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Clashing EU legislation ‘prohibits circular economy’

A report prepared for the European Commission has concluded that uncertainty caused by clashes between different EU legislation is hampering recycling improvements across the continent.

Regulatory barriers for the circular economy, written in July and published this month, is a contribution to the Commission’s circular economy (CE) action plan.

The report’s author, consultancy Technopolis Group, says over-regulation is not preventing high-quality recycling but it warned that unclear rules and standards were causing problems.

“Prime examples are end-of-waste criteria or quality standards for secondary raw materials create legal uncertainties for the industry and make it rational to continue to focus on primary raw material input,” it says.

The analysis found many barriers to better recycling were found in collections regulation, uptake of secondary resources, design for reuse or recycling.

It found that “unspecific” legislation had led to materials being collected as commingled waste rather than separately.

According to EU law, local authorities have to collect materials separately only if technically, economically, environmentally practicable.

It found some legislation hinders use of recycled materials in production due to “health and consumer protection” concerns.

The report highlights “the problematic enforcement of requirements of the WEEE Directive for the recyclability of electronic products, especially concerning the disassembly of batteries”.

In conclusion, the report says many of the barriers it identifies are already being focused on by the Commission such as examination of the link between waste and chemicals legislation and the development of plastics strategy.

However, it says some barriers to a CE may not be able to be removed.

It says: ”Barriers stem from different, possibly conflicting, regulatory objectives [such as public or animal health, environmental protection].

“Any of these may be considered as more important than the CE. Moreover, the regulatory arrangements can be part of a very complex system that may be difficult or expensive to change.”

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