Saturday

16th Feb 2019

Commission mulls lower targets in 'more ambitious' waste bill

  • A leaked draft shows the commission lowering a target for the preparing for re-use and the recycling of municipal waste (Photo: epsos.de)

The European Commission is considering to propose waste and recycling targets lower than those in the plan it withdrew last year, when it promised to come back with a “more ambitious” proposal.

The commission is expected to present its circular economy strategy next week, including a new proposal on waste rules. A draft version of the proposal was leaked and seen by this website. Some of the targets are lower than those in the withdrawn proposal from 2014.

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The undated document stated that the commission will require EU countries to “take measures, as appropriate, to promote preparing for re-use activities, notably by encouraging the establishment of and support for re-use and repair networks, and by facilitating the access of such networks to waste collection points, and by promoting the use of economic instruments, procurement criteria, quantitative objectives or other measures.”

It laid down as a target that “by 2030, the preparing for re-use and the recycling of municipal waste shall be increased to a minimum of 65% by weight.”

However, in the original proposal published in July 2014, which the administration of commission head Jean-Claude Juncker withdrew in its second month in office, a target of 70 percent for 2030 was proposed.

The leaked draft also noted that “Estonia, Greece, Croatia, Latvia, Malta, Romania and Slovakia may obtain five additional years for the attainment of the target.” If these countries were to ask for an extension, they would have to reach 50 percent in 2025, and 60 percent in 2030.

But 50 percent is already the target that needs to be obtained by 2020.

The draft text also appears to weaken some of the language on the collection of biodegradable waste that was used in the July 2014 proposal.

Where, in the withdrawn proposal, the commission wanted to make sure that EU countries “shall ensure separate collection of bio-waste by 2025,” it now appears to want that they “shall ensure the separate collection of bio-waste where technically, environmentally and economically practicable and appropriate to ensure the relevant quality standards for compost,” without specifying a year.

When Juncker's team took over the European Commission, it promised to focus on “better regulation.” One of the measures it took was to scrap a number of proposed laws.

The idea to withdraw the waste package was met with criticism. Especially environmentalist groups, left-wing, and Green MEPs feared that “better regulation” would mean more laxity on environmental standards.

But the commission has since said it would come forward with a new and improved proposal, which includes more elements of the envisioned circular economy, in which as few resources as possible are thrown away, but rather re-used, repaired, or recycled.

Juncker's right-hand-man, Frans Timmermans, for example, told Green MEPs at a hearing in February 2015 that they should not worry.

“Give me a chance to prove you wrong,” he said, adding he is “highly attached to the circular economy”.

“We are not challenging the goals we are trying to reach, we are challenging the means,” said Timmermans.

Next Wednesday (2 December) the commission is expected to present its circular economy package.

'Lack of ambition'

Italian MEP Piernicola Pedicini of the Five Star Movement told this website via e-mail he “regrets the lack of ambition of the proposal at this stage”. Pedicini gave input to a European Parliament report about the circular economy on behalf of his group, the eurosceptic EFDD.

“The Commission is not only not in line with the promises made but it is also not taking into account the Initiative report adopted by the EP on the circular economy”, noted Pedicini.

Environmental groups were also disappointed.

“We were promised more ambition to tackle Europe’s overconsumption crisis, yet the new package looks likely to fall short in delivering the solid foundations required to transition to a true circular economy”, said Friends of the Earth Europe in an e-mailed response.

The NGO European Environmental Bureau (EEB) called on the commission to uphold the targests from the withdrawn proposal.

“The proposal can only be seen as more ambitious if the Commission maintains the same waste targets as last year. Weakening them would be evidence of a poorly concealed agenda to limit regulation that protects the environment,” noted the EEB.

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