ENVI calls on EC to re-table 70 per cent recycling target

The European Parliament Environment Committee (ENVI) has voted through a draft report on the circular economy, which calls on the European Commission (EC) to increase recycling targets to ‘at least’ 70 per cent and ban landfilling by 2030.

The draft report, ‘Resource efficiency: moving towards a circular economy’, written by Sirpa Pietikäinen was adopted with 56 votes to five, with five abstentions earlier today (17 June).

It welcomes the EC’s approach to ‘designing and innovating for a circular economy’, but highlights a range of actions that need to be included in the EC’s revised Circular Economy Package (currently under consultation) to ‘avoid getting locked into resource-inefficient structures’.

These include re-tabling a proposal to increase recycling targets to ‘at least’ 70 per cent of municipal solid waste (based on the output of recycling facilities) using the ‘same harmonised method’ for all member states, and the introduction of a ban on landfilling all waste by 2030.

Report details

The explanatory note to the report reads: ‘The unsustainable use of resources is both causing environmental damage and posing an economic risk. The global economy uses the equivalent of 1.5 planets worth of resources to produce global output and absorb waste. By the 2030s this figure is estimated to reach two planets… To continue in this course would lead to an ecological and economic impasse.

‘Europe is locked in a system where valuable materials, many of which come at a high environmental and social cost, end up in landfill or incineration. There is not yet a functioning market for secondary raw materials. To change this, both legislative and economic incentives are needed to create leverage…

‘A clear new policy framework is also needed to enable private and institutional investors to change their investment paradigm towards long-term sustainable investments. Policy makers must deliver the necessary legal certainty for resource-efficient investments and business strategies to be created.

‘European reindustrialisation can be based only on resource-efficient and innovative businesses. The change has to start urgently to avoid getting locked into resource-inefficient structures.’


The report stresses that by 2050 the EU’s use of resources needs to be sustainable and the EC should therefore submit the announced proposal on the review of waste legislation by the end of 2015, which should:

  • extend producer responsibility requirements;
  • endorse the ‘pay-as-you-throw principle’ prioritising separate collection schemes ‘in order to facilitate the development of business based on the reuse of secondary raw materials’;
  • increase recycling targets to at least 70 per cent of municipal solid waste, based on the output of recycling facilities, using the ‘same harmonised method for all member states with externally verified statistics’;
  • introduce a ban on landfilling recyclable and biodegradable waste by 2025; and
  • introduce a ban on all landfilling by 2030.

The report also calls on the EC to propose a regulatory framework for urban mining in existing landfills and to develop an environmental permit system for the recycling industry based on self-monitoring and external auditing.

Other recommendations ENVI makes to EC include:

  • setting a binding target to increase resource efficiency at EU level by 30 per cent by 2030 and setting individual resource efficiency targets for each member state;
  • developing a policy framework on nutrients in order to ‘enhance recycling, foster innovation, improve market conditions and mainstream their sustainable use in EU legislation on fertilisers, food, water and waste’;
  • ensuring reused, repaired, remanufactured, refurbished and other resource-efficient products and solutions are preferred in all public procurement;
  • developing and introducing by 2019 a lead indicator and a number of sub-indicators on resource efficiency that measure resource consumption and take account of the whole lifecycle of products and services;
  • promoting the use of resource-efficiency indicators through international conventions; that ‘should be included in the European Semester and in all impact assessments’;
  • presenting a communication on sustainable food by 2016;
  • establishing a permanent resource-efficiency platform to encourage the exchange of best practice and facilitate the application of the latest research findings;
  • abolishing all environmentally harmful subsidies;
  • examining whether existing legislation is hindering the circular economy or the emergence of new business models, such as a lease economy; and
  • reviewing the Ecodesign Directive by the end of 2016 to: broaden the scope to cover all main product lines; gradually include all relevant resource-efficiency features in the mandatory requirements for product design; introduce a mandatory product passport based on these requirements; and define horizontal requirements on, inter alia, reusability and recyclability.

It concludes by recommending the EC report back to European Parliament about all the measures outlined and to propose next steps ‘by 2018’.

Circular economy is an economic and ecological win-win

Speaking after the vote, Pietikäinen stated: “It is a vital step for the EU to use resources more efficiently and to reduce our resource dependency and also to bring savings in material costs. Smart ecodesign of products also bears in mind repairing, reusing and recycling products.

“As Europe is more dependent on imported resources than any other region in the world, moving towards a circular economy is an economic and ecological win-win scenario.”

New circular economy package has to be genuinely ambitious’

The adoption of the draft report has been welcomed by several environmental organisations, including the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

Piotr Barczak, Policy Officer for Waste at the EEB, commented: “The European Parliament has been brave, put its neck out and ambition is the battle cry. Essentially, it wants the EU to do all it can to avoid a ‘business-as-usual’ approach.

“Companies, NGOs and citizens can all see the value of adopting a new economic model which makes more careful use of our resources and limits waste. The value that is locked up in a more resource-efficient way of life is of the tune of €600 billion while over two million jobs could be created. These massive benefits lie in the circular economy and it’s time the commission took them seriously.”

Ariadna Rodrigo, Resource Use Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, also commented, stating that the vote “gives a strong signal to the commission that the new circular economy package has to be genuinely ambitious”.

She added: “This means not taking the easy route and simply improving our management of waste close to home – we need concrete proposals to tackle the hard task of reducing our overall resource use.”

Touching on waste, Rodrigo stated: “Waste is a problem that’s on our doorsteps – we can’t ignore it, and so there’s a lot of political will to sort it out. But there’s an equally pressing issue that’s far easier to block out: our overconsumption has massive consequences outside the EU, where most of the resources that produce our products, food and materials come from. These hidden costs range from land grabs and forest destruction to climate change and land conflicts. It’s unjust and unsustainable, and it’s the responsibility of Europe’s decision-makers to fix it.”

Read the full list of ENVI’s recommendations in ‘Resource efficiency: moving towards a circular economy’.

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