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Blog: MEPs vote in favour of Circular Economy package revisions

15th March 2017

Martin Hyde

MEPs have voted by majority to accept a new, higher, 70% recycling target. The new recycling target is a significant increase on the previous target of 65% proposed in the 2015 package. The Amendments to the EU's Circular Economy package would also see an 80% target for packaging waste, and separate targets for preparation for reuse of waste (5%) and for reuse of packaging waste (10%). 

Another amendment to the package is a change to the way in which progress towards recycling targets is measured. This will include changing the wording of laws which allow materials from sorting facilities to count towards final recycling tonnages. The technicality suggests that the final recycling process begins when “no further sorting operation is needed and waste materials are effectively reprocessed into products, materials or substances” in essence, when the material enters the manufacturing process. This would otherwise make recording recycling rates more difficult, as output material from sorting facilities cannot be included. This could cause issues where material is processed in a different country than that in which it was collected and sorted, for example when plastic is sorted in the UK and then shipped overseas.

The MEPs vote to accept the proposals does not yet guarantee the above targets, as the changes will now be assessed by Member State governments before being considered by European ministers. Negotiations on the proposals between the European Council of Ministers and the Commission are expected to commence in the upcoming months. It is also unknown how these targets would be implemented if the United Kingdom does accept the Circular Economy Package post Brexit.

DEFRA, have been critical of higher recycling targets. Resources minister, Dr Thérèse Coffey, had previously provided negative views on the original recycling targets of 65%, stating that it would be 'too high to be achievable'. Therefore, it would follow that the further proposed increases to 70% would be unwelcome.

Conservative MEP for South West England and Gibraltar, Julie Girling, also highlighted her cause for concern of making sure that we 'do not take steps backwards by making overly-ambitious targets.'

However, there is some support for the increased recycling targets, as campaign group Friends of the Earth Europe, reacted positively to the increase in targets:

”This is a welcome boost for recycling and waste reduction in Europe. The European Council needs to step up to the plate to ensure these more ambitious proposals become European law, and improve measures to prevent waste going to landfill and incineration.”

Click here to read our blog on leaving the EU and the Circular Economy Package, which highlights the major aspects of the Circular Economy