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Circular economy package reaction: MEPs to push for 70% recycling target

MEPs from the second largest European Parliament party will attempt to get 70% recycling targets reinstated when the European Commission’s circular economy package passes through parliament.

The long-awaited proposals published on 2 December included recycling targets of 65% for household waste and 75% for packaging waste. The original proposal, dropped last year, was for 70% household waste.

The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), which represents 190 of the European Parliament’s 751 MEPs, also called for “recycled content standards” to boost the market for secondary raw materials.

S&D MEP responsible for the waste package, Simona Bonafè, said: “We think that the 65% target for recycling of municipal waste by 2030 is not enough.The proposal that was initially discussed already with the Barroso Commission back in 2014 set the goal to 70% and this is the minimum we will call for in the Parliament.

Bonafè added the S&D Group would lobby for greater extended producer responsibility schemes and a bio and recycled content standards to “boost the demand on high quality secondary and bio-based raw materials”.

Industry figures, including from the Resource Association, Environmental Services Association, Veolia, Biffa, Europen and ecosurety, also responded to the proposals.

Ray Georgeson, RA chief executive:

“The new proposal to reduce municipal waste landfilled to 10% by 2030 combined with the ban to landfill of separated waste sends a clear signal that the era of large-scale landfill will be over – this is welcomed. In addition, these recycling targets will be legally binding and in themselves will present a stiff but achievable challenge for some member states.

“Proposals on food waste and separate collection appear to be weaker than many of us had hoped for.

“The argument likely to unfold about the merits or otherwise of a 70% or 65% recycling target misses the point again that Europe would have been better served by a serious reboot of policy, incorporating carbon metrics not weight-based percentage targets and a holistic approach to the circular economy that incorporated real demand-pull measures, stricter approaches to eco-design and recyclability and much greater emphasis on prevention, reuse, repair and remanufacturing.

Richard Kirkman, Veolia UK and Ireland technical director:

“These new targets from the EU are a big step to delivering a circular economy. Research by Imperial College London has found that there could be a £29bn boost to UK GDP, plus 175,000 jobs if we move to an economy where goods have a second, third and fourth life.

“However any percentage target must be supported by the material having a value and this means manufacturers need to start creating products that are truly recyclable and made from recycled materials. With recycling rates in the UK plateauing we need to find ways of making it easier to separate these materials and industry needs to take the lead on this.

“There are still a lot of consumer products that cannot be recycled. This could be a great British success story - we just need to make it as easy as possible for residents to recycle in the first place.”

Peter Gerstrom, ESA chairman:

Peter Gerstrom

“The waste and resources industry has been calling for more leadership from policy makers so that it can plan ahead and make the investment needed to progress towards a more circular economy. So it is welcome that the Commission’s revised proposals are now on the table for discussion.” 

“While there is much to debate in the detail of the Commission package, the overall direction of travel seems right; better product design, more reuse and recycling, and less landfill. And there is a welcome emphasis on implementation.”

“However the proposals must also address the demand side and that should be a key focus for the discussions that will now follow – markets for secondary raw materials are currently weak, with little or no sign of recovery. Without sustainable markets for these materials it will be very difficult to deliver the Commission’s vision of higher recycling rates and a more circular economy.”

Martin Reynolds, EUROPEN chairman:

“We strongly support the retention of the Internal Market safeguard, which remains vital to achieving a competitive and resource efficient Circular Economy for our industry.”

Virginia Janssens, EUROPEN managing director:

“We welcome the proposal’s intention to improve the transparency of and rule enforcement for existing extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes, as well as the accountability of different actors in EPR implementation.”

David Burton, ecosurety policy director:

“This is a big ‘ask’ from measures that appear to largely address end-of-life issues and while there are proposed measures, through the ecodesign directive, addressing recyclability perhaps we need to place more consideration as a society on the environmental and social impacts made during a product’s life.

“While we welcome the fact the Commission wants to capture an extra 600 million tonnes of waste currently going into landfill, we need to ensure that the any legislative change is realistic, pragmatic and cost-effective and that pursuing recycling targets per se doesn’t end up with a net environmental deficit because we will have taken our eye off the key issues of sustainability and climate change.”

Simon Rutledge, group external affairs and sustainability manager at Biffa:

Simon Rutledge Biffa

“We are viewing today’s revised package with cautious optimism, as the new version claims to represent an improvement on its 2014 predecessor yet, on some levels, appears to be less ambitious in its vision.

“With a target of 65% set for recycling municipal waste by 2030, this is a significant drop on the previous 70% stated in 2014, as is also the case for the unwillingness to stipulate a set percentage of recycled material to be used in products – a key element of a more circular economy.

“These are challenging targets and we have many obstacles on the path to meeting these targets, not least the current drop in demand and market constraints. Although we of course support the new 10% landfill target proposed for municipal solid waste, we remain wary of any future proposed bans that would attempt to remove landfill as an essential element of the waste hierarchy for the disposal of  hazardous materials and specialist wastes, not forgetting also the residues from recycling and treatment processes. 

“In general, this concerted effort from policy makers to focus on more reuse and recycling as well as proposing economic incentives for producers to put greener products on the market is welcomed. We are also pleased to see that the proposal specifies that member states shall ‘ensure’ the separate collection of bio-waste including food waste as opposed to previously merely encouraging this action.”


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