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Amendments to circular economy draft opinion

Amendments to circular economy draft opinion
by Ellen Thornton at 11:04 in Circular Economy, Emerging, Environmental, Packaging

On the 8th March, the European Parliament published amendments to the Cohesion policy and the circular economy draft opinion​. ​​​​​The amendments include numerous changes and several new paragraphs concerning implementation of the circular economy in Member States and the impact of China's new restrictions.

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The amendments bring​ a focus onto the need for Member States to apply the waste hierarchy. There is a call for financial incentives and allocation of Union funds to be targeted primarily at prevention, preparation for reuse, the separation of waste collections and the recycling of waste. The incentives would also discourage any further investment in waste incineration plants and the treatment of residual waste.

The Union supports strengthening of producer responsibility requirements and calls for a major reduction of plastic in packaging and the setting-up of reusable packaging schemes by large retail chains as a practical waste prevention tool. It is also highlighted that further steps must be taken to extend the durability and encourage the re-use and recyclability of products, including the introduction of financial penalties for excess packaging.

The Union is concerned about China's new restrictive approach to European waste but considers that a clear, cohesive European strategy is required on plastics. The more demanding targets in the Commission's new plastic strategy​ will force member states to rethink their waste processing infrastructure and recommends higher EU-China convergence to lay the foundations to a new plastic economy where the design and production fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs. EU regulators are called on for more ways to increase recycling of plastic which may include imposing a levy on the production of polluting plastics, ensuring the plastic packaging itself is fully recyclable, or improving consumer labelling by creating new quality standards. There is a concern that China's new restrictive approach to imports of European waste could have a negative impact on EU waste management in terms of reduced recycling and increased levels of incineration and landfilling.

On the other hand, the Union welcomes China's new restrictive approach to European waste, as this will have a positive impact on EU waste management as it considers it an opportunity to boost a speedy transition to the Circular Economy for all the Member States. Hence the Commissions new plastic strategy is welcomed and it is considered that the Commission should strengthen financial support and further incentivise this transition.

The Union goes on to stress that many Member States have yet to develop the necessary waste management infrastructure and points out that it is therefore essential to set long-term policy objectives in order to guide measures and investments. In particular, there should be a focus on preventing the creation of structural overcapacities for the treatment of residual waste and lock-ins of recyclable materials at the lower levels of the waste hierarchy. Hence, it is essential to use the European Structural and Investment Funds to finance development of the waste management infrastructure needed for prevention, reuse and recycling.

A further problem to be addressed is the secondary raw materials market. Where raw materials cost less than recycled ones, it is clear that the drive towards the green economy has slowed down considerably and that the use of structural funds could be lost in a vicious circle. Considering this, some ad hoc laws, such as the upcoming European Commission's proposal on single use plastic products, can make a decisive contribution to moving towards a circular economy.

Finally, the Union welcomes the proposal to revise the Drinking Water Directive 98/83/EC, which will facilitate the transition to a circular economy by reducing plastic waste from bottled water​​​, involving major energy savings and efficient management of drinking water resources.

On the whole, the Union is beginning to look at China's waste ban as an opportunity for Member States to become more circular by reducing waste and reprocessing it themselves. With this comes a greater focus on the waste hierarchy and hence a higher priority should be set on prevention and reuse. We look forward to seeing progress in the circular economy within Member States and the EU as a whole. If you have any questions on this topic, please contact us here.​

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