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EU Circular Economy package agreed

December 21, 2017

The European Union’s various bodies have finally reached unanimity after in-depth discussions until 4:30am.

European Union institutions have reached agreement on the terms of the Circular Economy Package, a collection of laws and actions designed with the intention of ensuring a more resource-efficient future for the continent, reports Resource Magazine.

The sixth trialogue on the four legislative proposals – concerning waste, packaging waste, landfill, and electrical and electronic waste – was convened on Sunday, with the aim of agreeing measures before the end of the year. Although various sticking points seemed destined to hold off any success until 2018, discussions into the night led to a compromise finally being reached.

Disagreement originally took hold between the European Council, European Parliament, and European Commission, particularly regarding headline targets, their calculation, and the issue of extended producer responsibility (EPR.) Yet member states have since claimed victory in a battle over municipal recycling targets, and as a result, a 60 percent goal for 2030 will be written into new legislation – lower than the Parliament’s proposed 70 percent. However, as a compromise, a further target of 65 percent is being set for 2035.

Prior to this, there will be the introduction of an additional recycling target, of 55 percent by 2025, which will build on the current aim of 50 percent by 2020 (a goal that the United Kingdom is currently set to miss.)

Further measures include a limit on waste to landfill of just 10 percent by 2035, although this too required compromise, the deadline five years later than the Commission’s original proposal.

“It is no secret that the Council and the Parliament have had differing views on many issues,” said a spokesperson for the presidency of the Council, currently held by the Estonian government. “We are very grateful to our partners’ constructive attitude during this challenging trialogue and believe the outcome is a fair compromise for all sides.”

They added: “It took us almost 18 hours and some tough negotiating to reach a provisional agreement, but we are pleased with the result.”

The Circular Economy package was first published by the Commission just over two years ago. Having been presented to EU ambassadors, it now requires ratification by the incoming, Bulgarian, presidency of the Council; following that, it will be submitted to the Parliament to vote on, and to the Council for final adoption.

The Commission is also currently developing a European Strategy for Plastics, which it is set to release early next year.

“We need to make every effort to move towards circular economy and I see eco-innovation as a key element in this transition,” said Siim Kiisler, Estonia’s Environment Minister. “Member states are calling for a comprehensive EU policy that would cover the whole life cycle of products: this would increase transparency and make sure we don’t miss any crucial elements. At the same time, the governments should make it as simple as possible for businesses to take innovative products to the market. On both the EU and member state level, there is huge potential in digital solutions to make the move to circular economy faster and easier.”

Discussing the agreed package, Maltese politician Karmenu Vella, the European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: “Modernising 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 re-use and recycling. The deal reached this morning will strengthen our “waste hierarchy” by placing prevention, re-use and recycling clearly above landfilling and incineration. This agreement will make our economies more resource efficient, create jobs and reduce impacts on the environment and resource depletion.”

“In circular and low-carbon economies it makes no sense to send our waste to landfill,” Vella continued. “That’s why I am delighted that we helped the European Parliament and Member States to agree on reducing landfill and a target for recycling our waste by 2035.”


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