The reuse of unwanted but reusable goods must be the top priority and the role of social enterprises must be explicitly supported within the legal text of the EU Circular Economy Package, according to a position paper by RREUSE.
It is critically important that reuse of unwanted but reusable goods is the top priority and that the role of social enterprises is explicitly supported within the legal text of the EU Circular Economy Package, according to a position paper published today by RREUSE, the representative body for European social enterprises active in re-use, repair and recycling.
The paper said that not only do these enterprises help millions of low income households across Europe access affordable essential goods, they also help train and employ thousands of people distanced from the labour market.
According to RREUSE, the sector is an important employer for people traditionally isolated from the job market, and has offered a way back to employment for thousands of people across the EU in recent years.
To this end, the organisation called for access to these goods tp be made available to the organisations that can do the necessary refurbishment and preparation for re-use activities. Putting second-hand first, in this way, will save energy and resources, and create thousands of jobs.
The paper made six key points:
- The definition of preparing for reuse and methodology must be clarified in order to avoid unintended consequences and regulatory burden for many second hand operators
- Separate quantitative targets for preparation for re-use are needed away from recycling to ensure access to re-usable products and create thousands of local jobs
- The role of social enterprises working in waste management must be explicitly supported within the waste directives through social clauses in tendering procedures
- Rules on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) rules must better support preparation for re-use and repair activities
- Specific incentives and targets are also needed in the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive to encourage more re-use of packaging and durable design
- Concrete legislation is needed to improve the ease of repair of our products beyond waste directives.
RREUSE cited the example of Spain, which has recently set a national preparation for re-use target as part of their National Framework Plan for Waste Management (2016-2022) which sets to achieve 50% preparing for re-use and recycling by 2020 of which 2% will be prepared for re-use deriving mainly from textiles, WEEE and furniture and from other waste streams that can be prepared for re-use.
The paper also highlighted that the new plan is in addition to the new Spanish Royal Decree on WEEE that requires 2% of large household appliances and 3% of IT equipment to be prepared for re-use from 2017. The targets will rise to 3% and 4% respectively from 2018. The main reason for the setting of this target for WEEE was the potential to create 4700 jobs.
The new target, covering many more waste categories, is much broader and scope and would lead to over 200,000 tonnes of goods re-entering the second hand market rather than being recycled or sent to landfill, according to RREUSE estimates based on Eurostat data.
While the Belgian region of Flanders has a similar target and other countries, including France, have set separate reuse objectives for waste streams such as furniture, the plan makes Spain the first European country to introduce a separate national binding target for reuse.
The new waste plan follows a law introduced last year in Spain that mandated re-use of large electrical appliances and IT equipment.
The Spanish regulation also specifies that social economy actors, i.e. second hand goods processors and resellers that operate as social enterprises should be given preferential access to municipal waste collection points to source these goods.
“It is staggering how many reusable items of clothing, furniture and electrical goods still end up in the trash, sent for recycling., landfill or incineration,” commented Michal Len, director of RREUSE. “This new Spanish law is a really positive step to ensure that at least some of the re-usable products that end up at municipal waste collection points, are saved, repaired and resold, before they get buried or burned.”
“We hope that other countries will follow Spain’s example, and that the EU will also mandate a separate target for preparing for re-use in the ongoing revision of the Circular Economy Package. Putting second hand first is good for the environment and can be a significant source of much-needed jobs across Europe,” he concluded.