The European Commission has released its new Circular Economy Package with lower recycling targets than those contained in the original proposal announced in 2014, which was later withdrawn.
In its statement today, the Commission said its new waste proposal includes: common EU targets for recycling 65% of municipal waste and 75% of packaging waste by 2030; and a binding target to reduce landfill to a maximum of 10% of all waste by 2030. In the 2014 proposal, the targets were recycling 70% of municipal waste and 80% of packaging waste by 2030, and a total landfill ban from 2025.
Other key elements of the revised waste proposal include:
- A ban on landfilling of separately collected waste;
- Promotion of economic instruments to discourage landfilling;
- Simplified and improved definitions and harmonised calculation methods for recycling rates throughout the EU;
- Concrete measures to promote re-use and stimulate industrial symbiosis – turning one industry's by-product into another industry's raw material;
- Economic incentives for producers to put greener products on the market and support recovery and recycling schemes (for example, in packaging, batteries, electric and electronic equipment, vehicles).
The proposal incorporates a strategy on plastics in the circular economy, which aims to address issues of recyclability, biodegradability and the presence of hazardous substances in plastics. The Commission said it will propose a more ambitious target for the recycling of plastic packaging in the revised legislative proposal on waste.
The issue of marine litter is also tackled in the circular economy package, in part targeting plastics litter. The Commission said the implementation of waste legislation will reduce marine litter by at least 25%.
The concept of a circular economy involves the conversion of waste into new raw materials. But there are barriers to greater take-up of secondary raw materials in the EU, notably inconsistency in quality. Consequently, the Commission said it will start work to develop quality standards for secondary raw materials, in particular for plastics.
Answering criticism about the withdrawal of the previous circular economy package in December 2014, the Commission said it “committed at that time to use its new horizontal working methods to present a new package by the end of 2015 which would cover the full economic cycle, not just waste reduction targets, drawing on the expertise of all the Commission's services. The comprehensive package adopted today represents a set of tangible, broad and ambitious actions which will be presented during the Commission's term of office”.
Frans Timmermans, first vice-president at the Commission, responsible for sustainable development, said: "The circular economy is about reducing waste and protecting the environment, but it is also about a profound transformation of the way our entire economy works. By rethinking the way we produce, work and buy we can generate new opportunities and create new jobs.”
He continued: “This mix of smart regulation and incentives at EU level will help businesses and consumers, as well as national and local authorities, to drive this transformation."
As well as its plastics strategy tackling the lagging recycling rate, the Commission said: “Innovation in this sector is also an important aspect - it can contribute to the circular economy by better preserving food, improving the recyclability of plastics or reducing weight of materials used in vehicles.”