MEPs vote to boost recycling rates and limit food waste

An estimated 88 million tonnes of food are wasted each year in the EU - enough to feed the 55 million Europeans living in food poverty more than nine times over. [Eli Duke/Flickr]

After 51 organisations and 64,000 people in the EU backed a campaign to reduce food waste, MEPs voted today (14 March) in support of a 50% reduction by 2030.

In the draft amendments to the “waste package” legislation, MEPs voted on four waste-management directives, but mainly focused on waste accumulated from households and small firms—which account for 8% of all waste.

MEP Simona Bonafè, the author of the four directives on waste reduction and recycling, was backed by a large majority in the European Parliament, according to the Socialists and Democrats Group.

Around 88 million tonnes of food are wasted each year in the EU—enough to feed the 55 million Europeans living in food poverty more than nine times over.

“This is one of Europe’s biggest environmental and humanitarian crises, and it will only get worse if policy makers don’t come up with a legally binding framework to prevent this,” said Piotr Barczak, waste policy officer for the European Environmental Bureau, a green campaign group.

With this vote, by 2030 the share of recyclable waste should rise to 70%, from 44% today, that of food wast to 50% and landfilling will be limited to 5%.

EU proposes to halve food waste in Europe by 2030

People are being urged to support calls by a major pan-European group to halve ‘farm to fork’ food waste in Europe by 2030, on the eve of a landmark vote later this month. EURACTIV’s partner The Guardian reports.

The text approved today also includes an 80% target for recycling packaging waste, mandatory separate collection for main waste streams (including biowaste, waste oils and textiles), increased use of economic instruments (such as landfill and incineration taxes and deposit-return schemes) and more clarity on the decontamination of hazardous components in waste.

These steps will help towards creating a circular economy in Europe, where as few resources as possible will be wasted.

EU ministers are expected to take a position on the circular economy strategy in the coming months. The text represents Parliament’s negotiating position ahead of talks with the Council.

EU auditors slam Commission’s food waste policies

In a report published today (17 January), the EU Court of Auditors heavily criticised the European Commission for its failure to contribute to a resource-efficient food supply chain by effectively tackling food waste.

The Parliament also called on the Commission to consider the possibility of making these food waste reduction targets legally binding by 2020.

“Binding targets are vitally needed to face the urgent challenges of climate change, land and water depletion, and food poverty. We see time and again that voluntary codes have uneven rates of uptake and often deliver lacklustre results, whereas binding regulation delivers a level playing field and leads to swift and dramatic improvements,” said Martin Bowman, campaigner for This Is Rubbish, the organisation that led the campaign.

“Today’s vote is a major step towards a circular economy. We want to move away from a ‘take, make, dispose’ model with a fast-turnover principle to an economy where products are designed to last and can be repaired, reused, recycled, and remanufactured,” Bonafè said.

Positions

MEP and rapporteur of the waste package Simona Bonafé said, "Around 600 million tonnes of waste are just thrown away in Europe, when they could be reinvested in the economy. We call for 70% of all waste to be recycled by 2030. The report voted today proposes to strengthen separate waste-collection systems for different kinds of waste and we added the obligation for biowaste and textiles. This is a pre-requisite for establishing a high-quality recycling market and for reaching the targets set. For member states with the lowest recycling rates it will no longer be possible to receive a ‘blanket’ derogation, any derogation will be subject to specific conditions."

“This beefed-up waste package is encouraging. Especially if you look back on how this file was almost derailed by the Commission. Only under pressure from the European Parliament, was the Commission prepared to go back on its initial plan to remove this package from its working programme. That we increased the level of ambition again strengthens the position of the Parliament in the upcoming trilogue discussions with the Council."

S&D vice-president for sustainability Kathleen Van Brempt said, “This beefed-up waste package is encouraging. Especially if you look back on how this file was almost derailed by the Commission. Only under pressure from the European Parliament, was the Commission prepared to go back on its initial plan to remove this package from its working programme. That we increased the level of ambition again strengthens the position of the Parliament in the upcoming trilogue discussions with the Council.To allow us to fully close the loop, our waste policies must be embedded into a circular economy policy that focuses on the whole lifecycle of products.

Ana-Christina Gaeta, resources policy officer for HCWH Europe said, "Today, the EP voted in favour of a review clause calling on the European Commission to set legally binding targets by 2020. This demonstrates that the European Parliament is in fact committed to reducing food waste. We hope that Member States will back this call, and that the EC will follow through and set the legislative target that is so baldy needed to slash the senseless wastage of food across the Union.”

MEP João Ferreira said, "We must consider the different baselines among member states when meeting the targets for recycling, which have now been revised upwards. This means there is a difference in the level of effort each member state will have to make to meet these targets. Without calling into question the revised targets, there should be more flexibility with the timing required to achieve them.”

Ferran Rosa, Zero Waste Europe’s policy officer said, "The Parliament has raised the stakes for the circular economy. It’s time for the Member States to make it happen."

European Green Party Co-Chair Reinhard Bütikofer said, "The European Parliament voting on the proposals by the Environment Committee for enhancing the circular economy has shown great resolve to promote this transformation of Europe’s economy. The Juncker Commission, when it first came into office, was misguided by some business lobbyists to renounce ambitious plans advocated by Commissioner Potočnik and the Barroso II Commission in 2014.

"Under heavy pressure from industries concerned, civil societies, stakeholders, member states and from the European Parliament, the Juncker Commission then promised to increase the ambition on the circular economy. Now, the European Parliament has moved to make good on the Commission’s promise.

"We expect that some member states and some stubborn lobbies will try to reduce the level of ambition, but the EU would be wasting time it does not have if it did not move forward to overcome step by step the waste paradigm in order to build a full circular economy. Going circular means advancing the dynamic and the resilience of Europe’s economy. Not doing this means running in circles while others progress."

Guy Thiran, Eurometaux’s director general, said, “We applaud MEPs for looking beyond just the numbers in today’s vote. Until we have a common method to measure exactly how much of our waste gets recycled, it doesn’t matter whether the EU’s headline recycling targets are 65 per cent or 70 per cent.  The European Parliament now needs to make a strong calculation method its top priority for talks with other EU institutions. We can only gage the realism and ambition of recycling targets once we know what Member States will be measuring”.

Background

Commission announces investment boost for circular economy

The EU executive announced today (26 January) the first steps towards legislation on the burning of waste for energy, and that it would work with the European Investment Bank to spur financial backing for projects supporting the shift to a circular economy.

Further Reading