Circular Economy Package expected to apply to UK despite Brexit

Stakeholders have been told that the government expects the EU’s Circular Economy Package (CEP) to apply to the UK, as members of the European Parliament convene this week to vote on the package’s legislation.

Circular Economy Package expected to apply to UK despite Brexit
In a meeting between officials from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and industry businesses and trade bodies last week, it was stated that despite impending Brexit negotiations the UK will continue to be involved in negotiations surrounding the package, which is trying to transform how resources are viewed across Europe and create a more sustainable economy.

The European Parliament’s Environment Committee (ENVI) is meeting in Brussels today and tomorrow (23-24 January) to discuss and vote on the waste legislative package included in the CEP put forward by the European Commission (EC) in December 2015.

The CEP consists of an action plan and legislative proposals, both of which were debated in the European Parliament and Council over the course of 2016. The waste legislation being discussed at this week’s ENVI meeting covers the Waste Framework Directive, packaging and packaging waste, end-of-life vehicles and batteries, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and landfilling.

Before the CEP is passed into law, all three European institutions (Council, Parliament and Commission) must have an agreed stance, which they will then take into a series of trilogues. This means that a final package will likely not be established until the second half of 2017.

The government is expected to trigger its two-year negotiation period for leaving the EU in March, giving a departure date of early 2019. However, it has also established plans for a Great Repeal Bill, which would transpose existing pieces of EU legislation into UK law, and Defra officials said last week that they are working under the assumption that the CEP will apply to the UK.

MEPs pressed to impose targets

Voting on the legislation will take place tomorrow, and environmental groups around Europe have been getting in their calls for the committee to ramp up the legally-binding targets contained in the package.

Last week, a group of organisations implored the committee to impose a binding 50 per cent food waste reduction target for member states to ensure that the fight against growing levels of needless waste are not hampered by reliance on voluntary targets.

Now the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), an independent organisation that works to provide input on European environmental policy, has urged MEPs to recognise the employment opportunities that could be created through ambitious waste legislation.

Circular Economy Package expected to apply to UK despite Brexit
The European Parliament's Environment Committee is meeting this week to vote on legislative proposals
Over 860,000 new jobs could be created across the EU if ENVI votes for an ambitious recycling target and commits its support to refurbishing and reuse sectors, the EEB says in a new report, ‘Advancing Resource Efficiency in Europe’.

The CEP proposed by the EC in 2015 included a recycling target of 65 per cent, but MEPs have previously supported an increased goal of 70 per cent, and if they stand firm on that stance, and set a ‘clear target’ for the repairing and reuse of waste, the EEB predicts that 867,000 jobs could be created across the EU by 2030, enough to employ one in six of the currently unemployed young people across the region.

While the EC’s proposals did offer a recycling target, there was no separate target for reuse, only encouragement for member states to establish action. Indeed, in April, Spain became the first member state to establish a reuse target.

The group also says that the EU should commit to halving the amount of marine litter deposited into the world’s oceans from across the continent by 2025. Over 150 million tonnes of plastic has already leaked into oceans, and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has predicted that if we keep allowing plastic to pollute oceans at the current rate of around eight million tonnes a year, oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

The EEB says that the EU could limit its impact by phasing out ‘unnecessary, non-reusable packaging and plastic items’ like disposable cutlery.

Piotr Barczak, Waste Policy Officer at the EEB, said: “Creating new jobs and slashing marine litter are just two of the benefits that boosting recycling targets and helping the repair and reuse industries could bring. But to truly reap these rewards, MEPs must support ambitious recycling and repairing targets in this crunch vote.”

The EEB’s ‘Advancing Resource Efficiency in Europe’ report can be read and downloaded from the EEB’s website.

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