Government

Landmark agreement reached on Circular Economy Package

A compromise has been reached over long-term recycling targets in Europe after EU institutions finally came to an agreement on legislative terms for the Circular Economy Package, a set of laws and actions designed to guarantee a more resource-efficient future for Europe, this morning (19 December).

A trilogue, the sixth on the four legislative proposals addressing waste, packaging waste, landfill and electrical and electronic waste, was convened on Sunday in an effort to get the legislative measures agreed before the end of the year. Following intense discussions that continued until around 4.30am, compromises have now been reached on a number of sticking points that threatened to hold up negotiations into 2018.

The Council, Parliament and Commission had been stuck on disagreements on the headline recycling and packaging targets, how they are calculated and extended producer responsibility (EPR).

Landmark agreement reached on Circular Economy Package

However, it seems member states have won the battle over municipal recycling targets, with a 60 per cent goal for 2030 to be written into legislation. Several nations had been labelled ‘laggards’ for their supposed lack of ambition on targets, compared to the Commission’s 65 per cent proposal and the European Parliament’s argument to increase that to 70 per cent. It seems as if a compromise has been reached, however, with a further 65 per cent target being set for 2035.

An additional target of 55 per cent by 2025 will also be introduced. EU member states are currently working towards a 50 per cent target for 2020 - one that the UK looks set to miss out on.

Among the other measures reportedly agreed is a limit on waste to landfill of 10 per cent by 2035, five years later than the Commission originally proposed.

“It took us almost 18 hours and some tough negotiating to reach a provisional agreement, but we are pleased with the result,” said a spokesperson for the Estonian presidency. “It is no secret that the Council and the Parliament have had differing views on many issues. We are very grateful to our partners’ constructive attitude during this challenging trilogue and believe the outcome is a fair compromise for all sides.”

The agreement comes just over two years since the Package was first published by the European Commission. It will now be presented to EU ambassadors on 20 December and will then need to be ratified by the incoming Bulgarian presidency in January. After formal approval, the new legislation will be submitted to the European Parliament for a vote at first reading and to the Council for final adoption.

Siim Kiisler, Estonia’s Environment Minister, added: "We need to make every effort to move towards circular economy and I see eco-innovation as a key element in this transition. Member states are calling for a comprehensive EU policy that would cover the whole life cycle of products: this would increase transparency and make sure we don’t miss any crucial elements.

“At the same time, the governments should make it as simple as possible for businesses to take innovative products to the market. On both the EU and member state level, there is huge potential in digital solutions to make the move to circular economy faster and easier."

Speaking this morning, Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella said: "Modernising our European waste legislation will drive efforts of member states to cut the amount of waste we generate, to reduce the materials we bury and burn, and to increase re-use and recycling. The deal reached this morning will strengthen our "waste hierarchy" by placing prevention, re-use and recycling clearly above landfilling and incineration. This agreement will make our economies more resource efficient, create jobs and reduce impacts on the environment and resource depletion.

"In circular and low-carbon economies it makes no sense to send our waste to landfill. That's why I am delighted that we helped the European Parliament and Member States to agree on reducing landfill and a target for recycling our waste by 2035."

As part of the the action plan for a circular economy released as part of the package in 2015, the European Commission is currently developing a European Strategy for Plastics, which it plans to release in early 2018.

More details and reaction will be posted on resource.co throughout the day.

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