The European Commission has adopted proposals including a target of 70% recycling of municipal waste by 2030. These legislative proposals will now pass to the European Council and the European Parliament.

UKWIN National Co-ordinator Shlomo Dowen stated: “70% recycling by 2030 is both achievable and desirable. We need to be working towards a closed-loop circular economy, and this means more recycling and less and less incineration. However, meeting this target will require the UK Government do to their part by by greening their procurement, moving from incineration subsidies to incineration taxes, and investing in the collection, sorting and recycling infrastructure and education we need to eliminate residual waste”.

Both Scotland and Wales have already adopted some form of target for 70% recycling by 2025. As part of its Zero Waste Plan the Scottish Government introduced a target of 70% recycling for all waste arising in Scotland by 2025 regardless of its source.  The Welsh Government introduced a mandatory 70% recycling target for municipal wastes in Wales for 2025.

In May 2014 UKWIN gave written evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRACOM) that “Recycling is harmed by incineration for various reasons, including the presence of incineration capacity and government subsidies for incineration discouraging investment in recycling, the long-term lock-in of money and feedstock to existing and proposed incineration capacity, and the fact that the true costs of incineration are not reflected in the price of treatment”.

Shlomo Dowen also gave oral evidence to EFRACOM*, including: “We are 15 or 16 years away from 2030. That is wonderful because that gives us time to move from incineration subsidies to incineration taxes, to invest more in recycling infrastructure and education, to do more to ensure separate food collections and collections of other bio-waste and to require the removal of all recyclables prior to incineration or landfill. Government can lead by example through green procurement, etc. We have got the time to do it. The solutions are there; it is just a matter of implementing them…It is very important for Government to ensure that the incentive hierarchy matches the waste hierarchy. At the moment it does not, and that is where a lot of the problems stem from. Business cannot realign the incentive hierarchy to the waste hierarchy, but Government can, so that is a job to be done…That is one of the reasons that UKWIN advocates for an incineration tax to help restore the balance.”

The proposal for a 70% recycling target should be seen as a wake-up call for those who think we should be burning valuable resources. The UK already has more incineration capacity, existing and under construction, than we will have genuinely residual waste to burn. The UK Government should embrace the closed-loop circular economy, recognising that this implies the need for an incineration exit strategy to avoid the worst effects of overcapacity.

The Director of ZWE, Joan Marc Simon said:

The package presented today shows that the EU continues to be in the right path towards Zero Waste and this should be praised. However the proposal still focuses too much on end of pipe solutions. Our experience with Zero Waste municipalities and districts shows that the big push is needed at the front end to:

  • design products that are durable, reusable and recyclable,
  • facilitate optimisation of separate collection –including biowaste, and
  • create legal and economic conditions for prevention, reuse and recycling to take over what now goes to landfill and incineration.

The proposed text includes the following:

  • Recital 4: “Many Member States have not yet completely developed the necessary waste management infrastructure and are planning investments now. It is therefore essential to set clear policy objectives in order to avoid locking secondary raw materials at the bottom of the waste hierarchy.” [Page 6] – This recital recognises the dangers of being locked into residual waste treatment infrastructure such as incineration;
  • Recital 12 “…Member States should not support the incineration of waste that can be recycled in a technically and economically feasible way and under environmentally safe conditions…” [Page 7]
  • Article 1(8)(a)(c): “…by 1st January 2030 at the latest, recycling and preparing for re-use of municipal waste shall be increased to a minimum of 70% by weight.” [Page 13] – The proposal explains that ‘municipal waste’ is not limited to household waste, and that MRF rejects and incinerator bottom ash (IBA) do not generally count towards the 70% recycling target.
  • Article 1(11): “in Article 22 [of the 2008 revised Waste Framework Directive (rWFD)], the second paragraph is replaced by the following: ‘In order to minimize contamination of waste materials, Member States shall ensure separate collection of bio-waste by 2025…” [Page 15] – The rWFD defines bio-waste as follows: “‘bio-waste’ means biodegradable garden and park waste, food and kitchen waste from households, restaurants, caterers and retail premises and comparable waste from food processing plants”.
  • Article 3(2): “2a. Member States shall not accept the following waste in landfills for non-hazardous waste by 1 January 2025, recyclable waste including plastics, metals, glass, paper and cardboard, and other biodegradable waste.
    2b. Member States shall not accept a quantity of waste in landfills for non-hazardous waste in a given year exceeding 25% of the total amount of municipal waste generated in the previous year, from 1 January 2025.
    2c. Member States shall endeavour to accept only residual waste in landfills for non-hazardous waste by 1 January 2030, with the result that the total amount going to such landfills does not exceed 5% of the total amount of municipal waste generated in the previous year. The Commission shall review this objective by 2025 and, if appropriate, submit a legislative proposal for a legally-binding 2030 landfill reduction target.” [Pages 25 and 26]
  • ANNEX VIII Measures to be considered in the plan referred to in Article 11a (Early Warning System): “The following measures shall be considered in the compliance plan to be proposed by the Member States at risk of not meeting the targets: …introduction or increase of incineration taxes or specific bans for incineration of recyclable waste…[and] measures to supress harmful subsidies not consistent with the waste hierarchy…”

In response to the proposals, Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) has commented that:

…As a network of local zero waste groups and more than 300 European municipalities, …ZWE commends:

  • new recycling targets of 70% by 2030, which means that in order to reach this target waste separate collection should achieve consistently higher levels
  • clarification of what is to be understood with recycling – by excluding discards from the recycling process-
  • new recycling target of 80% for packaging waste
  • mandatory separate collection of organics by 2025,
  • reduction goal for food waste by at least 30% by 2025
  • reduction target for marine litter of 30% for 2020
  • introduction of criteria related to durability, modularity, reusability and recyclability in the Ecodesign Directive
  • intention from the side of the EU to stop funding disposal facilities and channel resources towards separate collection, re-use and recycling infrastructure

However, ZWE warns about:

  • “ban[ing] the landfilling of recyclable waste” without a parallel ban of incineration of recyclable waste…
  • repetition of past mistakes regarding moving waste up the hierarchy. Same as the progressive diversion of biowaste from landfill included in some national regulations in the past did not just lead to more recycling but it also boosted incineration, the current proposal of banning landfilling of plastics risks promoting plastic incineration instead of plastic prevention, reuse and recycling
  • worrying lack of vision regarding the treatment of plastic packaging, especially in view of marine pollution, which is seen to have the lowest reuse and recycling target of all waste streams
  • using a target for both re-use and recycling; recycling is for materials (paper, plastic, etc) whereas preparation for re-use should address products
  • lack of guidance and instruments to boost reuse in Europe despite being the biggest potential contributor to job creation

For these reasons ZWE proposes to:

  • reconsider the fate of the remaining 30% of waste which is not to be recycled by 2030. Zero Waste practice shows that it is possible to redesign systems in order to ensure further reduction and material recovery of the remaining non-recyclable waste
  • pursue a real “closed loop” circular economy by banning both landfilling and incineration by 2030
  • introduce a feed-back mechanism between waste and product policy; by screening what is not reusable or recyclable today, we can send a signal to producers to redesign the product so that it stops being waste in the future
  • separate targets for preparation for re-use from recycling targets,
  • introduce overall prevention and reuse binding targets both for municipal waste but also and very specially for packaging.

And in a press release the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) expressed regrets that the package does not include a restriction on incineration of recyclable paper, in view of the fact that “up to 10 million tonnes of paper is currently being landfilled or incinerated in Europe”.

One Response to “EC proposes 70% recycling target”

  1. It should be compulsory to introduce packaging that is not harmful to the environment, and recyclable. It should not be up to individual Governments as to whether they do this, there should be funding to help countries that do not have the money, with strict checks to make sure they are using the money for this.

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