DGXI pushes ahead with recycling target hike

Member states not opposed to upping packaging recycling quota, some call for minimal revision

The European Commission's waste unit is to push ahead with drafting new recycling targets for packaging waste, following a meeting of member state representatives earlier this week which expressed muted support for the idea. According to a Commission official, there was no major opposition from the national experts to proposing "substantially increased targets" from those currently in force under the 1994 packaging waste directive.

Such an increase is foreseen in the law, but has been fiercely opposed by the packaging industry, which argues that many countries have only begun to implement recycling systems and that more time is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of the current rules. In the most recent draft, the waste department of the Commission's environment directorate (DGXI) suggested that the current overall 25-45% recycling target for 2001 be increased to a 75% recycling and reuse target by 2006. Minimum targets for individual waste types such as plastics, steel and glass would be increased from 15% to 45% (ENDS Daily 28 June).

The DGXI official admited that that draft had been deliberately "provocative" and had come in for a fair amount of criticism from some member states during this week's meeting. Although the exact level of increase will remain a hot topic, the principle of revising the targets upwards was no longer under discussion, he said.

As the waste unit is now certain to produce new draft targets, the debate in the coming months will centre around how far the Commission will try to revise other aspects of the directive. Opinion among member states on this is split, with Denmark, Austria and Belgium reportedly in favour of radical changes and a stricter directive, while big countries, such as the UK, France, Spain and Germany would rather limit the revision to just the targets.

Following the meeting, it looks like the waste unit will withdraw its suggestion that the individual waste material targets apply only to "sales packaging" - the packaging used on the final product received by a customer. This was judged too complicated to monitor by member states and Commission officials have taken this criticism on board.

Some of the other controversial changes may remain in the next draft, however. These include the idea of a combined recycling and reuse target and the deletion of incineration from the possible options for waste recovery foreseen in the current directive.

The waste unit will draft its proposal after the summer holiday and present it to another meeting of member state experts in November. Subject to scrutiny from the rest of the Commission, that draft will form the basis of an official legislative proposal that the waste unit wants to see published before the end of the year.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111.

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