Countries have a chance to raise their recycling ambitions past circular economy targets, finds report

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A new report from Zero Waste Europe and Eunomia has found that countries that haven’t overinvested in residual waste treatment have the chance to increase their recycling and reuse ambitions past the circular economy targets.  

The study examined the residual waste treatment capacity of 14 countries at risk of missing the 2020 targets for reuse and recycling and suggests that most countries may still be on time to develop their waste management system in line with the circular economy by 2035.

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Zero Waste Europe development and policy coordinator Janek Vahk said: “The circular economy objectives are not a goal, but rather a minimum standard, and Member States can and should go beyond them. It is crucial that EU cohesion funds support them on this path, instead of financing antiquated technologies that send recyclables up in smoke.” 

The report also showed that countries including Estonia, Finland and Poland, which are overinvesting in infrastructures such as incinerators, might end up with an overcapacity in residual waste treatment, which will discourage them from increasing the circular economy targets.  

A case study published by Zero Waste Europe in January this year also found how the presence of incineration plants in Madeira and Azores is discouraging waste separate collection and recycling on the islands.  

The European Parliament’s plenary is voting on 27 March on the use of EU cohesion funds. 

Zero Waste Europe has urged Members of the Parliament to think circular and ensure public funds are investment to help Member States improve their waste prevention, reuse and recycling performance.  

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