The European Commission has outlined its policy priorities for 2017 – with implementation of the action plan on the Circular Economy among the top policy areas highlighted.
The Commission’s Work Programme for 2017 outlines 21 ‘key initiatives to implement 10 political priorities in 2017’.
Second to top among the proposals, and under the heading ‘A New Boost for Jobs, Growth and Investment’ is implementation of the action plan on the Circular Economy indicating that the Commission is keen to press ahead with the policy area as a priority.
Discussions are ongoing within EU Member States to finalise the package of proposals due to be adopted by the European Union to update existing waste and recycling legislation.
This includes proposals to increase the existing recycling target for household waste from its current level of 50% by 2020, to a higher 65% by 2030 target.
Timing of the agreement and adoption of the Circular Economy package could be crucial for the UK – which is expected to begin the formal process of its withdrawal from the European Union before the end of March, beginning two years of exit negotiations.
Should the proposed Circular Economy legislation pass into EU law before the UK has formally left the European Union, it is likely that the UK will need to adopt any measures agreed by the Commission, the European Parliament and the EU’s Council of Ministers.
UK ministers have already expressed a reluctance to back proposals for a 65% recycling target, with Defra minister Thérèse Coffey commenting that the proposal may be ‘too high to be achievable’ last year.
However, the European Commission has outlined its desire not to see targets watered down, a point underlined by the EU’s Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella following a meeting of ministers in Strasbourg late in December.
Following the meeting on 19 December Mr Vella, said: “The Commission has proposed ambitious yet realistic recycling targets and – when necessary and justified – allowing for some extra time in order to take all Member States on board.
“At the same time, with the proposed rules on calculation we move to a more harmonised system that ensures better reliability and comparability of data. In this light the Commission would regret both lower the target levels and any attempts to weaken the recycling targets. We should avoid introducing many types of re-use definitions into the recycling target.”
On further action on the Circular Economy Plan in 2017, Mr Vella added: “I will explain that 2017 will be a busy year for the Circular Economy as the Commission will table a series of proposals as outlined in the 2015 Action Plan. This will start on 25 January with a ‘mini-package’ of 20 of the 54 action points therein.”