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EU adopts new waste management and recycling rules

The EU Member States have approved a set of ambitious measures to make EU waste legislation fit for the future, as part of the EU's wider circular economy policy. The new rules – based on Commission's proposals part of the Circular Economy package presented in December 2015 – will help to prevent waste and, where this is not possible, step up recycling of municipal and packaging waste.

EU Member States adopt new EU waste rules with no more than 10 percent of municipal waste generated going to landfill.

The new legislation will phase out landfilling and promote the use of economic instruments, such as Extended Producer Responsibility schemes while strengthening the “waste hierarchy” by requiring Member States to take specific measures to prioritize prevention, re-use and recycling above landfilling and incineration, thus making the circular economy a reality.

The final approval of new EU waste rules by the Council marks an important moment for the circular economy in Europe. The new recycling and landfilling targets set a credible and ambitious path for better waste management in Europe. Our main task now is to ensure that the promises enshrined in this waste package are delivered on the ground. The Commission will do all it can to support Member States and make the new legislation deliver on the ground, said Karmenu Vella Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

The European Commission had originally presented proposals for new waste rules in 2014, which were withdrawn and replaced by better designed, more circular and more ambitious proposals on December 2015 as part of the Circular Economy agenda of the Juncker Commission. These proposals were then adopted and are now part of the EU rulebook.

The new rules represent the “most modern waste legislation in the world, where the EU is leading by example” for others to follow.

The details of the new waste rules:

Recycling targets for municipal waste:

  • By 2025 55 %
  • By 2030 60%
  • By 2035 65%

In addition, stricter rules for calculating recycling rates will help to better monitor real progress towards the circular economy.

New recycling targets for packaging waste:

By 2025      By 2030

All packaging             65%            70%
Plastic                            50%            55%
Wood                             25%            30%
Ferrous metals          70%            80%
Aluminium                   50%           60%
Glass                                70%           75%
Paper & cardboard  75%           85%

Separate collection

Building on the existing separate collection obligation for paper and cardboard, glass, metals and plastic, new separate collection rules will boost the quality of secondary raw materials and their uptake: hazardous household waste will have to be collected separately by 2022, bio-waste by 2023 and textiles by 2025.

Food scrap collection at a lunch restaurant in Skellefteå, Sweden, where the city has separate collection and processing of organic waste to produce biomethane which is then used as fuel to run the city buses. The plastic bag used is bio-based.

Phasing out landfilling

Landfilling of waste makes no sense in a circular economy and can pollute water, soil and air. By 2035 the amount of municipal waste landfilled must be reduced to 10 percent or less of the total amount of municipal waste generated.

Incentives

The new legislation foresees more use of effective economic instruments and other measures in support of the waste hierarchy. Producers are given an important role in this transition by making them responsible for their products when they become waste. New requirements for extended producer responsibility schemes will lead to improving their performance and governance. In addition, mandatory extended producer responsibility schemes have to be established for all packaging by 2024.

Prevention

The new legislation will place a particular focus on waste prevention and introduce important objectives for food waste in the EU and stopping marine litter to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals in these areas.

Background

As part of its Circular Economy Action Plan, the European Commission (EC) adopted on December 2, 2015, a package of legislative proposals on waste. A provisional agreement on the Commission’s four legislative proposals was reached between the co-legislators on December 18, 2017. The European Parliament endorsed the agreement at its Plenary Session in April 2018. The new rules will enter into force 20 days following publication in the Official Journal.

In 1995, on average 64 percent of municipal waste was landfilled in the EU. In 2000, the average had been reduced to 55 percent while the average recycling rate stood at 25 percent. In 2016, landfilling of household waste in the EU as a whole dropped to 24 percent, with recycling has increased to 46 percent. However, Yet, big differences between EU countries remain. In 2016 ten Member States still landfilled over 50 percent of their household waste and six of them incinerated 40 percent or more.

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