Waste management industry calls for end to EU recycling targets

The UK should scrap overarching weight-based recycling targets outlined in the EU’s Circular Economy Package and instead set individual goals for specific materials.


That is according to a new report from the Environmental Services Association (ESA), which explains how weight is not the best way of measuring what is reused in new products.

It says that individual materials should each have their own targets linked to the best environmental option, and that ‘hard to recycle’ products be subject to a cost recovery charge.

Moreover, the report calls for domestic recycling capacity to be prioritised post-Brexit, arguing that it makes more sense to recover materials in the UK than it does to send them around the world.

“Current EU waste policy measures success or failure on the basis of how heavy something is when it is recycled,” ESA executive director, Jacob Hayler, said.

“There is clearly scope in a post-Brexit world for us to do something much smarter which actually focuses properly on environmental outcomes and enables us to capture more value from our waste resources.”

The report highlights how current weight-based targets have been useful in driving performance to date, but that their lack of sophistication has compromised quality.

It explains, for example, how heavy materials like garden waste can be collected to improve performance, when the better environmental option might be home composting.

In the short-term, it proposes that weight-based targets continue in line with EU policy, but that additional metrics like resource productivity and environmental performance are used in the longer-term.

“A dashboard of metrics would allow different actors across the value chain to play their part in protecting the environment, maximising resource productivity and supporting the transition to the circular economy,” the report states.

“Our system has become more sophisticated and we need to update our approach to ensure that we’re nurturing a high-performing and sustainable waste management sector.”


Image credit: iStock


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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