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Concern at voluntary approach in EU proposals

Industry figures have expressed concern over the approach apparently being taken by the European Commission to its upcoming circular economy (CE) package.

MRW has exclusively reported the contents of an advanced internal Commission document on an action plan to underpin the proposals due to be published on 2 December.

Those fearing a lack of clear legislation and drivers for raw secondary materials markets include Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson. He said: “If this document represents the latest thinking of the Commission, then it is very disappointing.

“The Commission appears to be ensuring that the deregulatory and voluntary approach laid down by first vice-president Timmermans and president Juncker filters right through to the CE package. Our industry has developed on the back of clear, long-term signals and legislation from Europe spanning two decades or more.

“This approach must be maintained. In particular, there is an even greater need now for clear demand-side measures to be refined and implemented for the secure delivery of a sustainable recycling sector at the heart of the circular economy.”

Georgeson told MRW he feared the CE could be a polarising issue, despite EU commissioner Karmenu Vella saying a recent seminar that was not the case.

Phil Conran, chair of Defra’s Advisory Committee on Packaging, told MRW he welcomed the revisiting of the definition of waste but was concerned that recycling targets could be down to individual countries.

“It would seem that much will be left to member states to determine the route to the proposed end game and, given the varied levels of engagement on environmental issues across UK administrations, that is likely to present some major philosophical challenges.”

Steve Lee, chief executive of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), expected further revisions to the proposals before they are released, but he said if there were no pull mechanisms included in the final package, the CIWM would be “highly disappointed”.

“Recent experience with regard to secondary materials proves that price is still king in tough global commodity markets. Expecting the CE to be driven just by our sector pushing more recovered materials into the marketplace is naïve.”

This issue was also raised by ESA Europe policy adviser Roy Hathaway, who told MRW: “The Commission appears to believe that if you keep hammering on about quality there will be [sufficient] buyers.”


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