EU member states give circular economy package seal of approval
The final legislative hurdle to creating a more resource efficient Europe has been overcome after the EU Council approved the EU’s Circular Economy Package (CEP) in Brussels on Tuesday (22 May).
The final ratification by the Council comes a little over a month after MEPs in the European Parliament gave the set of revised waste directives their seal of approval, ratifying the targets agreed upon following the end of three-way discussions known as trilogues between the European Council, Commission and Parliament back in December, which were then approved by EU ambassadors in February this year. The announcement marks the end of a long journey through the institutions since the Juncker Commission put the current legislation forward in 2015, after withdrawing a draft CEP put forward in July 2014 that included a 70 per cent recycling and reuse target for 2030.
Progress on moving towards a circular economy has been steady since the start of the year, as a Monitoring Framework to measure the EU’s progress towards the CEP targets was also proposed by the European Commission in March, while a Plastics Strategy was agreed at the start of March, with an aim of making all plastic packaging recyclable by 2030.
The new legislation means that EU member states will be obliged to reach a 55 per cent municipal recycling rate by 2025, 60 per cent by 2030 and 65 per cent by 2035. Confusion over the headline target was apparent in the first few months of the year, with many reporting the 65 per cent figure as the 2030 target, as opposed to the 2035 target.
Specific targets for packaging for 2030 are also included for all packaging (70 per cent), plastic (55 per cent), wood (30 per cent), ferrous metals (80 per cent), aluminium (60 per cent), glass (75 per cent) and paper and cardboard (85 per cent).
In addition to material-specific targets, member states will have until 1 January 2025 to set up a separate collection for textile waste and hazardous waste from households and until 31 December 2023 to ensure that bio-waste is either collected separately or recycled at source (e.g. home composting).
A landfill reduction target is also included in the package, with member states expected to ensure that, as of 2030, all waste suitable for recycling or other recovery shall not be accepted in landfills, except waste for which landfilling is the best environmental outcome. In addition, member states will ensure that by 2035 the amount of municipal waste being sent to landfill is reduced to less than 10 per cent of the total amount of municipal waste generated.
Furthermore, the new legislation foresees more use of effective economic instruments and other measures in support of the waste hierarchy. Producers are given an important role in this transition by making them responsible for their products when they become waste. New requirements for extended producer responsibility schemes to improve their performance and governance are included in the CEP. In addition, mandatory extended producer responsibility schemes have to be established for all packaging by 2024.
Now that the Council has ratified the CEP, it will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal, with 24 months allowed for the governments of member states to transpose the new laws into national legislation.
Despite the perpetual uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the form of the UK’s future relationship with the EU, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has indicated that the CEP will apply to the UK following Brexit, even going so far as to suggest that the UK would set even more ambitious targets than those contained in the landmark European agreement.
Commenting on the announcement, EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, said: "The final approval of new EU waste rules by the Council marks an important moment for the circular economy in Europe. The new recycling and landfilling targets set a credible and ambitious path for better waste management in Europe. Our main task now is to ensure that the promises enshrined in this waste package are delivered on the ground. The Commission will do all it can to support Member States and make the new legislation deliver on the ground."
Neno Dimov, Bulgarian Minister of Environment and Water, added: “I am very pleased that ministers have given their approval to the revised legislation on waste today. Europe is moving towards a circular economy. These new rules protect not only our environment but also the health of our citizens. Today we close the loop of product lifecycles, from production and consumption to waste management. This decision is about making our economies more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.”