Countries fear downgrading of their recycling achievements…
After the much-hyped reboot of the Circular Economy Package last December, EU Member States have quietly begun the process of turning words into action. For the time being, countries are paying most of their attention to revising EU waste laws.
Unfortunately, several countries are more concerned about looking good on paper rather than genuinely boosting recycling.
At the moment, EU Member States are allowed to pick and choose from a menu of recycling options, and it’s no surprise that some countries are still reluctant to consider the amount that is really recycled for reporting on legal achievements.
How recycling is counted is a surprisingly tricky question. At one end of the spectrum, everything that is collected in separate bins or goes into specific sorting facilities is argued to count as being already recycled – including matter that isn’t recyclable, or is in the wrong bin, which is eventually burned or dumped in a landfill.
There is now a growing consensus that we should have both one EU-wide methodology to calculate recycling. Moreover, many countries are backing the idea of no longer counting separated collected waste as 100% recycled, but some Member States are still reluctant to consider the amount that is really recycled for reporting on their legal obligations.
In its current formulation by the Commission, the potential calculation method could allow for up to 10 percent of residues and impurities from sorting processes going to landfill and incineration that would still be counted for the recycling target. The EEB’s position paper makes it clear that this is far too high.
Germany is one of a number of countries which still produce a huge amount of waste per capita, and which are reluctant to change their current accounting system. They are even calling for a possible downward revision of the 2030 recycling targets by 2024.
…but back other measures including product design
While Member States struggle to agree on a common and appropriate set of rules for better waste management, Environment ministers at their meeting of on March 4th showed much more enthusiasm on other topics. Among their favourites were EU-wide regulations on better product design, quality standards for Secondary Raw Materials and better use of Green Public Procurement.
Indeed, some Member States attacked weaknesses in the European Commission’s proposal. France, Germany and Sweden criticised the Commission for dropping the overarching target of increasing resource efficiency in Europe by at least 30% by 2030. They called for more clarity, frequent monitoring and close collaboration with governments when implementing the so called Circular Economy Action Plan. As a first step, the delayed plans and measures under the EU Ecodesign Directive should be released.
Meanwhile, at a meeting in February, their counterparts at the EU Competitiveness Council, while supporting the overall move to a circular economy, were more concerned that the proposed policies are cost-effective and do not entail excessive regulatory burdens for industries, and small and medium sized companies in particular.