Crucial new drivers for recycling and waste management were unveiled by the European Commission in early December.
These include targets for recycling and a whole host of other measures promoting resource efficiency ranging from work on food waste and biomass to packaging.
The central feature of the Circular Economy package, which is now to be discussed by EU member states, are recycling and landfill targets. These are for 65% recycling by 2030 with 60% by 2025 and a landfill reduction to 10% by 2030.
While the targets are for municipal waste, the Circular Economy package will have consequences for the commercial, retail and industrial sectors in a number of ways. On the waste management front best practice techniques and waste management reference documents will be introduced. And, higher targets for the recycling of packaging materials, with a particular push on plastics, are planned. This will impact across the retail chain in particular.
Speaking during the press conference at the unveiling of the proposals in Brussels, Frans Timmermans, European Commission vice-president, said that the package would seek to maximise recycling, while also seeking to offer a disincentive to Member States focusing on energy from waste as an alternative to landfill.
The vice-president was suggesting that while the Commission recognises the need for energy from waste, the combustion process should not simply be an easy alternative to landfill without a high degree of recycling, re-use and better resource efficiency. Mr Timmermans said: “We have to make sure that incineration doesn’t become the easier way out to combat landfill. If you link it to the target and start with separation we can construct the whole system from that.”
Some EU officials are hopeful that the package could be agreed by the end of 2016. However, this is seen as being over optimistic and a conclusion in late 2017 is more likely.