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EU environment directorate package to boost recycling

Europe – A leading EU official has confirmed to ENDS Europe that the European Commission’s environment directorate has drafted a circular economy package aimed at increasing average EU recycling rates to 70% and at eliminating landfilling by 2030. According to EU environment commissioner Janez Potočnik, the best-performing EU member states are already recycling 70% of their waste and sending virtually nothing to landfill.

The package is currently going through the Commission’s internal consultation process and is likely to be published in early July. There is a chance that it could be changed and even the possibility that it could be blocked by the Commission.

Speaking at the EU’s annual Green Week event in Brussels, Potočnik said the circular economy will be ‘the new order of things’. He continued: ‘It is the challenge and the responsibility of policy-makers to create the right framework conditions for a managed and predictable transition towards a circular economy, to create the right signals, incentives and instruments. The European Commission did this in 2011 in its Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe. And in a couple of weeks, we will take this further by setting out how moving towards a circular economy can take us a long way towards our decoupling goal.’

According to Potočnik, the circular economy fits into the resource efficiency picture. ‘Material resources can be recycled and reused pretty much forever,’ he said. ‘So it is through circular economy models that we have the greatest opportunity to revolutionise Europe’s resource efficiency and make Europe competitive for the future. From this, it is pretty obvious that in a circular economy there can be no place for waste. It simply should not exist.’

He noted: ‘That is why the package will have at its core a push for higher recycling rates, and a push for the elimination of landfill in waste legislation. The package will set out how we should innovate for a circular economy based on life-cycle approaches. It will set out the instruments needed to induce changes in design, in investments, in business models, and in markets.’

According to the commisioner, it is a complex and difficult task to get so many varied policy areas and so many stakeholders to move towards a transition that overturns old ways of thinking. More than in any other area, clarity in the direction of travel is seen as essential. ‘To provide that clarity, we need a simple aspirational target for resource efficiency that provides a political commitment and economic predictability,’ he stated.

‘I can guarantee that any proposal for a target for resource efficiency will meet the usual cries of ”not now, not yet, wait until we have more data, and a mature methodology”. But after four years of work – analysis, consultation, modelling – I can assure you that there is really no legitimate reason to delay. The outcome of this work shows that raw material consumption related to GDP is the best available proxy to give a clear political direction. The circular economy will be the great innovation challenge of the next decades.’

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