Government

Industry responds to EU waste targets consultation

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The Resource Association (RA) and Environmental Services Association (ESA) have responded to a consultation on European Union (EU) waste management targets, which closed yesterday (10 September).

The ‘Consultation on the Review of the European Waste Management Targets’, which opened on 4 June, was commissioned by DG Environment at the European Commission (EC), in the hopes of ‘identifying the issues and proposing possible solutions to the targets in the Waste Framework Directive, the Landfill Directive and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive’.

The Resource Association, which represents the UK’s reprocessing sector, responded to the consultation by advocating a more ‘ambitious’ approach to target setting in the EU, alongside an ‘urgent’ need to standardise the use of data and definitions across the continent.

In contrast, waste management sector trade body ESA’s response does not support standardising higher waste targets, due to the disparities in recycling rates across EU member states.

‘Changing context’

ESA’s Europe Policy Advisor, Roy Hathaway, said: “It’s common sense that we need to landfill less, recycle more and make better use of our resources. In the past, successive EU waste targets have been important in supporting UK progress in doing this, but the context is changing.

“In an EU of 28 member states, there are huge variations in recycling levels, financial resources and political will to change. Put simply, we do not believe that the poorest performers are on track to meet their 2020 targets. Ensuring that they do so must be the EU’s first priority. But, given the huge variation across Europe, we don’t see a way, at the moment, to set new EU targets that are high enough to challenge member states with good recycling rates but would still be credible in the poorer performing EU countries.”

In its response, the ESA stated that ‘getting waste and resource efficiency policies right, to encourage a “circular economy”, is more important than setting uniform targets at EU level’. Instead, it suggested that ‘any member state which landfills more than 50 per cent of its waste should be required to agree an action plan of national measures with the EC (landfill taxes or bans, pay as you throw, etc), tailored to circumstances at national and local level, in order to reduce landfilling, increase recycling, and improve resource efficiency’.

The RA also recognised the difference in ‘starting point of many (especially newer) EU member states who are presently very dependent on landfill and have very limited recycling infrastructure’, but still supported ‘ambition for the whole of the EU’.

In its response, it highlighted the problem of a ‘lack of staggered target setting’ and making 2020 the ‘sole legal point of scrutiny’. Instead, it suggested a ‘more sophisticated’ approach to the trajectory of realising targets was needed, as ‘many member states are clearly many years away from meeting these targets’. Further, it believes there should be ‘more focus on the additional improvement of the high performers’.

‘A multi-layered approach to target setting and improvement from baseline would surely be more realistic and give all member states a full and fair stake in our overall resource efficiency objective’, it said.

More consistency needed

One point of agreement between the two organisations is the need for a more consistent approach across member states, which the RA said would ensure a ‘level playing field in interpretation’.

For example, the association highlighted the ‘need for a harmonised approach for reporting of all wastes entering landfill sites, alongside standardisation of reporting and a definition of what counts towards recycling targets’ as a key issue related to targets in the Landfill Directive.

ESA agreed, stating that member states should be required to report landfill statistics in a ‘consistent’ way, and the EC should ensure all member states are using a ‘consistent definition of “biodegradable waste”’.

‘Eco-approaches’

As a final note, ESA commented that the EU should tackle issues that can only be addressed at an EU-wide level, namely eco-design for recyclability, while the RA concluded that higher targets should run alongside an eco-industrial strategy that ‘encourages’ and ‘incentivises’ greater use of recyclate by manufacturers, otherwise they will be ‘unachievable’.

The results of the consultation will be published ‘in the autumn’ on the official website of the Targets Review Project and on Your Voice in Europe

Once responses have been received, waste consultancy Eunomia will put forward several preferred options for detailed analysis, expected to be completed in ‘spring 2014’.

Read the ‘Consultation on the Review of the European Waste Management Targets’.