15 Juli 2015

EU Parliament backs circular economy resolution

The European Parliament has approved measures to produce binding waste reduction targets in Europe by the end of 2015

MEPs voted to pass a European circular economy report which called for a 30% increase in resource productivity by 2030. The move could create nearly two million jobs in the sector.

Binding recycling targets

The vote, on Thursday 9 July, came after the European Commission scrapped its flagship waste and resource legislation – the EU Circular Economy package – last year. It has since promised to re-publish a “more ambitious” plan, and will now be under greater pressure to do so later this year.

In June, The Parliament’s Environment Committee backed binding measures to boost recycling and cut EU waste and resource dependency as part of the revised package. The vote by MEPs formally accepted the vast majority of these proposals, including:

  • Binding recycling targets – a 70% target for municipal solid waste and an 80% target for packaging waste by 2030
  • Measures to cut incineration of non-recyclable waste after 2020, and the removal of incineration subsidies
  • Legally binding proposals to measure ‘footprint indicators’ for land, materials, water and carbon by 2018 – the first step towards reducing resource consumption.

UK wants non-binding targets

But MEPs did not back a legally binding 30% “resource productivity” target – which would begin the process of cutting overall resource use in the EU. They instead adopted a watered-down voluntary reduction target of 30%.

The UK apparently favoured non-binding targets, after a document leaked to the Guardian suggested British MEPs preferred voluntary agreements.

“We feel that a greater emphasis needs to be given to other measures such as voluntary agreements with industry and incentives to reward behavioural changes,” the document said.;

Commenting on the vote, Ariadna Rodrigo, resource use campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said “The Parliament has provided the baseline which the new circular economy package must live up to. True ‘ambition’ means not just dealing with waste and recycling, but taking concrete steps to address the fundamental problem of resource over-consumption in the EU. The next step must be to set binding resource reduction targets, but measuring what we consume is a strong start.”

Proposals should go further

The European Greens-EFA group said the proposals sent “a clear message” to the European Commission, and added that the EU Parliament” wants to go further” than previous proposals on the circular economy.

Claude Turmes, Greens/EFA MEP and member of the Environment committee, said: “The report calls for the EU to be producing fully sustainably by 2050 at the latest and for setting binding targets for reducing waste generation by 2025. From 2020 onwards, separate collection of biodegradable waste should be compulsory and the incineration of recyclable and compostable waste should end. The report also calls for, among others, a resource-efficiency target based on reducing resource use by 30% by 2030 compared to 2014, along with a binding food waste reduction target of 30%.”

He added: “With these proposals combining environmental protection with innovation and job creation, the report points the way towards the paradigm shift in favour of a sustainable and innovative economic policy and the European Commission must seize the moment. The Commission’s own calculations show that an ambitious circular economy package could lead to approximately €600bn savings every year. This is five times more than the most optimistic forecasts for the financial benefits from the planned EU-US free trade agreement. At the same time, if the EU were to meet its resource efficiency target by 2030, EU GDP would increase by 1% and an extra two million jobs would be created. Commissioner Timmermans must keep his promise and deliver an ambitious package by the end of this year.”

Source: NNFCC, 2015-07-13.

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