MEPs back 70 per cent recycling targets Europe-wide

MEPs back 70 per cent recycling targets Europe-wideA legally-binding recycling target of 70 per cent for all EU member states was one of the proposals approved following a plenary vote in the European Parliament today (9 July).

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) gathered in Strasbourg today and voted to accept the bulk of the proposals set out in a resolution published in June.

The resolution, ‘Resource Efficiency: moving towards a circular economy’, recommends various targets and policies to be included in the European Commission’s upcoming circular economy package.

It was first voted through by the European Parliament Environment Committee (ENVI) last month before being put to MEPs at this month’s sitting.

Among the measures agreed by MEPs, who passed the resolution by 394 votes to 197, with 82 abstentions, were:

  • binding recycling targets – a 70 per cent target for municipal solid waste and an 80 per cent target for packaging waste by 2030;
  • measures to limit incineration to non-recyclable waste after 2020, and the removal of incineration subsidies; and
  • legally binding proposals to report on resource use with ‘footprint indicators’ for land, materials, water and carbon by 2018.

However, the proposal to introduce a legally binding target of 30 per cent ‘resource productivity’ by 2030 was changed to become voluntary among member states.

The European Commission first announced the headline proposal of a 70 per cent recycling and reuse target in July last year when it launched its Circular Economy Package, but those plans were withdrawn in December so that a new ‘more ambitious’ package could be submitted under the new commission led by President Jean-Claude Juncker.

A roadmap setting out the new proposal was released in May, with a period of public consultation running until 20 August.

A revised action plan, with this Parliament-approved resolution taken into account, is expected before the end of the year.

Reports UK opposed increased recycling targets

The proposed recycling targets included in the approved proposals were cast into slight doubt earlier in the day when the Guardian reported having seen a leaked document that suggested the UK was urging MEPs to oppose to them.

A report published in the newspaper this morning quoted the document as saying: “We feel that a greater emphasis needs to be given to other measures such as voluntary agreements with industry and incentives to rewards behavioural changes.”

Approval presents a ‘paradigm shift and business opportunity’

After the positive vote, MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen, who led the resolution, said: “This is a paradigm shift, a systemic change that we are facing, as well as a huge, hidden, business opportunity. It can be created only by helping a new business ecosystem to emerge.

“But to make this happen, we need legislative, informative, economic and cooperative actions. First, we need a set of indicators and targets. We need a review of existing legislation, as it fails to incorporate the value of ecosystem services.

“We need a broadening of the scope of the ecodesign directive, a renewal of the waste directive, and a special focus on certain areas like sustainable buildings.”

Ambition of resolution pleases industry

Following news of the plenary vote, non-governmental organisations and charities with an interest in the resources industry have noted the ambition of the proposals.

Stéphane Arditi, the European Environmental Bureau’s Policy Manager for Products and Waste, said: “The European Parliament has issued a strong report which lays the path for a circular economy to develop in Europe.

“Its call to use ecodesign, so that products are more repairable, is welcome, as is the idea of a passport that provides information about materials contained in a product. It is a shame however that the Parliament chose not to push for a binding EU resource efficiency target. This is one important way Europe can cut down on its unsustainable resource use.”

Ariadna Rodrigo, Resource Use Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: “The Parliament has provided the baseline which the new circular economy package must live up to.

“True ‘ambition’ means not just dealing with waste and recycling, but taking concrete steps to address the fundamental problem of resource overconsumption in the EU. The next step must be to set binding resource reduction targets, but measuring what we consume is a strong start.”

No word on reuse in the Circular Economy Package

However, Michal Len, Director of RREUSE, a network of re-use organisations in Europe, lamented the lack of policy on reuse in the proposals.

He said: “Setting separate targets for re-use of goods in addition to those for recycling is crucial to cutting resource use, creating green jobs and giving access to basic material needs especially for low income groups. The report approved today by the European Parliament is a missed opportunity.

“France, Belgium (Flanders) and Spain already have re-use targets and the EU should be taking the lead on pushing for their wider use. Despite support from the Parliament’s industry committee, it was short-sighted of the environment committee to leave out this crucial component of an effective circular economy package.

“It’s now up to the commission to push for a stronger circular economy package with a real push for reuse, including separate targets when it publishes its revised proposals at the end of this year.”

Read the resolution, ‘Resource Efficiency: moving towards a circular economy’.

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