Caution Advised Over EU’s 70% Recycling Proposals

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) has sounded a note of caution to the European Parliament’s amendments to the EU Circular Economy legislation adopted earlier this week.

European Parliament voted to restore the recycling targets for member states set out in the original incarnation of the Circular Economy Package tabled in 2014.

The votes means that by 2030, at least 70% by weight of so-called municipal waste (from households and businesses) should be recycled or prepared for reuse, (ie, checked, cleaned or repaired), say MEPs.

The European Commission proposed a target of 65% after a second version of the Circular Economy Package, originally tabled in 2014, dropped this from 70%.

For packaging materials, such as paper and cardboard, plastics, glass, metal and wood, MEPs propose an 80% target for 2030, with interim 2025 targets for each material.

ESA – “The recycling calculation method chosen is virtually impracticable, and if it could be implemented would make a 70% recycling rate unachievable by even the best performing member states.”

According to 2014 figures, the current combined rate of EU member states is 44%.

ESA’s executive director, Jacob Hayler, has said said ambitions have to be “realistic” if they are to result in practical steps towards a more circular economy.

He said: “Since the start of negotiations on the Commission’s proposals, ESA has consistently pointed out that raising recycling rates will not help to achieve a more circular economy unless accompanied by effective measures to increase and sustain the demand for the extra recyclable materials collected. Nothing which the Parliament did yesterday addresses this fundamental issue.

“The same lack of realism runs through other amendments adopted by the Parliament. The recycling calculation method chosen is virtually impracticable, and if it could be implemented would make a 70% recycling rate unachievable by even the best performing member states.

“The Parliament’s deletion of the practicability condition (TEEP) from the separate collection requirements shows the same disregard for what is possible on the ground. And the proposed 10% ceiling on disposal of municipal waste in 2030, which would limit both landfill and incineration without energy recovery, would make the proper management of non-recyclable residual waste impossible.

“ESA will look to the Commission and the Council to address the need for sustainable markets for secondary raw materials, and to put realism and practicability back into the Circular Economy legislation, when the three-way “Trilogue” discussions get underway.  This is vital if the industry is to have a sound basis for future investment.”


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  1. Forward thinking organisations such as those in the retail, events and entertainment sectors are already achieving higher than anticipated recycling rates, some well above 70%. With the right partners on board and effective strategy in place, they’re already on target – others have the potential to follow suit and we should all play a part to rally round and support their ambitions to raise standard and recycling/re-use in general. BBC Radio breakfast news from 7am this morning, worth listening to what’s been achieved at The Cheltenham Festival
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/bbc_radio_gloucestershire

  2. Who cares what targets the EU sets?
    After we leave the EU the UK will set its own targets based on what can actually be achieved (given the funding available). and all this correctspeak ‘partners on board’ effective strategies’ etc is just a load of baloney.
    ESA knows a lot more about the practicalities of recycling in the UK than do the out of touch MEPS.

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