The Government will vote in favour boosting recycling rates as part of a package of EU measures, resources minister Therese Coffey has confirmed.
The circular economy (CE) package, which is soon to be voted on by EU members, includes higher targets for recycling materials including plastic, paper, cardboard and glass packaging, to cut down waste going to landfill.
The package contains an agreement between the EU Commission and Parliament on a recycling target of 65%, made last December. The original proposal was 70%.
Earlier this year the Government was accused by Labour’s environment spokesperson Sue Hayman of attempting to “scupper” the 65% recycling target, after environmental charity Greenpeace said it had seen leaked documents which showed that UK officials had opposed the target.
However, the Government has now said it will support the package and will also publish a resources and waste strategy this year, which would be consistent with the EU and “in some respects go beyond it”.
It said that any commitments to the package would be retained after Brexit and transferred into UK law, adding that it would explore the possibility of more ambitious targets higher than those proposed by the EU, including weight-based measures.
“I want the UK to lead the way in driving global resource efficiency and that’s why, as well as backing the EU’s CE package, we have committed to publishing a resources and waste strategy in 2018,” said Coffey.
“Many of its aims will be consistent with the EU package and, as we leave the EU, we’ll be able to explore how we go even further to help achieve our aim of leaving our environment in a better state than we inherited it.”
Jakob Rindegren, Environmental Services Association (ESA) recycling policy adviser, said his organisation welcomed clarity on the Government’s level of ambition but warned that strong measures would be needed to meet targets.
“And elements of the package, for example on producer responsibility, have helped to advance the debate on how we improve recycling in the UK.
“However, given that our recycling rate is currently stalling below 50%, achieving 65% will be very difficult and requires strong pull measures to ensure markets for the collected material.
He added: “Many, including the ESA, are also questioning whether weight-based targets are the best metric, and it remains to be seen whether this will be complemented by other metrics in the resources and waste strategy.”
Chartered Institution of Wastes Management chief executive Colin Church said: ”There may be aspects of the package that the UK resources and waste sector feel could be improved on, including the need for smarter targets based on environmental impact rather than weight, but this legislation will shape EU policy for the foreseeable future.
”It is important, therefore, that the UK remains aligned with the overall ambition and direction of travel of our most important market.”