12 October 2016 by Will Date

Coffey: EU recycling target ‘too high’

Resources minister Thérèse Coffey has reiterated Defra’s reluctance to back proposals for a 65% by 2030 recycling target, as set out in the European Commission’s Circular Economy Package.

In a letter written last month to the chair of the Environmental Audit Committee Mary Creagh, Dr Coffey claimed that the targets were ‘too high to be achievable’. Currently EU Member States are subject to a 50% by 2020 recycling target, a figure that the UK is likely to fall short of.

Dr Coffey suggested that policy towards waste would focus on “outcomes”

Dr Coffey has said that the UK will continue to play a part in negotiations on the Circular Economy Package

But, the minister said that the UK would continue to have an ‘active role’ in influencing ongoing decisions on legislation while the UK remains a member of the EU.

Circular Economy

On the Circular Economy Package – the raft of updates to EU waste legislation set out by the European Commission in December – Dr Coffey added that other Member States shared the concerns over target levels.

She wrote: “So far, there has been an initial read-through of all the proposed amendments to clarify their meaning and to answer Member State questions. Discussions have subsequently moved on to consider some of the more technical elements underpinning definitions, and the proposed methodology required for measuring reuse and recycling rates.

“There have been no discussions yet on the level of targets proposed. At this stage, we believe they are too high to be achievable, especially when combined with proposals to amend the way in which recycling is measured. The definitions and calculation methods that underpin targets will have a significant effect on these elements before discussing the level of any targets. Other Member States share these concerns and we are sharing our thoughts with them.”

On the UK’s continuing role in Circular Economy discussions, she added: “It is important that we continue to do this given that we do not know at this stage whether we will be affected by the requirements of legislation or not.”


Dr Coffey’s comments are likely to be of little comfort to green groups including Friends of the Earth Europe and Zero Waste Europe who this week wrote to ministers appealing for support for the proposed recycling targets.

The group had claimed that adoption of legally binding targets will bring ‘long-term certainty’ and create conditions that will ‘encourage concerted action’ from businesses and governments to improve recycling rates (see letsrecycle.com story https://www.letsrecycle.com/news/latest-news/green-groups-push-ministers-on-recycling-targets/).


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