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MEPs push for resource efficiency laws

MEPs have called on the European Commission to adopt strong resource efficiency laws after backing a report that proposes binding recycling targets.

The Commission is set to release its revised circular economy (CE) package this autumn, with two public consultations currently open to feed into this.

Its original proposals, scrapped last December, included binding targets of 70% recycling of municipal solid waste and 80% for packaging waste by 2030 for all member states.

Karmenu Vella, environment commissioner, has since failed to confirm that these generic targets will be included in the CE package, suggesting that recycling rates will be tailored to each country.

But now the European Parliament (EP) committee on the environment, public health and food safety has backed a report, the Resource Efficiency: moving towards a circular economy, which calls on the Commission to adopt increased recycling targets to “at least” the levels set out in the scrapped proposals.


The report, from committee rapporteur Sirpa Pietikäinen (left), also urges the Commission to propose a binding target to increase resource efficiency by 30% by 2030 compared with 2014 levels, as well as individual targets for each member state.

It suggests an obligation on recyclers to report on the input of materials at sorting plants as well as the output of recyclates to prevent landfilled or incinerated waste being included as recycled.

The report, adopted by the committee with 56 MEPs voting in favour and five against, will go to a plenary vote on 6-9 July involving all 751 MEPs and chaired by the Parliament president Martin Schulz.

Pietikäinen said in the report: “Using resources more efficiently would reduce dependency and bring savings in material costs. Increasing resource productivity by 2% would create two million new jobs in the EU by 2030, according to the estimations of the European Commission.

“Current policies do not sufficiently focus efforts towards this paradigm shift. Europe is locked in a system where valuable materials, many of which come at a high environmental and social cost, end up in landfill or incineration. There is not yet a functioning market for secondary raw materials.”

Pietikäinen later described the report being adopted by the committee as a “vital step” for the EU.

European Environmental Bureau policy officer for waste Piotr Barczak said: “The Parliament has been brave, put its neck out and ambition is the battle cry. Essentially, it wants the EU to do all it can to avoid a ‘business-as-usual’ approach.

“Companies, NGOs and citizens can all see the value of adopting a new economic model which makes more careful use of our resources and limits waste. Massive benefits lie in the circular economy and it is time the Commission took them seriously.”

Manufacturers’ association PlasticsEurope backed a call in the report for an end to the landfilling of recyclable materials.

Executive director Karl-H Foerster said: “From the experience of those member states which have already introduced a restriction, we know that only a landfill cap for recyclable and recoverable materials is able to provide the legal certainty required for necessary investments in waste management infrastructure.

“Between 2006 and 2012, the amount of post-consumer plastic waste going to landfills was reduced by 26% and, as a result, plastics recycling rose by 40% and energy recovery by 27%.”

Regarding the committee’s suggestion to extend the scope of eco-design legislation, Foerster said that designing a product with the sole aim of improving its recyclability may not have an overall positive effect on the environment.

“Modern food packaging often consists of a multi-layer film made out of different plastics, making it hard to recycle while offering huge benefits for both people and planet. Food producers would have to use far more material if such packaging were not available, thereby increasing its environmental footprint,” he said.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Stuart McLanaghan

    The compromise amendments (resource efficiency: moving towards a circular economy) resonate loudly with Eden21's discussion paper, calling for a whole-life framework for natural resource use, supported by an EU-resource hierarchy. This subject was covered in the 16 May edition of MRW:

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  • Peter Jones

    Issues of design, quality and end market applications can be delivered in a low cost framework by offering material, product or Brand supply chains the option to fund and manage end life, circular economy systems for their material, product or brand.
    Internalising such costs at point of sale offers substantive cost reductions for public funding of MSW and the carrot of a VAT offset to such trade bodies or brands will benefit overall Govt. borrowing needs.
    Micromanagement by Government, bans and more regulatory targets are likely to be counterproductive - set the framework, internalise end management of materials at point of sale as a production cost and include as part of the audit process is the way forward.
    Peter Jones

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