Wider measures needed in European Circular Economy package

Wider measures needed in European Circular Economy packageOrganisations have begun to publish their responses to the European Commission’s proposed Circular Economy Package, after the public consultation period closed yesterday (20 August).

The consultation asked public stakeholders to provide their views on the main policy options for developing an ‘ambitious’ new approach to the circular economy. The responses will now be assessed and used to create the revised Circular Economy Package action plan, which is due to be presented before the end of 2015.

Topics covered in the consultation included the design of materials and products, actions that could be taken to change the way products are consumed in Europe, the markets available for secondary raw materials and measures to accelerate the transition to a circular economy in various sectors.

Package presents chance to ‘reboot’ waste legislation

The Resource Association (RA), the trade association for the reprocessing and recycling industries, said the circular economy was a “golden opportunity” to give “recycling policy and practice the reboot it needs”.

In response to the consultation, the RA repeated its calls for mandatory source separation of biowaste and more emphasis on setting up collection systems that focus on reducing contamination and improving the quality of secondary raw materials.

Among the other measures that the organisation would like to see are renewed emphasis on ‘demand pull’ measures to stimulate eco-design and investment in reuse and recycling infrastructure and a clear approach to the banning of recyclables to landfill and incineration.

Ray Georgeson, Chief Executive of the RA, said: “We welcome the concerted effort the Commission is putting into the preparatory work for its new legislative proposal on waste and communication on the circular economy.

“We urge the commission to be true to its stated ambition for the circular economy and signal a clear timetable in its action plan that will lead to underpinning legislative proposals where they are needed.

“In the more immediate short term, we have taken the opportunity in our position paper and formal response to encourage the commission to be bold in its review of waste legislation.

“We know that the circular economy is about much more than recycling, but getting the collection and processing of secondary raw materials in the best order possible to underpin the emergence of a more circular economy has to be a paramount priority for the commission’s revised waste legislation.

“Leadership from Europe is our best hope of making sure this happens across Europe in ways that respect the situation of individual member states whilst delivering the ‘European recycling society’ held for so long as an objective of the European Union.”

More targets needed to ensure improvement

In July, a report authored by MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen, which recommended binding recycling targets of 70 per cent for municipal solid waste and 80 per cent for packaging waste by 2030, was heavily backed for inclusion in the package by fellow MEPs.

Think tank Zero Waste England (ZWE), in its response to the consultation, reaffirmed these ‘feasible’ targets, stating that they ‘are already being achieved in some places’.

The think tank focuses on researching the path towards zero waste in England, concentrating mainly on issues relating to household and municipal waste and chose to ‘restrict [its] comments to the areas which are within the current scope and expertise of the organisation’.

Despite its support for the recycling targets set out in the proposal, ZWE said that it feels ‘that recycling rate by itself is not a very good indicator as waste growth can still be occurring’. 

It therefore suggests that additional targets are set for residual waste per capita, stating: ‘500 [grammes] per person per week in our view and experience is easily achievable, and 250 [grammes] is achievable’.

The organisation also wishes to see an immediate stop to the building of more incinerators, due to the ‘impending capacity excess’ and its ‘effect on climate change’, and ‘clear commitment to a level playing field of taxation of landfill and incineration in order to encourage circularity’.

Need for 'much more' emphasis on recyclate demand and harmonised waste statistics

The Environmental Services Association (ESA), trade association for the resource and waste management industry in the UK, have also stated that the Commission should put 'much more' emphasis on the demand side for recyclates.

Its response also sought proper enforcement of legislation and tougher action on waste crime, with an additional desire for 'more harmonised definitions and methods for calculating waste statistics'. 

ESA Executive Director Jacob Hayler said: “ESA believes there is greater scope for the European Commission to lead the way towards a more Circular Economy.

"In our consultation response we have asked the Commission to put more emphasis on the demand side for recycled materials, by proposing minimum recycled content requirements for selected products; minimum green public procurement requirements at EU level to boost purchase of recycled products and materials; eco-labelling rules to incorporate indications of recycled content and recyclability and lower or zero rate of VAT on second hand goods and products with recycled content.

"ESA recognises that the Circular Economy is about more than recycling, and there is certainly a role for the European Commission to play when it comes to eco-design for durability and reparability. At the same time, there is also a need for a more mature European debate about what recycling rates are realistic and sustainable in the medium and long term, taking into account any measures that are put in place to stimulate demand. 

"Another ESA priority is for the European Commission to improve statistics on raw and secondary material flows, which means clarifying and harmonising definitions and calculation methodologies.  A more consistent approach to statistics will help member states compare performance in a more meaningful way and learn from best practice.

"Finally, ESA calls for full implementation and proper enforcement of existing legislation on waste and resource management in all Member States. This includes tackling waste crime, which significantly undermines the operations of compliant businesses, and has a significant impact on the environment and local communities.”

Read the Resource Association’s submission to the European Commission’s consultation.

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