A consultation from the European Union has proposed that weight-based targets for packaging materials should be abandoned.
In a consultation on the review of waste management targets that is being undertaken by the European Commission, the document notes that: “There is no strong basis for different recycling rates that have been set for glass, paper/board, metals, plastics and wood in Article 6(1)e of the Packaging Directive. These weight-based targets do not have an environmental basis and are therefore not in alignment with the Resource Efficiency Roadmap and Raw Materials Initiative.”
It says that as a result, there is “no level playing field across all materials” with glass having a much higher recycling target than glass.
Therefore, the consultation asks whether recycling targets for different materials should be brought closer together to ensure this level playing field, as well as incorporate weightings based on the environmental benefits derived from recycling the material.
It also asks whether targets for some packaging materials could be subdivided into subcategories. For example, it states that metals could be divided into non-ferrous and ferrous, and plastics into separate targets for PET, HDPE and LDPE.
In terms of municipal waste, the consultation points out that the Waste Framework Directive says that paper, metal, plastic and glass should be collected separately.
With quality of material currently being a concern, the consultation suggests that “this has to be considered in any change to the targets”.
It also says that the target waste stream for municipal waste is defined as being from “households and possibly from other origins as far as these waste streams are similar to waste from households” and that this leaves too much room for interpretation and makes the performance against the targets non-comparable.
The consultation is also concerned that countries are using landfill diversion targets to switch from landfilling large proportions of waste to treating large amounts of waste through incineration or mechanical biological treatment, and as a result treatment methods further up the waste hierarchy are not used.
It is therefore asking whether targets should be introduced for a progressive reduction in the quantity of residual waste irrespective of how it is subsequently managed (whether it is sent to incineration, MBT, or landfill or any other residual waste management method).
As part of the consultation process, it is also asking whether there should be a requirement that waste generated per capita should be in decline by 2020 including targets for decoupling of municipal waste from economic growth.
It is also consulting on going beyond targets, so that Member States may be closely monitored by the European Commission in terms of applying the waste hierarchy. For countries that are moving too slowly towards this, they may be required to introduce mechanisms such as landfill or incineration taxes or bans, enhanced producer responsibility schemes and incentives for local municipalities and citizens.
This could also include the European Commission developing criteria to implement services of a minimum standard to enable sorting of a range of waste materials for recycling and composting/anaerobic digestion.
The consultation document is available here