- The EU Commission’s Circular Economy package, adopted in 2015, could negatively impact recycling rates in Germany, Austria, Sweden, and elsewhere if certain proposed changes are enacted, according to LetsRecycle.com.
- At its core, the plan is intended to "harmonize" the way states determine their progress in reaching their recycling goals, but passage of the proposal would mean that state members would be restricted to calculating that progress using one method. The method would gauge materials from household single-waste streams that have completed the recycling process rather than consider volume of all materials collected. Materials would be calculated by whether they have been processed to the degree where mechanical sorting is unnecessary for the material to be made into commodities.
- The proposal would not affect the types of materials that could be included in the volume that can be applied to recycling targets — which would be raised from 50% by 2020 to 65% by 2030 under the package. Compost, metals from incinerator ash, and waste fed into anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities will all be considered recyclables. The preparation of materials for reuse will also apply to recycling targets.
Jose-Jorge Diaz del Castillo, legal officer for DG Environment, said the changes are simply being instated to get a better read on how much is truly being processed.
"The Circular Economy package proposes that we are counting only input into the final recycling facility where [before] we didn’t know how much comes out as recyclables," he said, as reported in LetsRecycle.com
But there are unanswered questions tied to the Commission’s new strategy; for instance the proposed sorting change has left it unclear how recyclable materials processed at MRFs and organic waste sorted at composting or anaerobic digestion facilities would be counted. Some member states' top recyclers, all who are past the 2020 target of 50%, say the proposed changes impacting what counts as recyclables moving forward could set them back to below the 50% mark.
Thomas Obermaier, president of the German Association for Waste Management, is especially concerned, commenting that while there is demand for recyclable materials, "the main point is how to measure it." The new measures he said would make it tough to meet targets.
Meanwhile, the push for an ambitious circular economy remains a primary objective in Europe. The model employs 3.4 million people in Europe and expansion of the circular economy could create 3 million more jobs by 2030, according to WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Program).