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UK cautious over new EU recycling targets

Europe – The UK opposes the idea of Europe setting new targets for recycling – despite warnings from the EU’s environment commissioner that such measures should be non-negotiable, according to a report in the Guardian newspaper based on a leaked document which calls for new targets to be put on ice. ‘We feel that a greater emphasis needs to be given to other measures such as voluntary agreements with industry and incentives to reward behavioural changes,’ it says.

The European Commission has put a clutch of proposed 2030 objectives under review, saying it wants to make them more effective and less burdensome to business. The original package proposed phasing out landfill waste dumping and a 30% cut in food waste by 2025. By 2030, it envisaged recycling targets of 70% for municipal waste, 90% for paper, 60% for plastics, 80% for wood and 90% for ferrous metal, aluminium and glass.

Many environmentalists fear these targets could be watered down or even scrapped by Brussels. But environment commissioner Karmenu Vella told the media last week that beefed-up green objectives would be essential to the circular economy package’s success. ‘We can’t be more ambitious by lowering our targets,’ he contended. ‘We have to maintain those targets. We have to be more ambitious on outlook, results and delivery by member states, and we need to identify the member states that are not achieving those targets.’

According to figures released by the UK’s department for environment, food and rural affairs last year, England recycled 44.2% of its household waste in 2013 – just 0.1 percentage points more than in the year before. EU laws require that member states recycle half of all household waste by 2020.

Vella acknowledged that the EU’s 28 members are greening their waste disposal at varying speeds – with countries on its eastern and southern flanks performing worst. Romania still uses landfill dumps for 99% of waste disposal. ‘We have to identify those states that are lagging behind, the reasons why, and we have to be more ambitious by supporting them to achieve the targets – by channelling more funds into projects that will achieve them,’ he said.

The European Commission is expected to start work on its revised circular economy proposal in the next few weeks.

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