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MEPs regret low waste recycling targets in Commission plan

The European Parliament welcomed a European Commission proposal on the circular economy this week, but said that the targets on waste recycling and reduction were too low. 03 Dec 2015

The 'circular economy' proposals will contribute to "closing the loop" of product lifecycles through greater recycling and reuse, extracting the maximum value and use from all raw materials, products and waste, fostering energy savings and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it said.

The Commission launched the package on Tuesday, saying that it will boost competitiveness, create jobs and generate sustainable growth.

This proposed move to the circular economy will be supported financially by European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) funding, €650 million from Horizon 2020, the EU funding programme for research and innovation, €5.5 billion from structural funds for waste management, and investments at national level, the Commission said.

Proposed targets on waste include recycling 65% of municipal waste and 75% of packaging waste by 2030. Landfill should be reduced to 10% of all waste by the same date.

Industrial "symbiosis" and re-use will be promoted, where one industry's by-products are turned into another's raw material, the Commission said, while  producers will be given financial incentives to produce greener products and run recovery and recycling schemes.

The Parliament, however, said in its statement that, in July 2014, the Commission had "put forward a package, including a legislative proposal on waste, before withdrawing it the following December. It later pledged to put forward “a more ambitious proposal”".

In a July 2015 resolution, the European Parliament advocated strictly limiting incineration of recyclable and biodegradable waste by 2020, phasing in a ban on landfilling by 2030, and raising targets for recycling and preparation for re-use to at least 70% of municipal solid waste and 80% of packaging waste by 2030, the statement said.

Environmental law expert Fiona Ross of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com said: "It is perhaps disappointing that the Commission’s proposal is less ambitious in terms of waste recycling targets than the previous draft. However, it has to be seen in the context of the wider proposal, which includes measures to incentivise the design of products which can be more easily recycled, a binding target on reduction of waste to landfill to only 10% of all waste, specific targets to be produced on recycling of plastic packaging and proposals to tackle food waste."

"Overall the proposal appears to have broad coverage, and hopefully includes some complementary measures which will help to drive further investment in high quality resource management from the product design stage through to the end of a product’s life," Ross said.