9 September 2013

ESA warns EU against higher recycling targets

By Will Date

Waste industry trade body the Environmental Services Association (ESA) has urged the European Union not to raise waste and recycling targets to a level that would widen the gap between Member States on recycling performance.

Responding to the EUs consultation on changing the targets set out in the Waste Framework, Landfill and Packaging and Packaging Waste Directives which began in June (see letsrecycle.com story), the organisation said that given the disparity in performance among current Member States, it would not be advisable to significantly raise existing targets.

The ESA was responding to the EU's consultation on revising waste and recycling targets

The ESA was responding to the EU’s consultation on revising waste and recycling targets

The consultation, which is being headed by UK-based waste consultancy Eunomia, is open until tomorrow (September 10), with stakeholders asked their views on future recycling targets for household and commercial waste, as well as whether there should be a maximum level of incineration for different waste streams.

ESAs Europe policy advisor, Roy Hathaway, said: It is common sense that we need to landfill less, recycle more and make better use of our resource. In the past, successive EU waste targets have been important in supporting UK progress in doing this, but the context is changing.

In an EU of 28 Member States, there are huge variations in recycling levels, financial resources and political will to change. Put simply, we do not believe that the poorest performers are on track to meet their targets. Ensuring that they do so must be the EUs first priority. But, given the huge variation across Europe, we dont see a way, at the moment, to set new EU targets that are high enough to challenge Member States with good recycling rates but would still be credible in the poorer performing countries.




‘Given the huge variation across Europe, we don’t see a way, at the moment, to set new EU targets that are high enough to challenge Member States with good recycling rates but would still be credible in the poorer performing countries.’

Roy Hathaway, Environmental Services Association

Mr Hathaway went on to say that more advanced EU Member States including the UK must continue to have ambition to improve their recycling rates, but said that the onus is on national governments to create the policy framework to enable this to happen.

He added: The UK though must continue to have high aspirations. In our recent report Going for Growth a practical route to a circular economy we made it clear that to deliver a genuinely circular economy we must be aiming for recycling rates of 70% or more. Getting policies right is the key to this. In the UK that means things like clarifying the future of the landfill tax, and improving the investability of merchant plants needed to drive commercial and industrial waste up the hierarchy.

Where the EU does have a vital role is in regulation to tackle issues which can only be addressed at an EU-wide level because of the Single market. The most important of these is eco-design for recyclability where we look to the EU to take firm action.

The consultation forms the first part of the review, from which Eunomia will establish a number of preferred options which will be subject to detailed analysis, due to be completed in spring 2014.

The review is being delivered under Eunomia’s contract with the Commission on Technological, Socio-Economic and Cost-Benefit Assessments Related to the Implementation and Further Development of EU Waste Legislation.

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Data published in March shows that the UK was among the mid-performing Member States in the EU during 2011, with a recycling rate of around 25%, with 49% of waste going to landfill. Elsewhere the lowest performing Member States including Romania and Bulgaria had recycling rates as low as 1% and 3% (see letsrecycle.com story).

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