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EU briefing reveals focus on extended producer responsibility

Extended producer responsibility (EPR), country-specific recycling targets and a common food waste indicator have all been suggested key elements of the European Commission’s revised circular economy (CE) package.

MRW exclusive

MRW has seen an early action plan understood to have been written towards the end of this summer’s public consultation on the proposals, which are set to be released on 2 December.

The briefing also covers investment of EU funds in waste management infrastructure, construction waste recycling protocols and an integrated plastics strategy by 2017.

Improved implementation of the package’s legislation is referred to by promoting member states’ use of economic instruments such as landfill taxes and pay-as-you-throw schemes.

Better assessment of its success is also mentioned, with waste generation, use of recycled materials in EU products and import dependency of key raw materials some of the indicators suggested.

It says all the measures proposed need to respect the EU’s better regulation principles, which are designed to cut unnecessary administrative burdens on businesses.

A key action suggested in the briefing as an incentive for designers to focus on sustainability is a proposal “to link fees paid by producers in EPR schemes to the real end-of-life costs and recyclability of their products”.

The document says the plastics strategy will involve treating different types of the material separately and reducing hazardous chemical additives in recycled material to offer it a “level playing field” with virgin produce.

In terms of investment in infrastructure, the briefing says funding for incineration would be offered in a “limited and well justified” number of cases, while money for landfill would be provided “only in exceptional cases”.

No specific recycling targets are mentioned in the document, with no reference to the 70% for municipal waste and 80% for packaging by 2030 suggested in the original CE package.

Nor is there mention of separate collections for different material streams, which was suggested by the Commission’s director for green economy Kestutis Sadauskas as a focus of the new package, this month.

The document proposes carrying out an evaluation of the Waste Shipment Directive in preparation for its review.

It is believed to have been written by the working group that was set up by the Commission to prepare the CE package. The timing of the document is understood to be ahead of a decision on funding the Horizon 2020 scheme, announced this week.

Meanwhile, a study by Zero Waste Europe claimed the majority of product waste in Europe is not covered by EPR schemes.

Redesigning Producer Responsibility analyses the waste composition of 15 European capital cities and the performance of existing EPR schemes. The cities included in the study had a total population of 33 million, around 6.5% of the EU population.

The organisation recommends that a producer responsibility framework needs to be redesigned if Europe is to move towards a circular economy.

In a separate contribution, Defra resources minister Rory Stewart has strongly supported voluntary CE measures rather than mandatory legislation.

In a recent article for The European Files, a political magazine for European institutions, Stewart praises the effect the landfill tax escalator has had in driving recycling rates and says that legislation will “continue to have a role, for example around hazardous waste”.

But he says: “While [legislation] has its place, it is not always the best solution. Sometimes other approaches are more effective.”

Stewart refers to the success of voluntary measures such as WRAP’s Courtauld Commitments in reducing household food waste by 15% since 2007.

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