Europe’s waste management companies will step up efforts to pursue a change to the wording of proposed definitions of ‘recycling’ in EU legislation, following a vote on new waste legislation by MEPs yesterday (24 January).
Trade body the ESA – whose members include many of the major waste management firms in the UK – and its European counterpart FEAD, have expressed concerns over the point at which material is considered ‘recycled’ under current revisions of the EU’s Circular Economy package.
The European Parliament’s Environment Committee made further revisions to the wording of the legislation yesterday, approving amendments to the Circular Economy package tabled by the Italian MEP Simona Bonafè, which included backing an increased recycling target (see letsrecycle.com story).
The proposals were initially put forward in the CE package in 2015 by the European Commission to adopt a single calculation method for municipal waste recycling across Europe.
Final recycling process
This involved measuring “the weight of the input waste entering the final recycling process” rather than simply calculating the volume of material collected overall. The Commission had specified that this relates to the point at which the waste requires no additional mechanical sorting to be processed into a product.
Yesterday, MEPs opted to amend the wording of the requirement, to now state that the final recycling process begins when: “no further sorting operation is needed and waste materials are effectively reprocessed into products, materials or substances” – in essence, when the material enters a manufacturing process.
“Depending on the waste flows and where the waste material will effectively be reprocessed, the output of sorting as point of measurement is the point at which harmonization at EU level can be reached, hence it should have been kept as equal alternative.”FEAD
According to the waste industry the change in wording approved by MEPs means it would be more difficult to record recycling rates, as it does not allow flexibility to include output material from sorting facilities. It is claimed that this could create problems recording recycling rates where material is processed in a different country to that in which it was collected, for example.
FEAD – the European Federation of Waste Management and Environment – has called for further changes to definition of the wording around the term ‘final recycling process’ to move the point at which a material is considered ‘recycled’ to the point at which it is sorted.
According to FEAD, its members have claimed that measuring recycling at the “input into final recycling” point will not always be feasible, and the organisation has claimed that as a result, “this will not lead to an improved reliability and comparability of statistics across the EU.”
Responding to the parliament’s amendments, FEAD said: “Depending on the waste flows and where the waste material will effectively be reprocessed, the output of sorting as point of measurement is the point at which harmonization at EU level can be reached, hence it should have been kept as equal alternative.
“FEAD members trust that the member states, who have to implement the calculation method, will be able to convince the EP of the need for both point of measurements in view of the upcoming negotiations with the Council.”
Speaking to letsrecycle.com, Roy Hathaway European policy adviser at the UK waste management industry trade body the Environmental Services Association (ESA) – which is itself a member of FEAD, said: “We think that what the Parliament has done is impractical. We have tried to explain and sent some information to Environment Committee members to have both input of recycling process and output of the sorting stage included.
“An example of this might be where wastes are recycled in a different country to where they have originated. If Poland or Romania for example haven’t got a full range of processing plants they are reliant on getting the information from another country.”
Mr Hathaway added that sorted material could be counted if accurate measurements of contamination are recorded and deducted from final recycling figures – as done under the UK’s materials recycling facility (MRF) recording regime.
The amendments adopted by MEPs yesterday will be taken forward at a Plenary session scheduled to take place during March – but will need backing of European ministers before they can be adopted into EU law.
The European Recycling Industries’ Confederation (EuRIC) also backs a softening of the definition of recycling in line with that sought by ESA and FEAD, and published a policy paper in November calling for the term ‘final recycling process’ to be dropped from the legislation.