The Environmental Services Association (ESA) has criticised a European Parliament bid to reinforce segregated collections, rather than the UK’s preferred commingled regimes.
Current EU regulations instruct member states to collect plastics, metals, paper and glass separately but allow commingling if not technically, environmentally and economically practicable (TEEP).
The European Commission’s circular economy (CE) package, published in December, maintained the use of TEEP, including for the suggested additional stream of food waste.
But the draft position on the proposals from the European Parliament’s rapporteur Simona Bonafe seeks to remove TEEP.
ESA Europe policy adviser Roy Hathaway (pictured) has described Bonafe’s proposal as “unhelpful”.
“It implies that collection methods unsuitable to local circumstances might be imposed on a mandatory basis, which would make local authorities’ lives very difficult,” he said.
“The proposal also ignores evidence that even kerbside sort schemes co-collect metals and plastics and separate them successfully afterwards. The ESA does not support deletion of TEEP because there is no-one-size-fits-all collection method.”
Hathaway added that there was “still a long way to go and a lot of discussions to be had” before the deletion issue would be decided.
Justifying the change, Bonafe’s report says: “Collection of pre-sorted waste is one of the tools supporting the creation of a high-quality recycling market and the attainment of high levels of recycling.
“The introduction of technical, environmental and financial limits has allowed numerous exemptions, rendering application of this principle impossible.”
Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson described the Bonafe statement as “telling”, and said it would be “interesting to see the emerging debate” about the proposed removal of TEEP restrictions.
“We concur with this view and look forward to the next level of debate about this important element in the delivery of the CE – the best ways to provide consistent high-quality materials to manufacturers and reprocessors, especially in the context of the move in England to encourage local authorities towards greater consistency in household recycling collections.”
Bonafe’s report also proposes higher targets for municipal and packaging waste as well as a single, harmonised calculation method across member states, instead of the Commission’s suggested four.
No targets for the recycling of trade waste were included in the Commission’s original CE package, but Bonafe has called for such targets for 2025 and 2030 to be established by the end of 2018.
The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) praised the focus on clearer definitions but warned against chasing after “headline figures” such as higher recycling targets.
Bonafe’s amendments will be discussed and voted on by the environment committee in November before going to a full plenary vote early next year, when it will be adopted as the European Parliament’s position.
Steve Lee, CIWM chief executive:
“There are some very welcome elements in this report, including the strong focus on improving definitions, measurement and data, and the development of robust indicators. Without a consistent and equitable EU-wide framework for performance measurement and reporting, any targets and aspirations fall at the first hurdle.
“While welcoming the more visible ambition on waste prevention, the CIWM does believe that more work is needed on the interrelationship between the different objectives and drivers proposed to move waste up the hierarchy. More waste prevention, the roll-out of extended producer responsibility, the amended definition of the point of recycling and the removal of TEEP from the separate collection requirement could all have a significant impact on current practices and recycling rates.
”They also have the potential to introduce counterproductive tensions into the system. The ambition and emphasis needs to be on reducing waste and improving the quality of recycling, and it is important that these are not sacrificed in the charge for ever higher ‘headline’ targets.
“On recycling in particular, however, the CIWM is pleased to see a new proposal for member states to “make use of regulatory and economic instruments in order to incentivise the uptake of secondary raw materials”. This is something that the CIWM and others have repeatedly called for to ensure that the value proposition for recycling is robust and can support the policy objectives in the circular economy package. At present, market prices and volatility are hampering recycling rates and any recycling target, be it 65 or 70%, is unlikely to be attainable unless we address this issue.”