European Parliament Backs 70 Percent Waste Recycling by 2030

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By Stephen Gardner

The European Parliament March 14 voted in favor of four measures that in combination should ensure the European Union recycles most of its waste by 2030.

The draft directives cover waste treatment targets, management of waste packaging, use of landfills for waste disposal, food waste, statistics on waste and a range of other measures. EU directives are laws that set minimum standards EU countries must meet.

“Formally, we’re amending four directives that relate to waste, but in fact behind this is the much bigger challenge of trying to overcome the crisis of our development model,” said Simona Bonafe, an Italian center-left lawmaker responsible for preparing the European Parliament’s position on the waste package.

“Our development model is demonstrating its limitations; it is expensive, it is not efficient and is based on throwing away waste materials,” a situation that could be resolved “by means of a transition to a circular economy,” Bonafe said.

Circular Economy Goal

In a circular economy, most waste would be reused, recycled or reprocessed for use as secondary raw materials, reducing the need for production or import of virgin raw materials.

European Parliament lawmakers sitting in Strasbourg, France, backed a binding 70 percent recycling target for household and office waste, to be achieved by 2030. Currently, EU countries on average recycle 44 percent of waste, though the average hides wide variations, from 64 percent in Germany down to 10 percent in Slovakia.

Lawmakers also voted in favor of an 80 percent recycling target for packaging waste, a nonbinding target to halve food waste, and a cap on landfilling of 5 percent of generated waste, all to be achieved by 2030.

The targets backed by lawmakers are tougher than those put forward by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, when it proposed the circular economy directives in December 2015. The commission proposed a 65 percent overall recycling target, a 10 percent cap on landfilled waste and no food waste reduction target, for example.

Frans Timmermans, the commission’s first vice president who oversaw the preparation of the waste proposals, said March 14 the commission had set targets that were the “best basis” for agreement between the European Parliament and the governments of EU countries, which might push back against tough targets.

For the waste directives to be finalized, the Parliament and Council of the EU, which represents EU countries, must agree on a compromise position. The council has not yet agreed to its internal position, which would be the basis for negotiations with the Parliament.

Plastics Concern

The waste directives are a starting point “to address the disastrous levels of plastic in our environment,” said Clare Moody, a British center-left member of the European Parliament.

The Parliament’s position on the packaging waste would set a recycling target for plastic packaging of 60 percent by weight, to be achieved by Dec. 31, 2025.

The Parliament also tightened definitions and calculation methods in the draft waste directives to make recycling statistics in different EU countries more comparable.

The European Parliament could face obstacles when negotiating with the Council of the EU on the final levels of the waste targets, said German Green lawmaker Reinhard Buetikofer.

“We expect that some member states and some stubborn lobbies will try to reduce the level of ambition, but the EU would be wasting time it does not have if it did not move forward,” towards a circular economy, Buetikofer said.

The four draft directives backed by the European Parliament March 14 would amend the EU Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC), the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (94/62/EC), the Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC) and directives on end-of-life vehicles, batteries and waste electrical and electronic equipment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Gardner in Brussels at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at

For More Information

The European Parliament procedure file on the circular economy package is available at

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