Draft European waste laws strengthened after vote

14th March 2017

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Miles Lewis

The European parliament has backed a more ambitious package of waste laws than those proposed by the commission, including a target to recycle 70% of household refuse and a 5% cap on waste sent to landfill by 2030.

The draft text was proposed by Italian MEP Simona Bonafè and supported by the parliament’s environment committee in January. It contains stronger targets than those suggested by the commission in 2015 as part of its circular economy package, which had been criticised for watering down those proposed in 2014 by the previous administration.

Measures approved by MEPs include:

  • increasing the 2030 target for recycling municipal waste from 65% to 70%, with 5% prepared for reuse;
  • an 80% target for the recycling of packaging waste such as paper, cardboard, plastics, glass, metal and wood. Each material will also have interim targets for 2025;
  • a 5% limit on waste sent to landfill;
  • a food waste reduction target of 30% by 2025 and 50% by 2030, compared with 2014, with similar targets for marine litter;
  • mandatory separate collection for the main waste streams, including biowaste, waste oils and textiles;
  • increasing use of economic instruments such as landfill and incineration taxes and deposit-return schemes; and
  • more clarity on the decontamination of hazardous components in waste.

Negotiations will now begin between the parliament and the Council of Ministers, which has yet to adopt a position on the circular economy package.

Bonafè said: ‘We decided to restore the ambitious recycling and landfill targets in line with what the commission had originally proposed in 2014.

‘Demand for raw materials by the world economy could increase by 50% in the next 15 years. In order to reverse this trend, we must adopt a circular development model, which keeps materials and their value in circulation, the only solution able to keep together sustainability with economic growth.’

Campaigners at the European Environmental Bureau said the vote sent a clear message to EU environmental ministers that any attempt to water down the level of ambition would compromise efforts to move Europe to a stronger and resource-efficient economy.

During the debate, European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans promised to do his best to keep the final text as close as possible to the parliament’s proposal when it was debated with the council.

Waste policy officer Piotr Barczak said: ‘It’s a good sign that Timmermans is willing to support the proposals approved today by the parliament. It shows that the two major institutions, the commission and the parliament, are aligned and that the council will be on its own if it chooses to lower the targets.’

However, the organisation was disappointed that targets for food waste and marine litter were not binding, and that underperforming member states would still be granted time extensions.

Barczak said: ‘Around 88 million tonnes of food are wasted each year in the EU – enough to feed the 55 million Europeans living in food poverty more than nine times over.’


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