EU ministers consider recycling support measures

The trade association representing waste management companies in the UK has welcomed proposals being considered by Europe's environment ministers today (March 2) to address the fall in value for recyclable materials – including accelerating work on 'end of waste'.

However, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) has called for more to be done on green procurement, claiming that it is the “most obvious and rapid route” to permanently increasing demand for recyclate.

We welcome the Czech Presidency's paper noting the importance of robust recycling markets but it is much too timid on green public procurement

 
Dirk Hazell, chief executive, ESA

At today's meeting in Brussels, Europe's environment ministers are to be presented with a paper from the Czech EU Presidency on the fall in demand for recycled materials.

The issue was first raised at the EU Environment Councils on December 4 2008 when the Irish government said it was interested in whether there was any EU aid available which could help the sector through the difficult period (see letsrecycle.com story).

The Czech paper explains how the economic downturn caused a slump in worldwide demand for materials in 2008 – particularly for plastics and mixed paper – and lays out a list of 13 possible actions and measures to address the situation.

In particular, the paper recommends that the European Commission should accelerate its work on the 'end-of-waste' criteria within the revised Waste Framework Directive – which could see the waste label removed from some recovered materials such as metals and thereby make them easier to market and reduce any unnecessary administrative burden.

The paper also recommends that the Commission should explore the possibility of VAT reductions for some products made from recycled materials and any financial incentives to improve collection and sorting.

Other measures include the Commission or Council making a public statement to maintain public confidence in recycling and strengthening policies on green public procurement of recycled materials and products- labelling this a “long-term solution”.

However, responding to this, ESA chief executive Dirk Hazell said that some of the measures were “much too timid” – and urged more to be done.

He said: “We welcome the Czech Presidency's paper noting the importance of robust recycling markets but it is much too timid on green public procurement. The public sector accounts for nearly half of GDP: green public sector procurement is not, as asserted in the paper, a ‘possible long-term solution' to boosting demand for recycling materials but is the most obvious and rapid route to permanently increasing local demand for recycled materials.”

“We welcome the proposal to accelerate work, provided this is transparent, on the end-of-waste criteria in the new Waste Framework Directive in view of the obvious scope to provide a single European market in more recycled materials,” he added.

Mr Hazell added that the UK Government could also help to stimulate the market by revealing future levels of Landfill Tax.

He said: “The British Government could also provide a helpful stimulus to investment in new British recycling infrastructure to replace landfill by giving a clear signal on its long term intentions for the level of the Landfill Tax in its forthcoming Budget.”

The Ministers' discussions today could feed into the Spring European Council on 19-20 March.

The following list of possible actions and measures is recommended for consideration:

• Maintain the existing targets for recycling. Further development of new targets should be based on a detailed analysis.

• Support public trust in recycling (Council/Commission to make a public statement to maintain and strengthen public confidence in recycling).

• Focus on waste prevention and minimisation, e.g. through the Eco-design Directive and implementation of the Waste Framework Directive, notably the updating of national waste management plans and waste prevention plans.

• Carefully consider and analyse all barriers, and where identified, reduce administrative burdens, in particular, on recycling (e.g. Waste Shipment Regulation, REACH, IPPC review). Administrative burdens could be significantly reduced by moving to e-government systems.

• The European Commission, with the support of Member States, should accelerate work on the end-of-waste criteria. Clear identification of when recyclable materials cease to be waste would remove the unnecessary burden of handling and transporting waste that is considered a secondary material.

• Improve collection and sorting methods on the national level and thereby improve the quality of recycled materials.

• Provisions for recycling already exist in the Eco-design Directive. The Commission, together with Member States, could accelerate developments to include recyclability criteria in future implementation measures.

• Any financial incentives at the national level that will improve collection and sorting and encourage citizens to separate waste – e.g. either the application of high taxes on disposal or its ban (landfilling or incineration of recyclables); reduced corporate tax rates for companies using recycled materials; increased tax rates on primary raw materials.

• VAT reduction: explore the possibility to use VAT reduction for some products from recycled materials. The European Commission should publish a proposal expanding the list of products to which a reduced VAT could apply. In addition, the introduction of VAT rates for energy efficient appliances has been mentioned.

• Green public procurement can encourage the purchase of recycled materials on the one hand and recyclable products on the other hand. Implementation of existing strategies (ETAP, GPP Communication, etc.) need to be strengthened on the national level.

• Private procurement could perhaps be implemented even more quickly. Business and industry could be encouraged to purchase recycled materials. It is necessary that national governments cooperate with the retail sector, as retailers are the ones who have the power to make sure that products containing recyclables are available for sale.

• Consistent application of legislation and inspection of transboundary shipments of waste.

• The acceleration of the Lead Markets Initiative on recycling, re-focusing on research and development programmes and thedissemination of best practices.

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