Stable Statistics

Joachim QuodenThis week, a sneak preview of an article to be published in December’s Journal… It’s vital that the industry brings reliable statistics to the forefront of EU waste target setting, says EXPRA’s managing director, Joachim Quoden, in the wake of its publication of a new study on the subject

Recycling-ciwm-journal-online-targetSetting EU recycling targets has proven to be an effective means of improving member states’ recycling performance. New, longer-term recycling targets are therefore expected to be a key feature of the European Commission’s upcoming Circular Economy Package. However, as numerous sources confirm, member states appear to report data that is not reliable, coherent and comparable, as they have differing interpretations of what “recycling” and “recovery” stand for, and how these targets should be calculated.

In a new study on the matter, EXPRA calls for further emphasis on complete and accurate statistics to be placed in the EU waste legislative review.

EXPRA is the umbrella organisation for packaging and packaging waste recovery and recycling systems, which are owned by the obligated industry and work on a non-profit basis.

In light of the recycling target levels set in the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (94/62/EC), member states have to submit recycling reports as required by the European Commission Decision 2005/270. Following approval, their results are published by Eurostat, the European statistical office.

EXPRA-report-for-webEXPRA’s study (click the image to view it), which was carried out by the Alliance’s Data and Reporting Working Group, analysed Eurostat packaging recycling data from 28 EU member states and EFTA members over the 2006-2012 period. The research discloses that the variance between best and worst performers is large enough to suggest that national statistics are far from being reliable.

The study refers to, among other things, findings stemming from both consultations and studies commissioned by the EU Executive, including stakeholders’ calls to improve the quality and validity of the reported statistics.

With this new piece of research EXPRA ratifies the need for data harmonisation. Specifically, the study conducted an in-depth quantitative analysis of Eurostat’s 2006-2012 packaging recycling data across three streams:

  • packaging on the market (as an indicator of total packaging waste)
  • packaging waste recycling
  • packaging recycling rates.

The study disclosed that, between the said period, the data shows inconsistencies and variances. This variation is so large that it would be premature to affirm that all EU member states have reached their EU recycling of packaging waste targets. In order to do so, deeper analysis would be required.

The latter, the study explains, should focus on national measures aimed at achieving complete, accurate and reliable statistics. This analysis should moreover tackle key topics such as free riding, the use of research results and estimates, mixed packaging waste and double-counting of packaging waste recycling.

Overall, EXPRA calls for data harmonisation to be at the centre of the current EU legislative review. It believes this approach should include additional measures that look at aligning the quality level of member states’ reporting to the European Commission. Ideally, an updated, more detailed reporting methodology should be developed. In the meantime, alternative reporting, through which, for instance, member states explain their measurement system and the quality of their results, could be considered.

EU waste management targets are a key aspect of the upcoming Circular Economy Package, and it is imperative that new EU waste targets are realistic and up-to-date. The legislative review is clearly a necessary exercise, but any new targets need to be based on coherent statistics, besides being justifiable from both an economic and environmental perspective.

The full study, as shown above, is available at the EXPRA website

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