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Sector fears key EU recycling issue is lost

The Europe Commission’s apparent reluctance to act directly on secondary raw material markets has been described as losing “one of the most crucial debates” by a leading industry figure.

Environmental Services Association (ESA) Europe policy adviser Roy Hathaway was commenting in response to a leaked action plan from Brussels, exclusively revealed by MRW on 27 October, for the impending Circular Economy (CE) package.

The document described “pull measures” for secondary markets as being “an area where prescriptive EU action would not be effective or proportionate”.

Roy Hathaway

Many industry figures criticised this approach and Hathaway (pictured) now says he fears the debate has been lost.

“Markets are already depressed for a range of reasons and prices for secondary materials no longer cover the cost of collection and sorting to the same extent as in the past. Unless demand side measures are put in place, markets for secondary raw materials will remain weak going forward.

“If the Commission shies away from proposing effective pull measures in the CE package, the industry will have to take its case to the member states and the European Parliament once the proposals are out for negotiation”.

Hathaway also said that the expected recycling targets in the package were a source of “continuing debate among EU Commission officials”.

These discussions include whether there should also be landfill reduction targets, and what to do about the vastly different starting points of the 28 member states, he said.

“These questions will only be resolved at the most senior political level within the Commission.”

The Recycling Association shares Hathaway’s concerns about a lack of action on secondary markets from Brussels.

But chief executive Simon Ellin told MRW he was pleased that the leaked document suggested the Commission could be clarifying illegal shipment regulations.

“We have members being prosecuted with a zero out-throw threshold and others with a 2% threshold.

“The new CE package would appear to address this by mooting the introduction of EU wide standards on quality – we have been lobbying for this for a long time and hopefully the standards will be sensible enough to complement rather than inhibit business.”

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