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Europe's local and regional governments: don't ditch EU waste package

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has demanded that the European Commission reconsider its withdrawal of proposed changes to EU waste legislation. The Committee - the EU's assembly of local and regional authorities – argues that it would be far more sensible to build on the original proposals then "start again from scratch". It calls on the Commission to use its proposals on the original package - outlined in an opinion adopted yesterday - as the basis for creating an ambitious piece of EU waste legislation that will help deliver a sustainable "circular economy" in Europe.

The EU waste package was proposed by the preceding European Commission last year and intended to amend existing legislation by increasing recycling levels and tightening rules on landfill. The new Commission – led by Jean-Claude Juncker – is considering scrapping the package promising to introduce "more ambitious" plans later in the year. Mariana Gâju (RO/PES), the Mayor of Cumpăna who led the Committee's opinion, recalled Commission figures that the legislation could bring €600 billion net savings, two million jobs and deliver 1% GDP growth. Ms Gâju stressed that Europe's cities and regions recognise the benefits of recycling and waste management and called on the European Commission not to lose more time by withdrawing the original plans.

"The proposals are far from perfect which is why we have raised a number of issues where we see room for improvement. But the EU is grounded on compromise and the original waste package is precisely that: how we can expect to find a new agreement acceptable to all in a few months? Starting again from scratch seems nothing more than wasting the progress made. We all agree that delivering a "circular economy" is good for the economy, good for the environment and good for our citizens so let's build on what we have", Ms Gâju said.

Presenting the Commission's work programme during the CoRs' plenary session in Brussels, the European Commission First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans confirmed that the "circular economy" package was under review. Reacting to questions from the CoR, he argued that it was necessary to improve the proposals to ensure that they would also include a focus on sustainable economic production. It was also important to introduce legislation that could realistically be reached, "Sometimes when proposing legislation in areas that we consider extremely important we go for unrealistic means that if we were honest, we know wouldn't be able to be implement", he said.

The EU's circular economy original package features a range of measures including ensuring that 70% of municipal waste is recycled by 2030; a binding target of recycling 80% of packaging waste by 2030; and a ban of recyclable waste in landfill by 2025. The Committee's opinion sets out its own targets which, the rapporteur concluded, should now form the basis of the legislation if a new package is to be published by the Commission:

  • ban landfilling of recyclable and biodegradable waste by 1 January 2025 and make the target of a maximum of 5% landfilling of residual waste by 2030 binding;
  • ensure a single definition of municipal waste and establish a single method for calculating recycling targets in the EU;
  • greater environmental responsibility from businesses by introducing recommendations to ensure marketing products come from recycled sources;
  • bio-waste recycling target to be introduced in the revised Waste Framework Directive;
  • include a new resource productivity target of at least an increase of 30% by 2030, in the mid-term review of the EU's growth strategy - Europe 2020.

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