MEPs and waste industry representatives criticised the European Commission for its withdrawal of the circular economy policy package at a hearing in Brussels yesterday (January 22).
Having withdrawn the proposals from this year’s legislative agenda, the Commission this week outlined some of the areas it is likely to cover in its ‘improved’ package of waste policy measures and stated that it intends to publish these proposals later in 2015 with a broader scope beyond waste (see letsrecycle.com story).
And, Commission Director-General for Environment, Karl Falkenberg had suggested he wanted to see more ambitious waste legislation brought to the table including product design and toxicity of resources.
During a public hearing on the waste legislative package yesterday organised by the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), waste industry stakeholders outlined their intention to continue working with the Commission towards introducing more ‘ambitious’ circular economy measures this year.
FEAD, Municipal Waste Europe (MWE), the European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment (EUROPEN), the European Environment Bureau (EEB) and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation showed support at the hearing for “ambitious” waste targets, extended producer responsibility, and the need for investment in Member States where recycling infrastructure is currently lacking.
The European Federation of Waste Management (FEAD), of which the Environmental Services Association (ESA) is a member, also called on the European Parliament to continue putting political pressure on the Commission to retain the waste proposals in its 2015 work programme.
Speaking at the hearing, FEAD vice president Peter Kurth, said it was the role of the Parliament and the Council to make amendments and improvements to proposals through the usual legislative process, and that for the Commission to “withdraw a legislative proposal welcome by a large majority in both institutions would be unacceptable”.
"I haven’t heard a single good argument for withdrawing the waste package."
Mr Kurth said: “The envisaged targets on waste, recycling and waste prevention are ambitious. Nobody will deny that. And everyone recognises that they will require serious efforts, in particular from the new EU Member States that have only just begun to develop a proper waste management infrastructure. There is no doubt that the Package has its shortfalls, especially with regard to the financial instruments needed to reach the targets. But no Commission proposal has ever come out of a legislative procedure without amendments and improvements.”
He also cited the Commission’s decision to maintain the package of proposals on air quality in the 2015 agenda – despite initial indications that this too would be withdrawn – as an example of the Commission’s “willingness to reconsider its position”, adding that the “political dialogue should be continued without delay, based on the Commission proposal at hand”.
Prior to the public hearing, comments and representations were also heard from MEPs on the waste package, with criticism repeatedly levelled at the Commission for its decision to withdraw the legislation from across Member States and political groups.
Various MEPs also directly criticised Commission President Juncker, Vice President Timmermans and Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella for not being present at the hearing.
Dutch liberal MEP and rapporteur on resource efficiency, Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, said he was “puzzled” by the withdrawal of the waste policy from the 2015 agenda, adding that it showed a “lack of rationale and willingness by the Commission to explain why they were going to do what they are going to do”.
Mr Gerbrandy – also a member of the ALDE liberal politcal group in the Parliament – added: “I haven’t heard a single good argument for withdrawing the waste package.”
He explained that the delay in proposing new waste legislation would be unhelpful, and that in any case policy makers would “find it difficult to propose anything new that is different from the current proposal”.
“I would make a strong appeal to the Commission to rethink its strategy,” Mr Gerbrandy concluded.
Conservative MEP Julie Girling told letsrecycle.com that she was “looking forward to hearing what the Commission plans are for the Circular Economy Package”, adding that it was “only fair the Commission is straight forward with the Parliament given the amount of work already undertaken by the rapporteur”.
The decision to withdraw the package was also criticised by the former Environment Commissioner Janez Potcnik – under whom the proposals were drawn up. Dr Potocnik said that the Commission “would be more convincing if it did not withdraw package but instead amended areas where it thinks is lacking”.