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Disappointment at EC’s decision on circular economy proposals

Confirmation that the European Commission (EC) has dropped a proposed set of policies on the circular economy to draft “more ambitious” measures has left waste industry trade bodies disappointed.

The so-called circular economy package, which included targets of recycling 70% of municipal waste and 80% of packaging by 2030, will not be part of the EC’s 2015 work programme, first vice-president Frans Timmermans announced on 17 December.

This is because the EC plans to produce a “broader” set of measures.

Janez Potočnik, former Environment Commissioner whose work was instrumental for the drafting of the policy package, said on Twitter that amending the proposals rather than dropping them would have been “more convincing”.

But Karmenu Vella, Potočnik’s successor, said the circular economy remained a priority for the EC.

Ray Georgeson, chief executive at the Resource Association, said dropping the package had sent a mixed signal to the resource industry.

“It raises more questions than it answers,” he said. “I do not see why the package needed to be withdrawn completely in order to inject more ‘ambition’.  Surely this could have been done within the existing timetable, and maintained momentum?”

Steve Lee, chief executive at the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, also said Timmermans’ announcement was “confusing”.

“2015 is only two weeks away and there is no reason given for shelving the package rather than working on the version that is already on the table,” he said. “To suggest that this delay will result in a more ambitious package also appears to contradict previous assertions that the proposals were undeliverable.”

Roy Hathaway, Europe policy adviser at the Environmental Services Association, said he regretted the uncertainty that dropping the package had brought into Europe’s long-term resource strategy.

“The EC’s previous proposals were not perfect, but the direction of travel they set was right, and would have helped encourage private sector investment in better resource management.”

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