The European Commission’s announcement of higher recycling targets has been welcomed by the ICE as “rightly bringing the need for a circular economy to the fore”. However, it also warned that the new 70% target for municipal recycling was “extremely ambitious”, and would require strategic leadership and coordination.
The Commission’s new directive sets out a number of proposals to drive forward a transition from a linear to a “circular economy”, where waste is managed in such a way that it becomes a resource - a move the ICE called for in its State of the Nation: Waste report in 2011, and reiterated in its State of the Nation: Infrastructure 2014 scorecard launched in June, which graded the UK’s waste infrastructure C+ or “requires attention”.
One of the Commission’s main proposals is to encourage more recycling in EU member states through setting higher targets.
The plans asks member states to recycle 70% of municipal waste and 80% of packaging waste by 2030, and outlines a ban on burying recyclable waste in landfill as of 2025.
A target is also included for reducing marine litter, along with food waste reduction objectives.
The Commission argues that achieving the new waste targets would create 580,000 jobs, while making Europe more competitive and reducing demand for costly, scarce resources.
The ICE said the Commission’s announcement brought the need for a circular economy to the centre of political debate, but stressed that the target was ambitious for the UK and would require a different approach.
ICE waste and resource management expert panel chair Nigel Mattravers said: “The European Commission’s new recycling targets rightly bring the need to develop a ‘circular economy’ to the fore, and will encourage EU member states to seek the optimum value from waste.
“The new 70% target is, however, extremely ambitious for the UK, given the momentum behind the current 2020 goal of 50% recycling has flatlined, and meeting it will require strategic leadership and coordination.”
He added that this could be achieved through the creation of an “Office for Resource Management” sitting within government.
“This would ensure the circular economy principle is fully understood and entrenched right across government,” he said.
The ICE’s State of the Nation: Infrastructure 2014 scorecard said the Office for Resource Management could sit within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and provide coordination, policy development,modelling and research.
It would also be responsible for liaison with devolved administrations in the pursuit of UK- wide targets or EU regulations.