Commission outlines new EU recycling targets, including ban on burying recyclable waste in landfill

Out-Law News | 07 Jul 2014 | 3:27 pm | 2 min. read

Countries in the European Union (EU) would face tougher recycling targets, while burying recyclable waste in landfill would be banned, under plans put forward by the European Commission.

The proposals, which form part of the Commission’s Waste Targets Review, include updated targets to recycle 70% of household waste and 80% of packaging waste by 2030. The proposed landfill ban would apply from 2025. Achieving the new targets could create up to 580,000 new waste management jobs and make Europe more competitive by reducing demand for costly scarce resources, according to the Commission.

"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," said Janez Potočnik, the environment commissioner.

"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 that we propose are about taking action today to accelerate the transition to a circular economy and exploiting the business and job opportunities it offers," he said.

The proposals must now pass to the European Parliament and Commission for approval.

The new targets would, if brought into effect, update those already in force across the EU under three existing directives. The Waste Framework Directive commits national governments to recycling or reusing 50% of household waste by 2020, while the Landfill Directive sets targets to progressively reduce the amount of 'biodegradable municipal waste' (BMW) being sent to landfill up to 2016. EU countries have also been required to recover 60% of all packaging waste since 2008, under the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.

The package of measures proposed by the Commission would  simplify the existing waste legislation and set minimum operating conditions for extended producer responsibility schemes The measures would also incorporate an 'early warning system' which would anticipate difficulties in meeting targets by individual EU countries. Implementation would be led by the Commission in conjunction with member states, and include new approaches to specific waste streams such as marine litter, phosphorus, construction and demolition, food, hazardous and plastic waste.

The 2025 landfill ban would  apply to the main types of recyclable waste: plastics, metals, glass, paper and cardboard, and biodegradable waste. The Commission's objective is to "virtually eliminate" the need to send any household waste to landfill by 2030, it said. The new targets would also include specific plans to tackle marine litter and reduce household food waste.

The measures are part of the Commission's work towards a "circular economy"; in which used materials would be turned into something useful. Part of the Commission's focus is on reducing the amount of valuable products which are recycled into less valuable products; for example, expensive writing paper which is reused as cardboard or glass which is recycled into aggregate for building roads.

New measures to support waste management research and development, and initiatives to improve the design of products to make them easier to reuse, repair and recycle are also included in the proposed package. This would be done through the existing Horizon 2020 programme, which funds innovative technology and new business processes, the Commission said.