and environmental value is well worth striving for, and I applaud Commissioner Potočnik for his leadership on this important issue.”
Friends Of The Earth
Friends Of The Earth has described the attempt at getting Europe to use its resources more efficiently as “weak and insufficient”, saying the plans lack concrete measures.
Friends of the Earth Resource Use Campaigner Richard Dyer said: “These proposals are weak and insufficient and don’t give a full picture of all the resources Europe consumes, such as the land and water we use to make our products.
“The EU is committed to reducing resource use by 2050. A 70% recycling target by 2030 is a big step forward, but if the EU really wants to take this issue seriously it must start measuring all the land, water, carbon and materials Europe is responsible for using – and set out clear plans to reduce them.”
Keep Britain Tidy
Phil Barton, Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy said: “We welcome the proposed targets that will guide Europe towards a more sustainable and resilient future. Protecting our natural resources and ending waste is not just vital for the environment but for jobs, society and a green economy. We also expect many of these targets will also have a positive impact on reducing littering.
“A 70% target for recycling in England will be a huge challenge as our municipal recycling rates are currently flat-lining, however with the right leadership and commitment it is possible as many other nations are showing. We hope this package will help to improve recognition in England of the potential of a circular economy and the necessary leadership from all sectors to get us there”
Steve Lee, chief executive of CIWM: “The increased recycling proposals for EU Member States catch the eye, but there is much more to this package. The current 50% municipal waste recycling target by 2020 could already be hard for England to hit, and CIWM emphasised this point to the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee last month.
“We should be able to do it – Wales is already on course and Scotland and Northern Ireland have strong plans to do so. England should be no different but much clearer and co-ordinated policy and communications from the Government, plus support for local authorities who are vital to this task, will be needed.
Steve Lee, CIWM – “The current 50% municipal waste recycling target by 2020 could already be hard for England to hit, and CIWM emphasised this point to the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee last month”
“The same goes for the 70% recycling target by 2030 proposed today, but even more so. Many will be of the opinion that it [the targets] will require a fundamental shift in government policy and focus, and creating the right conditions for investment in the necessary infrastructure will be one of the priorities.
“In moving forwards, it will also be important that performance and progress is measured not only in a consistent way across the EU, which is not the case at the moment, but also in a smarter way, reflecting environmental impacts rather than crude tonnage-based targets.
“There is still a long way to go; what we have seen today is only a set of draft proposals and legislative changes to go to the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament for negotiation and voting. However, this is a clear signal that the EU recognises the importance of waste and resource management to our future prosperity, resource security, green jobs and environmental protection, and it underlines the complex and valuable role that our industry will play in the future.”