EU Circular Economy Package Becomes Law

Date: June 22, 2018

Resource

The EU’s Circular Economy Package (CEP) has been published in the EU’s Official Journal, meaning the legislation will enter into force at the start of July, 20 days after its publication.

The long-awaited waste legislation was signed off and appeared in the Journal – the EU’s official gazette of record for new legislation – last Thursday (14 June), following the final ratification of the ambitious set of revised waste directives by the EU Council in May, and will now become law on 4 July. The governments of member states will then have 24 months to transpose the directives into national legislation.

The final ratification came a little over a month after MEPs in the European Parliament gave the set of revised waste directives their seal of approval, ratifying the targets agreed upon following the end of three-way discussions known as trilogues between the European Council, Commission and Parliament back in December, which were then approved by EU ambassadors in February this year. The announcement marks the end of a long journey through the institutions since the Juncker Commission put the current legislation forward in 2015, after withdrawing a draft CEP put forward in July 2014 that included a 70 per cent recycling and reuse target for 2030.

The CEP will see new targets set for the recycling of municipal waste, which the EU estimates accounts for between seven and ten per cent of the total waste generated in the EU. Member states will now be expected to reach a recycling rate of 55 per cent by 2025, 60 per cent by 2030 and 65 per cent by 2035.

Recognising the importance of waste management and the circular economy to the EU, the revised text states: ‘Improving the efficiency of resource use and ensuring that waste is valued as a resource can contribute to reducing the Union’s dependence on the import of raw materials and facilitate the transition to more sustainable material management and to a circular economy model.

‘That transition should contribute to the smart, sustainable and inclusive growth goals set out in the Europe 2020 strategy and create important opportunities for local economies and stakeholders, while helping to increase synergies between the circular economy and energy, climate, agriculture, industry and research policies as well as bringing benefits to the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emission savings and to the economy.’

The UK Government, despite its impending departure from the EU, has ratified the new proposals and will work towards the targets set within it. However, the UK currently faces an uphill climb to reach the current target of 50 per cent by 2020.

Shaun Gallagher, Director of Environmental Quality at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), speaking at the Resourcing the Future conference last week (13-14 June), refused to be drawn on whether the UK would be transposing the CEP into UK law in full following Brexit – though he did say this was an opportunity to go further than the requirements contained in the package.

Read more: Five things we learned at Resourcing the Future 2018

Beyond the headline recycling targets, the CEP also includes specific targets for packaging and separate requirements for bio-waste and landfill. EU member states will be expected to achieve stated recycling rates by 2030 for all packaging (70 per cent), plastic (55 per cent), wood (30 per cent), ferrous metals (80 per cent), aluminium (60 per cent), glass (75 per cent) and paper and cardboard (85 per cent).

In addition to this, member states will have until 1 January 2025 to set up separate collections of textiles waste and hazardous waste from households, while they must ensure that bio-waste is either collected separately or recycled at source through home composting, for example, by 31 December 2023.

With regard to landfill, member states will be expected to ensure that all waste suitable for recycling or recovery shall not be sent to landfill by 2030, except for waste for which landfill is the best environmental outcome. On top of that, member states will have to ensure that by 2035, less than 10 per cent of the total amount of municipal waste generated is sent to landfill.

Focus is also placed on extended producer responsibility to ensure that the costs of waste management are shared equitably, with producers that place products onto the EU market contributing to the financial cost of treatment at the end of that product’s life.

The CEP states that ‘extended producer responsibility schemes form an essential part of efficient waste management’, but that these should not impinge on the ‘smooth functioning of the internal market’.

It continues: ‘The general minimum requirements should reduce costs and boost performance, as well as ensure a level playing field, including for small and medium-sized enterprises and e-commerce enterprises… They should also contribute to the incorporation of end-of-life costs into product prices and provide incentives for producers, when designing their products, to take better into account recyclability, reusability, reparability and the presence of hazardous substances. Overall, those requirements should improve the governance and transparency of extended producer responsibility schemes.’

Though a lot of emphasis has been put on recycling, the package is cognisant of the need for member states to move up the waste hierarchy and recognises that ‘waste prevention is the most efficient way to improve resource efficiency and to reduce the environmental impact of waste.’

As such, the text of the package encourages reuse and new business models that reduce waste generation, stating: ‘Member states should facilitate innovative production, business and consumption models that reduce the presence of hazardous substances in materials and products, that encourage the increase of the lifespan of products and that promote reuse including through the establishment and support of re-use and repair networks, such as those run by social economy enterprises, deposit-refund and return-refill schemes and by incentivising remanufacturing, refurbishment and, where appropriate, repurposing of products as well as sharing platforms.’

You can view the revised legislation contained in the EU’s CEP in the EU’s Official Journal.

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