Moving away from 'take, make, dispose'
With the 'waste package', MEPs open the way for circular economy
Maria Koleva, Strasbourg
17 March, 2017
The European Parliament made a decisive step towards the circular economy, calling for enhancing waste recycling and curbing landfilling. By 2030 the part of the recycling and preparing for reuse of waste of households and businesses, measured by weight, will jump by 26% and from the current 44% will reach 70%. An 80% target is set for 2030 for paper and cardboard, plastics, glass, metal and wood packaging materials, and for each of them there will be interim 2025 targets.
This provides the “waste package”, consisting of four reports on waste reduction and recycling - directives on waste, landfill, packaging and recycling of vehicles, batteries and electronic equipment, that MEPs propped up on 14 March at the plenary session in Strasbourg, and the recycling target adopted is bigger than the 65% the Commission initially proposed. The EU executive tabled the first circular economy package in mid-2014, but in March 2015 the Commission withdrew the legislative proposal on waste which was part of the package to make way for “a more ambitious proposal that will cover the whole of the circular economy.”
According to the legislation, after 13 years the landfilling share should drop to 5% across the EU but the lawmakers are providing an option of possible five-year extension for Member States that dumped more than 65% of their municipal trash in 2013, but such should be made under strict conditions. Concerning landfilling, there are wide differences between EU member countries, and as the statistics show, for the last three years Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden have sent no municipal waste to landfill. On the other side, Cyprus, Croatia, Greece, Latvia and Malta have buried in land more than three quarters of their municipal waste.
Throwing away foods should be cut by half by 2030, compared to 2014, MEPs urged as according to estimates each European produces 180 kg of food waste per year, which makes total of 89 million tonnes for 356 days all over Europe. By 2025 this target will be 30% and just the same steps and goals will be valid for marine litter.
We want to move away from a 'take, make, dispose' model with a fast-turnover principle to an economy where products are designed to last and can be repaired, reused, recycled, and remanufactured, Italian S&D MEP Simona Bonafe who authored the four reports explained after the vote. She pointed out that today many products are designed to be replaced within two or three years, adding that “if we continue at this pace, we will need three times more resources by 2050 - but already today the earth generates less resources than we extract.”
According to her, the circular economy is the only solution to combine sustainability and industrial competitiveness, adding that around 600 million tonnes of waste are just thrown away in Europe, when they could be reinvested in the economy.
MEPs proposed to strengthen separate waste-collection systems for different kinds of waste and included the obligation for biowaste and textiles. This is a pre-requisite for establishing a high-quality recycling market and for reaching the targets set, the rapporteur underscored adding that for Member States with the lowest recycling rates it will no longer be possible to receive a ‘blanket’ derogation and “any derogation will be subject to specific conditions”.
Commenting the approval of the waste review package, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani stated that this legislation strikes a good balance between the environmental measures needed to tackle waste management and a way to turn them into new opportunities for industry and job creation.