The Next Economy
EU Reaches Agreement on Circular Economy Package, While Wales Reveals a Plan of Its Own

Two years after adopting the Circular Economy Package, the European Commission, Parliament and Council have reached an agreement on waste-processing legislation to pave the way for a circular future for Europe. Agreements were reached on four legislative proposals addressing waste, packaging waste, landfill and electronic waste.

As determined in the agreements, Member State municipalities will strive for a recycling goal of 60 percent by 2030 (five percent lower than that suggested by the Commission and 10 percent lower than Parliament’s recommendation) and 65 percent by 2035. A target of 55 percent by 2020 will also be written into legislation, elevating the current target by five percent.

An agreement was also reached on expediting the target of reducing waste to landfill to 10 percent. Member States will now work to achieve the goal by 2035 as opposed to 2040.

“Modernizing our European waste legislation will drive efforts of Member States to cut the amount of waste we generate, to reduce the materials we bury and burn, and to increase reuse and recycling. The deal reached this morning will strengthen Europe’s ‘waste hierarchy’ by placing prevention, reuse and recycling clearly above landfilling and incineration,” said Commissioner Karmenu Vella.

“This agreement will make the European economies more modern and clean, create jobs and reduce impacts on the environment and resource depletion. In circular and modern economies, it makes no sense to send waste to landfill. That is why the Commission is happy to have pushed the European Parliament and Member States to agree on reducing landfill and include specific targets for recycling packaging materials. The 2030 target for plastic packaging will contribute to reducing marine pollution and to achieving Europe’s commitments under the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

But not everyone is happy with the deal. Critics say the agreement doesn’t go far enough, an issue that largely stems from a lack of ambition on the part of Member States. For the EU to truly reap the benefits of the circular economy, Member States will need to step up to the plate and focus investment on building up the necessary infrastructure, as well as measuring the real recycling rate — the amount of waste materials that are actually reprocessed into new products.

“The proposal only goes part of the way towards accurate, harmonized measurement of real recycling because a derogation allows member states to declare material as ‘recycled’ even after an early waste sorting stage. This will give vastly different results than measuring recycling at the stage of reprocessing into new products,” said Axel Eggert, Direct of the European Steel Association.

“This outcome means that, despite the welcome ambition shown by the Member States, the legislation will remain incomplete and will allow for disparate recycling rates between Member States. The role of the Commission will be even more important during the implementation phase in ensuring greater harmonization and reducing data gaps, tasks which are in the interest of all the Member States.”

The agreement is now waiting formal approval. It will then be submitted to European Parliament for a vote, then to the Council for adoption. The European Commission is also currently working on developing a strategy for plastics, which it expects to release in early 2018.

Meanwhile, the Welsh Government has announced that it will publish its roadmap for a more resource efficient economy next year as part of its overarching Prosperity for All: Economic Action Plan. The roadmap aims to drive change through the implementation of innovative, resource efficient and circular interventions.

To achieve this, the Government of Wales will begin by identifying the areas that stand to benefit the most from a more circular approach, as well as the businesses demonstrating the greatest potential to reuse recyclate as a raw material. It will also examine potential routes for raising the capacity of circular economy innovation support in Wales, particularly that of academic institutions.

The Government will also focus its attention on developing a support package for businesses to improve their energy efficiency; creating new opportunities for resource efficient manufacturing in Wales via public sector procurement; and increasing business recycling rates by developing the regulations under Part 4 of the Environment Wales Act 2016.

“We live in an age of unprecedented change alongside huge opportunity. Fired by the fourth industrial revolution, the way we live, work and spend our leisure time is transforming before our eyes. We must get ahead of that change to equip our people, businesses and places to face the future with confidence. Our new economic action plan seeks to do just that,” said Ken Skates, the Welsh Economy Secretary.

Wales has been pushing hard to make circularity mainstream and position it as the driver of the country’s future economic growth. Earlier this year the Government announced the creation of the Circular Economy Capital Investment Fund, a £6.5 million fund which will provide SMEs with the necessary support to transition to a circular model.


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