UK Circular Economy Package to set 65 per cent recycling target for 2035

The UK Government will commit to a 65 per cent municipal recycling rate by 2035 after it announced it would be transposing the vast majority of the EU’s Circular Economy Package (CEP) into UK law.

Announced yesterday (30 July), the UK CEP will replicate almost all of the EU’s CEP, which was passed into law in June 2018, including a limit of 10 per cent municipal waste to landfill by 2035, a ban on separately collected waste going to landfill or incineration and restrictions on the materials that can be sent for landfill or incineration.

The government states that bringing over the CEP into UK law will build on its commitments to be a world leader in environmental legislation, building on commitments made in the Resources and Waste Strategy, 25 Year Environment Plan and Environment Bill to make the UK a resource-efficient, high recycling nation.

UK Circular Economy Package to set 65 per cent recycling target for 2035Commenting on the announcement, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “We are committed to increasing our recycling rates and reducing the amount of waste that is sent to landfill to create a cleaner waste industry and reduce carbon emissions.

“Through our landmark Environment Bill we will be bringing forward a raft of measures to do just that, and this new Circular Economy Package takes us yet another step forward to transforming our waste industry.”

A policy statement outlining the UK’s plans for transposing the amended Waste Framework Directive, Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and Landfill of Waste Directive has been put forward jointly by the UK, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish Governments, with devolved administrations responsible for the implementation of the CEP in each country.

The statement says that as the bulk of the changes needed to bring over the EU legislation are small technical changes or a case of adopting the same wording as the EU Directives, no formal consultation process will be held.

The UK Government’s decision ends the uncertainty over whether the UK would fulfil its commitment to bring over the CEP into UK law after Brexit.

Despite previous reassurances that the UK would not allow environmental standards to fall post-Brexit and the Resources and Waste Strategy’s commitment to transposing the CEP in full, successive Environment Secretaries refused to rule out diverging from EU environmental laws. Further concern was provoked by delays to a consultation on the CEP and the impact of coronavirus raised concerns over whether transposition could be completed ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020.

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesperson stated that while the original deadline for transposing the CEP into UK law was 5 July 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic had caused “unavoidable delays” and the regulations would be transposed “as soon as possible”. The government expects that the legislation will enter into law in the autumn.

‘Important package of measures’

The response of the UK waste and resources sector to the government’s announcement has been positive. Pat Jennings, Head of Policy, Knowledge and External Affairs at the Charted Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), said: “Earlier this week, CIWM went on record stating that Defra should provide clarity on the UK Government’s intentions with regards to the EU Circular Economy package given the passing of the transposition deadline. We are pleased, therefore, to see the joint statement issued today by the four UK governments.

“While the devil is always in the detail, and CIWM will be scrutinising the list of transposition measures proposed, it is reassuring to see that the UK will remain aligned with an important package of measures that will shape resources and waste policy across Europe for years to come. We also look forward to working with the UK governments to ensure that the UK genuinely does lead the way “in driving global resource efficiency” in the future.”

John Scanlon, CEO of waste management company SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, added: “We welcome the UK’s continuing commitment to maintain, and in places exceed, the ambitions of our European neighbours in the area of resources and waste.  The target to recycle 65 per cent of municipal waste by 2035 is particularly important as this encompasses not only household waste but also waste from businesses that is similar in composition to household waste, and which is essential to meeting recycling targets. We look forward to feeding into the government’s forthcoming series of consultations on consistent collections, a deposit return scheme and extended producer responsibility, as it is the fine detail of these reforms that is key to achieving its ambition of a more circular economy.”

Environmental think tank Green Alliance, which recently raised fears over the missed deadline for transposing the CEP, also welcomed the move. Libby Peake, Head of Resource Policy, said: “It’s great news that the government has listened to our call to enshrine the ambitious 65 per cent recycling target into UK law. This suggests a resolve not to let the EU pull ahead from us on environmental ambitions. Now we need the right policies to follow through and deliver the required improvements.

“Recycling is just part of the picture when it comes to strengthening the economy and improving resource use. For this, equally ambitious targets are needed along the whole material cycle, from improving resource efficiency at the start to reducing waste at the end. The forthcoming Environment Bill offers the government the perfect vehicle to pull ahead and create the zero waste, resource efficient economy that people want, and that is needed to address the climate and ecological crisis.”

However, Green Alliance has expressed concern over the lack of interim targets to the 2035 goal given the positive role such interim targets play in achieving bigger goals.

You can read the UK Government’s CEP policy statement and supporting documents in full on the government’s website.

Related Articles