24th Mar 2018

MEPs restore recycling targets

  • Shoes and other items are given a second life at a recycling station in Italy (Photo: Zero Waste France)

Members of the European Parliament's environment committee on Tuesday (24 January) voted to restore higher targets for recycling and reduction of food waste under the EU circular economy package.

The committee backed amendments saying the bloc should recycle at least 70 percent of municipal waste, which is waste generated by households and business. They also capped the share of municipal waste which is landfilled to 5 percent by 2030.

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These targets should be reached, among other moves, by making separate collection compulsory also for bio-waste, waste oils and textiles, and by enhancing the responsibility of producers to design their products in a way that allows for easy recycling.

Statistics from 2014 suggest that less than a half (44 percent) of all municipal waste in the EU is currently recycled or composted.

Some member states, such as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden send virtually no municipal waste to landfill.

Others, including Cyprus, Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Malta and Romania, landfill more than three quarters of their waste. They were given the possibility to seek five years more to reach the cap.

MEPs said at least 5 percent of the waste should be prepared for reuse, and called for economic incentives that would help to build up a market for secondary raw materials.

They called on the commission to propose an EU-wide waste prevention target along with new legislation and targets for construction, commercial and industrial waste.

They also voted to reduce food waste in the EU by 30 percent by 2025, and proposed a similar target for marine litter.

Food waste in the EU is estimated at some 89 million tonnes, or 180 kg per capita per year.

According to This Is Rubbish, a green pressure group, binned food could feed nine times over the 55 million people that live in “food poverty” in Europe. The group sponsored a petition, signed by more than 29,000 people, calling on the EU to make the target to reduce food waste mandatory.

Wasted time?

The circular economy is a concept in which resources are re-used, repaired, and recycled rather than thrown away. The EU commission has called it a "megatrend" on par with globalisation and has called for a quick transition to the system.

But Zero Waste Europe, another green lobby, said the commission had wasted time.

Many of the EU parliament committee’s amendments were in line with an original proposal on circular economy, which was presented by former commissioner Janez Potocnik shortly before he left office in 2014.

His successors withdrew the proposal and tabled a new one, which they said was more ambitious and realistic but which, in practice, lowered the targets or even scrapped some of them, such as the one on food waste.

“The ENVI committee has shown that it believes in the transition towards a circular economy. We decided to restore the ambitious recycling and landfill targets in line with what the commission had originally proposed in 2014," said Italian centre-left MEP Simona Bonafe, who is leading the parliament's work on the circular economy package.

The amendments, which were tabled to four different reports, will now be voted in the European Parliament's plenary in March.

The EU Council, representing member states, will also decide on its position on the circular economy over the coming months.

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