Germany could call for removal of EU recycling targets
According to a document seen by EurActiv.com that was distributed among diplomats’ working groups, Germany wants to put off any recycling targets included in the Circular Economy Package for at least three years.
Germany was the top recycler in the European Union in 2014, according to the latest data reported to the European Commission’s Eurostat website, recycling 63.8 per cent of municipal waste. Therefore it should have no trouble in meeting the recycling targets of 65 per cent by 2030 currently set out by the commission’s Circular Economy Package.
The package has yet to be formally agreed, however, with members of the European Parliament still keen on the target being increased to 70 per cent, as was set out in the package’s first draft in 2014.
But despite, or perhaps because of, its own recycling position, the German government, according to the document, disagrees with the calculation method that is preferred by the commission, and instead wants a different method, that it deems to be more accurate, to be tested for data collection for three years.
Only after the alternative method has been tested should the introduction of ‘feasible’ recycling targets be considered, it states.
The method preferred by Germany sees a standard loss rate, representing how much waste is lost in the recycling process, set by the recycler. This percentage, which will vary across each member state, is then deducted from the recycling figure reported.
The commission, however, would prefer a method that provides most ‘consistency’ across each member state, with the current calculation simply counting how much waste enters the recycling process.
‘We cannot afford to put the brakes on the circular economy’
Responding to reports that Germany could refuse to agree targets carried in the package, Ferran Rosa, Zero Waste Europe’s waste policy officer commented: “Germany has their own national targets. If it’s positive and achievable for Germany, why wouldn’t they be possible for the rest of Europe? Either their statistics aren’t accurate or they have an interest in low recycling rates.
“Europe’s recycling leader is also the leading country in Europe for waste imports for incineration. The removal of recycling targets combined with close-to-zero landfill disposal will only serve to feed German incineration overcapacity and push for adding even more incinerators to the already saturated incineration market.
Dissension over targets could slow negotiation process
Before the Circular Economy Package, which was published by the commission in December 2015, can be adopted it must be agreed by all three of the main EU institutions. The European Council and the European Parliament are still negotiating amongst themselves before final positions are taken to trilogues between all three.
Prior to a vote on a European Parliament resolution last summer, it was reported that representatives from the UK had been urged to vote against the recycling targets (then 70 per cent). Euractiv.com reports that Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria are all in support of the German government’s plan, which could slow down negotiations on the package.
Slovakia, which holds the presidency of the European Council for the second half of 2016, has already said that it aims to reach an agreement on the package by the end of its term.
It’s not yet clear whether any agreed package will apply to the UK following its secession from the EU, but at a hearing of the Environmental Audit Committee last week, new Waste Minister Therese Coffey said that the UK will continue to play ‘a full and active role’ in negotiations for the package up until Brexit and that it is too early to say what stage it will have reached by the time Brexit is finalised.
Coffey also said that although the general principles of the package – to ‘do more with resources’ – are agreeable, “proposals about changing the definition of what constitutes recycling could have a big impact on the UK”. She warned: “We need to be careful in our approach to this: we don’t want, just because of some specific rules and regulations, to end up with a perverse outcome.”