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Europe remains ‘far from circular economy’

The European Environment Agency (EEA) has said waste management across the EU needs “radical change” if landfilling of recyclable material is to be phased out completely.

A report assessing member states’ environmental policies found that, although the use of landfill had decreased in 27 out of 31 countries, it said there were “significant opportunities” to increase recycling rates.

The report, SOER 2015, also warned that an overcapacity in incineration plants in some countries was a “competitive challenge” to recycling.

The figures show an upward trend in the overall EU municipal waste recycling rate, from 28% in 2004 to 36% in 2012.

But the report said: “Waste management will need to change radically in order to phase out completely the landfilling of recyclable or recoverable waste.

“Similarly, many member states will need to make an extraordinary effort in order to achieve the target of 50% recycling of some municipal waste streams by 2020.”

The figures show only four EU states are currently recycling more than 50% of municipal waste. If the current slow growth in recycling continues, the UK is unlikely to meet the 2020 target.

Per capita generation of municipal waste across the EU declined by 4% between 2004 and 2012, falling to 481kg per capita.

The EEA concluded: “Despite recent progress in waste prevention and management, EU waste generation remains substantial and performance relative to policy targets is mixed.”

Hans Bruyninckx, executive director, said: “Our analysis shows that European policies have successfully tackled many environmental challenges over the years. But it also shows that we continue to harm the natural systems that sustain our prosperity.”

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