A packaging lobby group has called on the European Commission to adjust the definition of recycling in its circular economy (CE) proposals to produce more accurate data.
The Extended Producer Responsibility Alliance (Expra), which represents compliance schemes in 16 EU countries but not the UK, wants recycling to be measured at the point that materials enter reprocessing facilities once sorting has been completed within a member state.
This echoes a recent call from the French Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services, which said the Commission’s suggested point of measurement – after treatment – was too late in the process to show accurately how much a country had recycled.
In addition to the federation’s suggestion, Expra said the ’final recycling process’ referred to in the Commission’s CE package, and currently passing through the European Parliament, should be coupled with material-specific quality standards.
Expra said this approach would avoid factors such as losses to individual waste streams during the recycling processes. Products of initial reprocessing would also be difficult to measure under the Commission’s suggested criteria because they are often exported to other facilities.
The Brussels-based association said the monitoring required under this process would add complexity and reduce data reliability.
Expra accepted the Commission’s proposal that, under certain conditions, the weight of the output of sorting could be reported as the amount recycled but said this should only apply with specific materials already sorted by consumers.
It also said that suggested recycling targets required further examination once a measurement methodology had been agreed.
Expra managing director Joachim Quoden told MRW: “No one knows where the starting point is today because, currently, the data reported by the member states is not complete, not reliable and not comparable.”
He added that recycling targets should be decided after a calculation method has been agreed and research into the effect that incorporating reuse into recycling data could have on the rates.
Quoden (pictured) called for stronger extended producer responsibility provisions to enable “a level playing field for the various actors involved”.
“More work is required to ensure a coherent approach to packaging operations within the EU, and the CE package is a unique opportunity for helping this take shape.”