The UK has dismissed the idea of Europe setting new targets for recycling, despite a number of recent warnings from the EU’s environment commissioner suggesting that any measures they introduce for recycling services are non-negotiable.
UK Against Changing EU Waste Targets
Targets for household recycling are expected to add weight to an upcoming ‘circular economy’ package due to be unveiled by the EU. However a released British document argues that any new targets should be delayed.
“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,” the document says. Debate over what the targets should be has been contested by various sides, with the amount and method of measurement among the issues.
Currently the UK has a serious food waste problem which has grown larger over recent years. Every year the UK throws away 7 million tonnes of food, along with millions of tonnes of electrical goods. Two million TVs are thrown away annually, even though most are made up of 6% metal and 50% glass, all of which could be recycled.
“By opposing binding targets to cut waste and improve recycling, the Conservative government is encouraging the throwaway society and stifling green investment,” said the Liberal MEP Catherine Bearder.
The original circular package from the EU proposed a gradual reduction of landfill waste dumping and a 30% cut in food waste by 2025. By 2030 it wanted to aim for recycling targets of 70% for municipal waste, 90% for paper, 60% for plastics, 80% for wood and 90% for ferrous metal, aluminium and glass.
However many environmentalists fear that these targets could be significantly reduced by Brussels or even scrapped altogether. However, Karmenu Vella, the EU’s environment commissioner, said that strong green targets would be essential if the circular economy package is to succeed.
He said: “We can’t be more ambitious by lowering our targets,” he said. “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.”
The current figures for the UK put it as one of the countries who are not meeting the targets. According to Defra, England recycled 44.2% of its household waste in 2013, just 0.1% more than the figures for 2012. EU laws require that all states recycle half of all household waste by 2020.
Achieving the 70% waste reuse target by 2030 will not be too much trouble for a developed country like the UK, although some businesses are already saying that the targets set for 2020 may not be possible. The average Brit currently generates around 403kg of household waste each year.
Vella recognises that the EU’s 28 members are each on different courses when it comes to reaching the same target. Currently many of the eastern and southern European states are much further behind than the UK, France or Germany, with countries such as Romania which still uses landfill sites for 99% of its 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,” Vella said.
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