The European Commission has formally adopted proposals for the future of waste and recycling targets within Europe, as part of measures towards achieving a circular economy.
Key among the proposals is an increased target for Member States to recycle or reuse 70% of municipal waste by 2030, an increase on the current 50% by 2020 target.
The Commission is also proposing a ban on sending recyclable materials such as plastics, paper, metals, glass and biodegradable waste to landfill by 2025, as well as phasing out landfilling of waste by 2030.
And higher packaging targets were also proposed.
Having been adopted by the European Commission this morning, the proposals will pass to the European Council of Ministers and the European Parliament for consideration by politicians.
Energy from waste plants also feature in the proposals with the Commission sounding a strong note of caution about facilities which could jeopardise resource efficiency.
The Commission explained the measures announced today are aimed at reducing Member States’ reliance on investment in inflexible, large-scale residual waste treatment projects.
These projects “may stand in the way of the potential to improve resource efficiency through reducing waste generation at source and reusing and recycling more of the waste which is generated.”
Environment commissioner Janez Potocnik, who has spearheaded the development of the proposals, said if adopted the plans would modernise the EU resource model, and potentially create a raft of new jobs.
“We are living with linear economic systems inherited from the 19th Century in the 21st Century world of emerging economies, millions of new middle class consumers, and inter-connected markets,” he said.
“If we want to compete we have to get the most out of our resources, and that means recycling them back into productive use, not burying them in landfills as waste. “Moving to a circular economy is not only possible, it is profitable, but that does not mean it will happen without the right policies.
The 2030 targets we propose are about taking action today to accelerate the transition to a circular economy and exploiting the business and job opportunities it offers.”
Other proposals that have been put forward by the Commission include an 80% by 2030 reuse and recycling target for packaging waste, which includes material specific targets that will gradually increase from 2020.
These will see ambitions set for 90% of paper and cardboard to be recovered by the end of 2025, 60% of plastic packaging, 80% for wood and 90% for ferrous metal, aluminium and glass by the end of 2030.
Measures to encourage a 30% reduction in the amount of food waste generated by Member States by 2025 are also set to be considered, while the Commission is proposing to put in place an early warning system to anticipate difficulties of Member States to achieve targets.
The Commission is also keen to encourage greater sharing of best practice between Member States, including better use of economic instruments to encourage recycling include pay-as-you-throw schemes, incentives, as well as taxes on landfill and incineration.
Other proposals taken forward by the Commission:
- Improving traceability of hazardous waste;
- Minimum standards for the operation of producer responsibility initiatives;
- Simplification of reporting obligations for SMEs;
- Harmonised calculation of targets;
- Coherent definitions of waste.
According to the Commission, achieving the new waste targets would create 580,000 new jobs compared with today’s performance, while making Europe more competitive and reducing demand for costly resources.
The waste and recycling proposals have been adopted alongside a series of proposals on green employment, a green action plan for SMEs and resource efficiency opportunities in the building sector, all of which are intended to drive the resource agenda within the EU.