MEPs push for the Circular Economy Package

18th November 2014 Posted by

The new term of the European Commission has commenced with a Commission Work Programme (CWP) proposed by President Jean-Claude Juncker and First Vice President Franz Timmermans. As many waste-watchers suspected from President Juncker’s cool reception earlier, the Circular Economy Package introduced by outgoing Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik has not received an unqualified green light in the draft CWP. The so-called ‘waste package’ is slated ‘for review’, a phrase reserved for “pending proposals … [that] have no realistic chance of being adopted in the near future or because the degree of ambition achievable does not match the objectives sought”.

The Circular Economy Package contains more than the proposed new recycling target (70 per cent municipal waste by 2030) and landfill restriction (no more than five per cent waste landfilled by 2030) that hitherto have received the most publicity. Equally important are proposals such as the revision of the Ecodesign Directive to include consideration of both energy efficiency and material efficiency, and further extension of producer responsibility; measures intended to stimulate the market for recyclates. Work on these latter items commenced in the previous term but are a long way from completion.

Added to that, the Circular Economy Package received a mixed reception at the recent meeting of EU Environment Ministers. Member States, including the UK, expressed doubts as to whether the proposed recycling target was realistic, questioning the robustness of the Commission’s impact assessment and cost estimates. A minority of Member States (Benelux and Nordic countries) were more supportive.

So on both counts the Circular Economy Package is unlikely to be adopted ‘in the near future’ nor pass without some compromise on the proposed targets. In view of this, the danger is that the package might be significantly watered down or at worse withdrawn altogether. Fearing this, eight European MPs (MEPs) on the EU Environment Committee have written to the First Vice President expressing ‘strong support for the Circular Economy Package as a whole’, expecting the Commission to do the same when the draft CWP is finalised.

The waste management sector must add its voice to MEPs supportive of the vision for a resource-efficient and resilient Europe initiated by Commissioner Potočnik. Derailing the Circular Economy Package might be politically expedient at the present time, but will not serve the economic or environmental interests of the EU in the longer term.

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