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Reuse focus for the circular economy

One of the hot topics for the sustainable resources sector this year will be what a revised EU circular economy package will look like.

As we all know, 2014 ended on something of a sour note after the European Commission scrapped the package in December.

While Commission president Jean- Claude Juncker stated that he wanted European policies to focus more on “big things like jobs and growth”, he needs to recognise that a circular economy encourages and supports exactly that. Like many other passionate advocates of the circular economy, I was disapopinion From the APSRG report: the linear economy (above) and the circular economy (right) pointed to see the original package scrapped, but the drafting of a new one is an opportunity to improve on the original policies of 2014.     

Former commissioner for environment Janez Potocnik’s circular economy package focused heavily on policies related to recycling, such as setting a target of 70% by 2030, reducing food waste by at least 30% by 2025 and employing mandatory separate collection of organics by 2025. But it lacked a focus on boosting reuse, refurbishment and remanufacturing in Europe.

So the UK needs to engage with Brussels on the importance of including policies focused in these areas for its circular economy package of 2015. The package will be a key focus for the All- Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG), with two events planned on the topic – both before and after the general election.

Like many others in the resource and manufacturing industry, I recognise the important role that remanufacturing can and should play in moving towards a more circular economy. Last year I was proud to co-chair an excellent parliamentary inquiry with the title Triple Win: the social, economic and environmental case for remanufacturing. Boosting recycling, as proposed by the 2014 circular economy package, is a necessary policy, but policymakers at both UK and EU levels need to recognise that further policies are needed to make the move towards a more resource-efficient society.

The UK needs to be an actor in the EU’s resources policy debate. Instead of watching from the sidelines, the Government needs to sit at the table and lead the arguments for waste reduction, remanufacturing and reuse in particular.

Productivity across Europe can be greatly enhanced through appropriate revision of the circular economy package. An impact assessment of the 2014 package showed that 180,000 jobs would have been created across the EU had it been fully implemented and that its economic potential was €600bn (£453bn).

With such huge numbers in mind, a new package needs to be stronger but realistic. APSRG will be working hard to drive the debate and ensure that it stays high on the political agenda.

Barry Sheerman MP is co-chair of the APSRG

Aim of proposals in 2014

The EU Circular Economy package

  • Increase recycling/reuse of municipal waste to 70% in 2030
  • Increase packaging waste recycling/reuse to 80% in 2030, with material-specific targets set to gradually increase between 2020-30 (to reach 90% for paper by 2025, 60% for plastics, 80% for wood, 90% of ferrous metal, aluminium and glass by the end of 2030);
  • Phase out by 2025 the placing of recyclable wastes (including plastics, paper, metals, glass and biowaste) in non-hazardous waste landfills – corresponding to a maximum landfilling rate of 25%
  • Reduce food waste generation by 30% by 2025
  • Introduce an early warning system to anticipate and avoid possible compliance difficulties
  • Ensure full traceability of hazardous waste
  • Increase the cost-effectiveness of extended producer responsibility schemes by defining minimum conditions
  • Simplify the reporting obligations and lighten obligations affecting smaller companies
  • Harmonise and streamline the calculation of targets and improve the reliability of key statistics
  • Improve the overall coherence by aligning definitions and removing obsolete legal requirements  

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