European Parliament votes for higher recycling rates

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Photo by Veolia

In a plenary session of the European Parliament yesterday (14 March), MEPs voted for legislation for the European Union to aim for a recycling rate target of 70% by 2030. For packaging materials, including paper, cardboard, plastics, glass, metal and wood, MEPs proposed an 80% target for 2030, with interim 2025 targets for each material.

MEPs also supported “waste package” plans for the EU to limit the share of landfilling to 5% and to deliver a 50% reduction in food waste by 2030.

In December 2015, the European Commission withdrew its originally planned target of 70% and issued a revised Circular Economy proposal with targets for recycling 65% of municipal waste and 75% of packaging waste by 2030.

“Today, Parliament by a very large majority has showed that it believes in the transition towards a circular economy,” said Italian MEP Simona Bonafè. “We decided to restore the ambitious recycling and landfill targets in line with what the Commission had originally proposed in 2014.”

Four reports were adopted in the plenary session which will be used for Parliament’s position in the next stage when it holds negotiations with the European Council of Ministers. The Council has not yet adopted its own position on the Commission’s waste package.

The draft legislation, if enacted, would set a limit of 10% for the share of municipal waste to be landfilled by 2030. MEPs proposed reducing this to 5% -- with a possible five-year extension, under certain conditions -- for EU member states which landfilled more than 65% of their municipal waste in 2013.

MEPs also advocated an EU food waste reduction target of 30% by 2025 and 50% by 2030, compared to 2014. They also proposed a similar target for marine litter.

Karl-H. Foerster, executive director of industry organisation PlasticsEurope, responded to the Parliamentary proposals, saying: “The European plastics industry has been calling for a legally binding landfill restriction on all recyclable as well as other recoverable post-consumer waste by 2025. As an industry, we see it as a priority for Europe as such waste should be treated as a resource.”

But PlasticsEurope said the interim plastic packaging recycling target of 60% that the Parliament has adopted for 2025 is an ambitious objective, as is a stricter calculation methodology being proposed.

Foerster said: “Taking into account today’s recycling technology, we already consider that the 55% plastics packaging preparing for re-use and recycling target proposed by the Commission is challenging. We would therefore like to call on the Presidency of the Council to carefully assess the impact prior to adopting any substantive amendment to the rules on the calculation initially proposed by the Commission.”

The European Bioplastics (EUBP) association said: “The plenary’s vote on amendments of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive encourages Member States to support the use of bio-based materials for the production of packaging and to improve market conditions for such materials and products.”

François de Bie, chairman of EUBP, said: “This vote is an important milestone in strengthening the link between the circular economy and the bioeconomy in Europe. Bio-based and recycled materials are starting to be equally recognised as a viable solution to make packaging more sustainable and reduce our dependency on finite fossil resources.”

Derek Robertson, president of Clean Europe Network and CEO of Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: “The Clean Europe Network’s goal to achieve a litter free Europe by 2030 is a step closer today. These recommendations by MEPs and the Commission will help get it done – with the people of Europe, producers, local authorities and central governments all working together.”

* Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, MEP, will make the opening address at Plastics Recycling Show Europe in Amsterdam on 29-30 March. Find out more about the PRS Europe conference and exhibition, organised by Crain Communications, at www.prseventeurope.com.

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