14 March 2017 by Will Date

MEPs vote in favour of Circular Economy package revisions

MEPs have voted to increase the proposed recycling target as set out under the EU’s Circular Economy package to 70% by 2030, following a vote in the European Parliament in Strasbourg today (14 March).

The vote came in response to amendments to the package tabled by the Parliament’s Environment Committee, led by the Italian MEP Simona Bonafè in January (see letsrecycle.com story).

The vote took place during this week’s plenary session at the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France

The Environment Committee has favoured the 70% by 2030 recycling target – an increase on the 65% target put forward by the Commission.

As well as voting for a higher recycling target, MEPs have also backed proposals to change the way in which progress towards recycling targets is measured. This will include changing the wording of laws which allow materials from sorting facilities to count towards final recycling tonnages.

However, the amendments approved by the MEPs will now be assessed by Member State governments before being considered by European ministers. Negotiations on the proposals between the European Council of Ministers and the Commission are expected to commence in the coming months.

As well as the 70% by 2030 recycling target, MEPs also voted in favour of an 80% target for packaging waste, and separate targets for preparation for reuse of waste (5%) and for reuse of packaging waste (10%).

MEPs voted with 576 in favour of Mrs Bonafè’s proposals for amending the waste package and 95 against – with 27 abstentions.

“Today, Parliament by a very large majority has showed 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.”


Simona Bonafè
MEP

Commenting following the vote, Mrs Bonafè said: “Today, Parliament by a very large majority has showed 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.

“Demand for raw materials by the world economy could increase by a further 50% in the next 15 years. In order to reverse this trend, we must adopt a circular development model which keeps materials and their value in circulation, the only solution able to keep together sustainability with economic growth.”

Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans told the Parliament prior to the vote that he would “do his best” to ensure that the final text of the legislation is close to the measures voted on by MEPs.

Brexit

Despite the UK’s impending exit from the EU, British politicians are continuing to play an active role in the drafting of the legislation, as it is anticipated that the UK may still have to sign up to the Circular Economy package, depending on the Brexit timetable.

Defra is known to be reluctant to commit to a higher recycling target, with the resources minister Dr Thérèse Coffey having already described the 65% goal as “too high to be achievable” (see letsrecycle.com story).

During a debate prior to the vote, MEPs discussed the proposals at length, with a number expressing differing views over the terms and scope of the legislation.

The Conservative MEP for South West England and Gibraltar, Julie Girling, spoke during the debate to highlight her support for the package.

MEP Julie Girling spoke during the debate

However, she warned against setting targets too high, noting: “We need to make sure we do not take steps backwards by making overly-ambitious targets.”

Issues over the calculation of recycling rates across the continent – which have been the subject of recent debate from the waste industry – were also raised by MEPs.

The Belgian MEP, Mark Demesmaeker, was among those to highlight the issue, noting: “We need a new method so that we are no longer measuring apples with pears.”

In its initial proposals the European Commission had planned to harmonise the system of measuring progress toward recycling targets across the continent. This would mean that member states, who can currently use one of four current methodologies to a single criteria.

Methodology

Crucially, the Commission’s proposal centred on ‘recycling’ being measured at the point of input into the final recycling process, or through a derogation, the output of a sorting operation provided it is sent to a final recycling process.

The Environment Committee had voted to remove the option of measurement at the output of the sorting stage and this was among the proposals backed by MEPs in the vote today.

The result of the vote will be a blow to the waste industry, which had sought to lobby MEPs ahead of the vote to keep the derogation for sorting facilities in the legislation (see letsrecycle.com).

According to waste industry groups the change in wording approved by MEPs means it would be more difficult to record recycling rates, as it does not allow flexibility to include output material from sorting facilities.

It is claimed that this could create problems recording recycling rates where material is processed in a different country to that in which it was collected, for example.

Sorting plant outputs feature in the discussions

Output material from sorting plants such as MRFs should be counted towards recycling rates, waste companies have argued

Lobbying

However, further lobbying of ministers is expected ahead of discussions of the proposals at the Council of Ministers, and it is anticipated that the derogation could be included in the final wording of the legislation.

Initial reaction to the vote has centred on the proposed 70% recycling target. Meadhbh Bolger, resource justice campaigner at campaign group Friends of the Earth Europe welcomed the measures voted on my MEPs

She said: “This is a welcome boost for recycling and waste reduction in Europe. The European Council needs to step up to the plate to ensure these more ambitious proposals become European law, and improve measures to prevent waste going to landfill and incineration.”


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