The European Commission recently published the latest review of how well EU waste rules are applied across Europe, presenting challenges and ways forward. Despite continuous progress in Member States and an overall good performance at EU level, there are serious gaps that must be swiftly addressed if Europe is to reap the environmental and economic benefits of the circular economy. 14 European countries that are lagging behind are presented with early warning reports, including possible actions to improve their waste management.
The report gives an overview of progress and implementation challenges for several waste streams, including municipal waste, construction and demolition waste, hazardous waste, waste electrical and electronic equipment, packaging waste, and suggests areas for improvement for each of them.
For municipal waste, 14 Member States have been identified as at risk of missing the 2020 target of 50% recycling: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain. For these countries the Commission presents blueprints for action to ensure compliance with EU waste legislation. These actions include more effective separate collection to ensure high quality recycling, efficient Extended Producer Responsibility schemes, economic instruments such as landfill and incineration taxes, and improved data quality.
Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, said: “With the EU waste rules recently adopted by the European Parliament and by the Council of Ministers, Europe can become the global front-runner for modern waste management and further develop its circular economy. There are still differences across Europe, but progress is necessary and possible if the respective national and local authorities implement the actions identified in this report. The Commission is there to help by offering technical assistance, structural fund support and support in the exchange of best practices.”
Legal obligations on the management of municipal waste are laid down in the Waste Framework Directive. These include a 50 % municipal waste preparing for re-use/recycling target to be achieved by 2020. The Directive was recently revised to include new and more ambitious targets: 55 % to be achieved by 2025, 60 % by 2030 and 65 % by 2035. The revised Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive introduces a new plastic packaging recycling target of 55% to be reached by 2030.
In a follow-up to this report, the Commission will undertake high-level circular economy visits to the Member States at risk of not meeting the 2020 municipal waste targets, to discuss the opportunities and challenges with the national, regional and local authorities and the relevant stakeholders, including businesses. The Commission will continue to support Member States in their implementation efforts, including through technical assistance (e.g. via the Environmental Implementation Review and exchange of best practices) and with EU funds. It is up to national authorities, however, to intensify the process of necessary policy reform and step up action on the ground.