Members of the European Parliament stopped short of making resource efficiency targets binding in a resolution on the new package of EU waste, recycling and incineration laws, but called for more stringent environmental reporting rules to be imposed on national governments.
MEPs did support legally binding targets for waste and packaging, as well as measures to cut incineration of non-recyclable waste and landfill, and the axing of incineration subsidies.
But a move to make a target of increasing resource efficiency by 30% by 2030 legally binding was knocked back by MEPs, who approved the resolution today (9 July) in Strasbourg by 394 votes to 197, with 82 abstentions.
Instead the target would be voluntary, as it was in the ultimately axed Circular Economy package of laws.
In December last year, the European Commission controversially withdrew the pending Circular Economy package. That bill was prepared by the previous Barroso Commission.
The package was one of the most high-profile casualties of the administration’s new “better regulation” strategy.
The Commission promised it would retable a “more ambitious” proposal before the end of this year. MEPs today called on the executive to respect that deadline.
Once the Commission does put forward the replacement package, it will be subject to amendments by both the Council of Ministers and the Parliament, which must agree an identical bill before it becomes law.
The resolution was led by Sirpa Pietikäinen, a Finnish member of the European People’s Party. It is a signal of MEPs’ expectations from the new package.
The vote was welcomed by green campaigners but they also expressed disappointment at the lack of a binding resource efficiency target.
MEPs supported a legally binding waste target of 70% by 2030, and 80% for reuse of packaging by 2030.
The more stringent reporting could require member states to report on their natural resources, with data for their land, water, carbon and materials footprint.
The reporting requirement would be made legally binding by 2018, if the resolution’s recommendations are followed.
Both the reporting and the binding target were added to the resolution by the Parliament’s Environment Committee before the resolution went before plenary.
Green campaigners said the vote was a strong signal of support for the principles of the circular economy. But they were disappointed that resource efficiency goals were not stricter.
Ariadna Rodrigo, resource use campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said, “The Parliament has provided the baseline which the new circular economy package must live up to. The next step must be to set binding resource reduction targets, but measuring what we consume is a strong start.
Stéphane Arditi, the European Environmental Bureau’s policy manager for products and waste, said, “It is a shame however that the Parliament chose not to push for a binding EU resource efficiency target. This is one important way Europe can cut down on its unsustainable resource use.”
National governments such as the United Kingdom are pushing for the targets to be weakened. In a note circulated among British MEPs, the UK said the targets risked becoming a burden on businesses. One of the goals of “better regulation” is to cut red tape.
In the memo, the UK said it believed that incentives and voluntary agreements with industry would be preferable to targets.
Catherine Bearder MEP is a British Liberal Democrat. She said, “By opposing binding targets to cut waste and improve recycling, Conservative MEPs are encouraging the throwaway society and stifling green investment,” she said.
“Each year in Europe, we throw away 600 million tons of waste that could be recycled or reused. That is not just unsustainable, it means valuable resources are wasted and economic opportunities are lost,” she added.
The Circular Economy package was intended to increase recycling levels and tighten rules on incineration and landfill.
It consisted of six bills on waste, packaging, landfill, end of life vehicles, batteries and accumulators, and waste electronic equipment.
Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans was given a mandate from new Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to cut red tape and deliver “better regulation”.
He told MEPs in December that he would consult with the Council of Ministers and the Parliament before withdrawing and re-tabling the package.