EU waste legislation: Ambitious targets were binned by EU Governments, but this legislation is still a step forward say ALDE MEPs

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MEPs on the European Parliament’s Environment Committee have today approved an agreement reached on 18 December 2017 between the Parliament and the European Council on new EU rules on waste management and recycling. The agreement maintains the general recycling and landfilling targets that the Commission had proposed, but their implementation is delayed by five years. For packaging, the ambition level of the Member States was even lower. Here, too, the EP managed to fight back against the watered down proposed by the Council, but had to settle for a compromise.

The agreed legislation represent a considerable rise in the ambition level towards a circular economy compared to the status quo. Besides the targets themselves, the rules applicable to waste policy in all Member States of the EU have been thoroughly updated and modernised. A common method for defining and calculating recycling rates have been found which should greatly improve both the quality and comparability of data as well as the standards of recycling themselves. Several weaknesses in the current legal framework have been corrected: this includes improved rules on separate collection, on standards for input into recycling and for secondary raw materials, and on the treatment of bio-waste and of hazardous wastes.

Nils Torvalds, ALDE shadow rapporteur, commented today:

“The agreed level of the targets for recycling and landfilling are disappointing for the Parliament compared to the initial proposals. It was impossible to get Member States to move above the agreed levels, in spite of the fact that the Parliament’s position was backed up by economic forecasts by the Commission showing unambiguous additional advantages from higher recycling rates in terms of both growth and employment as well as environmental gains and saved GHG emissions.”

“Nevertheless, there are some positive enhancements in EU waste rules compared to the status quo, for example steps to develop a common method for defining and calculating recycling rates. Moving to a circular economy where nothing is wasted and materials are used efficiently is essential to boost European growth and competiveness and at the same time protect the environment.”

Pavel Telička, ITRE draftsman for the Landfill Directive and for Vehicles, WEEE and Batteries Directives, added:

“Despite the significant drop of ambitions, I am happy to see the agreement on the so-called Waste Package has been adopted by the ENVI Committee today. Unified statistics, common methodology and clear rules and targets for the collection of waste are the key elements which are currently missing in the legislative framework. With this legislation, we have a chance to move towards a more circular economy, which will bring opportunities for our environment, innovation and European businesses.”

“Nowadays, waste from Europe is often exported to China. China then recycles it, generates a secondary raw material and cheap products that are sent back to the EU and we buy them. These products from our waste are a great competition for the European business. We should keep this in mind and not to waste our resources anymore.”

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