EU Circular Economy Package a priority for 2017, despite potential threats to recycling targets

The European Commission has outlined its policy priorities for this year, and the implementation of the action plan on the Circular Economy features among the top policy areas highlighted in the Commission's Work Programme for 2017.

Discussions are ongoing within EU Member States to finalise the package of proposals due to be adopted by the European Union to update existing waste and recycling legislation.
This includes proposals to increase the existing recycling target for household waste from its current level of 50% by 2020, to a higher 65% by 2030 target.

However, concerns were raised at the end of last year following indications that Germany, with the support of Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria, were calling for recycling targets in the package to be scrapped until an alternative way of calculating rates was adopted. European Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella responded to these dissensions in a statement in which he claimed that the Commission “would regret” any weakening of recycling targets.

Mr Vella, said: “The Commission has proposed ambitious yet realistic recycling targets and – when necessary and justified – allowing for some extra time in order to take all Member States on board. At the same time, with the proposed rules on calculation we move to a more harmonised system that ensures better reliability and comparability of data. In this light the Commission would regret both lower the target levels and any attempts to weaken the recycling targets. We should avoid introducing many types of re-use definitions into the recycling target.”

The prioritization of the EU Circular Economy Package has implications for the UK despite of Brexit. Should the proposed Circular Economy legislation pass into EU law before the UK has formally left the European Union, it is likely that the UK will need to adopt any measures agreed by the Commission, the European Parliament and the EU’s Council of Ministers.