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Europe’s ‘resource sector’ pivotal to shaping circular economy

Europe – ‘Europe cannot survive based only on its services sector, as some had hoped in the past; it needs to be re-industrialised,’ Karl Falkenberg, the European Commission’s director general for the environment, has stated in Belgium at the annual conference of the European Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services (FEAD). The ‘resource sector’ will have ‘a central role in shaping our circular economy’, he added. According to Roy Hathaway of ESA UK, achieving the targets set for recycling and landfill diversion go hand in hand with putting in place ‘the right policies and economic instruments at national level’ instead of spotlighting EU-level targets.

It is also ‘vital to have clear and comprehensive definitions’, asserted Peter Hodecek of VÖEB Austria. Although landfill bans for certain waste streams worked out for Austria, no such bans should be enforced at EU level before all member states have achieved landfill diversion targets, he recommended.

Although there are ‘sharp differences’ among member states, Europe is gradually moving in the right direction, according to Julio Garcia Burgués, head of the waste unit within the Directorate General for the Environment. The challenge for the European Commission is to keep the level of ambition high in its proposals, while at the same time ensuring that they are realistic and achievable, he went on to suggest.

At the same event, Isabelle Martin of the French National Federation of Waste Management and the Environment (FNADE) gave a comprehensive overview of domestic extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes. Besides helping to improve the quality of recycling, EPR schemes can also ‘disrupt private waste management business’ as they reduce the number of clients, she acknowledged.

FEAD president Peter Kurth commented: ‘The private waste management sector is the engine for the European economy’€™s future capability and for maintaining prosperity across the entire EU. It not only holds the key to a stable supply of high-quality secondary raw materials to industry thanks to recycling, it also adds value to society through its contribution to climate and environmental protection.’

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