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UK lobbies for ‘guidance only’ EPR

The Government has reasserted its concerns about the EU’s proposed recycling targets for 2030.

Speaking in Brussels, resources minister Therese Coffey (pictured) said the UK did not want the circular economy (CE) package to be too prescriptive about extended producer responsibility (EPR), and she emphasised a need for market-based schemes.

Coffey also raised concerns about the potential bureaucratic burdens of measuring reuse, as would be required by the package’s ’preparation for recycling or reuse’ targets.

The European Commission published its CE proposals last December including a 65% recycling target for municipal waste and a 75% target for packaging waste.

Since then the UK has consistently lobbied in Brussels for a more voluntary approach. Following the EU referendum in June, there has been uncertainty about how much of the proposal will be transcribed into UK law post-Brexit.

Coffey has again expressed “over-arching concerns” about the targets in the CE package.

She said: “It will be important to finalise the underpinning definitions and calculation methods first. What we can and cannot count towards the recycling targets will have big impact on what in effect is achievable.”

“We believe the directorate should recognise that there are multiple valid approaches to achieving EPR. Market-based schemes like the ones in the UK should be allowed to continue. And with a real emphasis on outcomes. The provisions, we believe, should be for guidance only.

“Our only potential problems on reuse are the potential bureaucratic burdens of measuring what would happen in the reuse sector. But we fully support measures to incentivise the reuse of products and welcome further thinking around the issue of data collection.”

At a press conference before Coffey’s comments, EU environment commissioner Karmenu Vella said the Commission would regret attempts to weaken the recycling targets.

“We should avoid introducing many types of reuse definitions into the recycling target,” he added.

He also announced that a “mini-package” of 20 of 54 action points in the CE proposals would be published on 25 January in what would be a “busy year” for the CE.

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