Resource minister Rory Stewart has called for more cost-benefit analysis to underpin the European Commission’s circular economy package, in particular regarding recycling targets.
The long-awaited proposals published on 2 December included recycling targets of 65% for household waste and 75% for packaging waste.
Now Stewart has shared his views at the first discussion of the package at the EU Environment Council.
He said the UK Government welcomed an emphasis on reducing the burden on business, the voluntary approach and provisions on eco-design.
But he singled out the recycling targets as the source of the UK’s ”overaching concerns”, saying “we want to ensure they are not overly complex”.
“On these targets we really do need to see the evidence base. Particularly the cost-benefit analysis that has been done, and why the Commission really believes these targets are sensible and achievable,” he said.
Environment commissioner Karmenu Vella responded after all members states had spoken by saying the targets had proven to be achievable, adding that countries not recycling enough were ”literally burying valuable resources in the ground or burning them”.
“We already have waste targets and they have been an important incentive towards better waste management,” he said.
”The real value is in setting a common direction and speed which gives a clear and predictable framework for public and private investment.”
Vella (pictured) tried to calm countries’ fears of not meeting the targets by adding that no member state had yet faced an infringement case for not meeting them.
Stewart’s comments echo those of the UK’s representative in the European Council, Shan Morgan, who said in December that the Commission should include a headline figure on the potential increase in EU GDP that the CE package may offer.
Environmental Services Association (ESA) executive director Jacob Hayler agreed with Morgan that the action plan “should do more to draw out the benefits to jobs and growth that a CE could bring”.
Morgan also said the recycling targets in the package were “too high to be achievable”.
This clashes with the view of a prominent MEP Simona Bonafè, who said at the time of the package’s release that “the 65% target for recycling of municipal waste by 2030 is not enough”.
Bonafè said a 70% target, included in previous proposals, would be the minimum she would seek in the European Parliament.
The Commission has called on the Parliament and Council to prioritise adoption and implementation of the measures, expected to be the middle of 2017.