With what is going on in Europe and around, one would not think that garbage and waste are major priorities, in spite of the hype surrounding the Paris mega-conference on climate change.
“A major political package, reinventing European economy.” The two major super-Commissioners, EU Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Jyrki Katainen Vice-President of the EC in charge of Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness were not shy of being dithyrambic today in presenting the new EU Circular Economy package.
I came one year late, but it is more ambitious than the previous draft, assured Frans Timmermans. More realistic, he later corrected during a press conference, for some targets are lower in the new package. Thus, the waste and incineration laws in the new package, which call for 65 % recycling target for municipal waste and allow a 10 % landfill quota – a weakening of the 2014 targets which called for a 70 % municipal waste target and a complete ban on landfill waste.
“We need to go circular in the way in which we grow and consume”, said Frans Timmermans. “You can compare circular economy to globalisation”, added Jyrki Katainen.
According to the Commission, the proposed actions will contribute to “closing the loop” of product lifecycles through greater recycling and re-use, and bring benefits for both the environment and the economy. The plans will extract the maximum value and use from all raw materials, products and waste, fostering energy savings and reducing Green House Gas emissions. The proposals cover the full lifecycle: from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials. This transition will be supported financially by ESIF funding, €650 million from Horizon 2020 (the EU funding programme for research and innovation), €5.5 billion from structural funds for waste management, and investments in the circular economy at national level.
The Package has broken down silos in the Commission and contributes to broad political priorities by tackling climate change and the environment while boosting job creation, economic growth, investment and social fairness. It has been prepared by a core project team co-chaired by First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Vice-President Jyrki Katainen with the close involvement of Commissioners Karmenu Vella and Elżbieta Bieńkowska. Many other Commissioners were also involved in its preparation and helped identify the most effective tools covering a wide range of policy areas.
The circular economy has the potential to create jobs in Europe, while preserving precious and increasingly scarce resources, reducing environmental impacts of resource use and injecting new value into waste products. Sectoral measures are also set out, as well as quality standards for secondary raw materials. Key actions adopted today or to be carried out under the current Commission’s mandate include:
• Funding of over €650 million under Horizon 2020 and €5.5 billion under the structural funds;
• Actions to reduce food waste including a common measurement methodology, improved date marking, and tools to meet the global Sustainable Development Goal to halve food waste by 2030;
• Development of quality standards for secondary raw materials to increase the confidence of operators in the single market;
• Measures in the Ecodesign working plan for 2015-2017 to promote reparability, durability and recyclability of products, in addition to energy efficiency;
• A revised Regulation on fertilisers, to facilitate the recognition of organic and waste-based fertilisers in the single market and support the role of bio-nutrients;
• A strategy on plastics in the circular economy, addressing issues of recyclability, biodegradability, the presence of hazardous substances in plastics, and the Sustainable Development Goals target for significantly reducing marine litter;
• A series of actions on water reuse including a legislative proposal on minimum requirements for the reuse of wastewater.
The Communication adopted today includes a timeline for the actions proposed and a plan for a simple and effective monitoring framework for the circular economy.Revised Legislative Proposals on Waste
The revised legislative proposal on waste sets clear targets for reduction of waste and establishes an ambitious and credible long-term path for waste management and recycling. To ensure effective implementation, the waste reduction targets in the new proposal are accompanied by concrete measures to address obstacles on the ground and the different situations across member states. Key elements of the revised waste proposal include:
• A common EU target for recycling 75% of packaging waste by 2030;
• A binding landfill target to reduce landfill to maximum of 10% of all waste by 2030;
• A ban on landfilling of separately collected waste;
• Promotion of economic instruments to discourage landfilling ;
• Simplified and improved definitions and harmonised calculation methods for recycling rates throughout the EU;
• Concrete measures to promote re-use and stimulate industrial symbiosis –turning one industry’s by-product into another industry’s raw material;
• Economic incentives for producers to put greener products on the market and support recovery and recycling schemes (e.g. for packaging, batteries, electric and electronic equipment, vehicles).The Commission is now calling on the European Parliament and Council to build on this important preparatory work and prioritise adoption and implementation of today’s legislative proposals.As Timmermans said: “It will work if the circle is followed full circle.”