Kick-starting the Circular Economy!

By David BERMAN, Head of EU Public Affairs, VEOLIA

What legislative orientations to tap EU’s recycling potential?

As an operator of resource management in the water, waste and energy sectors, recycling is at the core of Veolia’s activities. In 2015, Veolia treated 43 million tons of waste and recovered more than 30 million into energy or materials, mostly in the EU.

Despite the pressure on raw materials’ availability – due to growing population and needs coupled with the effects of climate change – providing innovative recycling solutions both for cities and industries requires overcoming significant challenges.

Surprisingly, if some of these challenges can be of technical nature: complexity and variety of polymers in a given industry, etc.; the main obstacles to the development of recycling remain regulatory and economical ones.

1) Extending the ambitious recycling targets to all nonhazardous Commercial & Industrial waste
Although the “Circular Economy Package” encompasses measures applying to the whole economic value chain, binding recycling targets to be achieved by 2030 are at the core of the legislative proposals published by the Commission last year. These ambitious targets mainly address municipal waste preparation for reuse and recycling (65%) and recycling packaging waste (75%). Extending them to other non-hazardous commercial and
industrial waste makes sense with regard to their weight in the total waste generation.
Furthermore, these streams representing a more important amount of recyclable materials and energy without need for prior decontamination would help reach the targets.
An important political signal would be given at least by foreseeing such extension, while leaving time to gather appropriate data and prepare proper impact assessment.

2) Clearly distinguishing Commercial & Industrial waste from Municipal waste, including a ‘quantity’ criterion
The definition of Municipal waste will cover “household waste and comparable waste from other sources”. The notion of “comparable” should not leave room for uncertainty with regards to the scope of public service obligations: households should not bear the costly recycling of waste produced by economic activities, especially when there is already a functioning open market.

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