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Vella defends circular economy package relaunch

EU environment commissioner Karmenu Vella has assured MEPs that new recycling targets will be set by the end of 2015, in an effort to win over those who criticised the withdrawal of a waste review late last year.

After taking office on 1 November, Vella announced that a policy package including an EU-wide target of recycling 70% of municipal waste by 2030 would be scrapped.

Despite a pledge of “more ambitious” circular economy proposals, a number of MEPs and industry figures urged him to continue with the initial plan.

Speaking to the EU Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, Vella said: “I know that most of you in this committee opposed the withdrawal of the waste review. I have also heard you are sceptical about our commitment to table a more ambitious proposal this year.

“Rest assured, the new proposals will keep the EU’s vision on the waste hierarchy and on the aim to increase recycling levels in Europe.

“We need to set ambitious, but smart and effective objectives. Our success will be measured by how well policies are implemented on the ground in each member state.”

He said there was “no ambiguity” in a previous statement that promised a review of waste targets, while proposals covering product design, reuse and repair would be issued by the end of 2015.

Vella also said he had taken on board views that waste targets should be more country-specific.

He indicated one of the reasons he pulled the initial package was to first find a way to boost the market for recycled products.

“The expression that comes to mind is ‘use it or lose it’,” he said. “There would be a real irony in having spent huge efforts in generating vast amounts of reusable material if this material ends up never getting used.

“This is why we have to look at how to get recycled material back into the production chain.

“Likewise, recycling can be made cheaper, easier and more efficient if products are designed and used with minimising waste in mind.”

The delay in setting EU circular economy policies has led to fears that the UK Government will not take the circular economy seriously.

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