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Waste update: EU sets ambitious recycling target and proposes new waste directives as part of Circular Economy package

The European Commission has put forward its proposal for legislative reforms as part of its Circular Economy strategy. The announcement marks the culmination of months of negotiations over the direction of the legislative package which is aimed at creating a ‘circular economy’, where products are designed in order to facilitate reuse. MEPs debated the proposals at a plenary session of the European Parliament in Brussels and further announcements are expected.

Key figures

  • 75% EU target for recycling packaging waste by 2030
  • 65% EU target for recycling municipal waste by 2030
  • 10% EU target for landfill of municipal waste by 2030
  • food waste to be halved by 2030
  • material-specific targets for different types of packaging materials

Proposed changes

The new measures include amendments to six different waste Directives and affect a number of important legally binding obligations. The targets in Directive 94/62/EC (Packaging), Directive 1999/31/EC (Landfill) and Directive 2008/98/EC (Waste Framework) are to be amended. Similarly, Directive 2000/53/EC (ELV), Directive 2006/66/EC (Batteries and Accumulators) and Directive 2012/19/EU (WEEE) will be streamlined and simplified. National legislation may also be affected and there will be a crackdown on Member States that fail to use the definition of ‘municipal waste’ etc. used by Eurostat and the OECD.

The legislative package contains changes that are designed to simplify and streamline the existing reporting obligations and improve compliance with recycling targets through an early warning system.

Member States will also be required to ensure the separate collection of bio-waste where this is technically, economically and environmentally practicable (TEEP) and are expected to use economic instruments to incentivise ‘prevention’ at the top of the waste management hierarchy.

There is to be a ban on separately collected waste being accepted at landfill which will act in tandem with the higher recycling targets for packaging waste.

The measures will be supplemented by new EU rules on extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes which will oblige Member States to encourage the design of products which prevent waste. The amended EPR requirements are likely to favour local government insofar as they affirm producer responsibility for the associated costs of waste collection.

Industry Reaction

In a press statement issued by the Environmental Services Association, ESA Chairman Peter Gerstrom commented:

The waste and resources industry has been calling for more leadership from policy makers so that it can plan ahead and make the investment needed to progress towards a more Circular Economy. So it is welcome that the Commission’s revised proposals are now on the table for discussion.”

“While there is much to debate in the detail of the Commission package, the overall direction of travel seems right; better product design, more re-use and recycling, and less landfill. And there is a welcome emphasis on implementation.”

“However the proposals must also address the demand side and that should be a key focus for the discussions that will now follow – markets for secondary raw materials are currently weak, with little or no sign of recovery. Without sustainable markets for these materials it will be very difficult to deliver the Commission’s vision of higher recycling rates and a more Circular Economy”.


The Circular Economy strategy should have a positive impact upon the waste management industry as future investment decisions begin to reflect the development of the new business ecosystem. The shift from the use of landfill to resource efficiency could create an additional two million jobs, according to estimates by the European Commission.

For information about how you may be affected and for any other legal advice regarding waste matters, please contact a member of our team of specialists who will be happy to speak with you.

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