UK Government says no to higher EU recycling targets and landfill bans


Higher European Union recycling targets should not be implemented, the UK Government has said.

In its response to the European Commission consultation on the Review of European Waste Management Targets, the UK Government said it “would not support” higher recycling targets.


Although submitted in late September, the document has not been made public but was circulated to a small number of stakeholders in the past few days and has been seen by Resource Efficient Business.

In a bizarre line, tensions between the Welsh and Scottish governments that have been seeking to implement higher targets, and the UK Government are made clear.

The sentence said: “The UK’s devolved administrations have been consulted in developing this position paper, although this should be considered a UK Government, not UK, response.”

In the document, drafted by Defra on behalf of the UK Government, it is made clear that it does not wish to see changes to targets or extension of landfill bans.

The document said: “The UK Government would NOT [sic] support the following as they would be unlikely to improve the current system and could result in perverse or unintended outcomes:

  1. Changing the targets or definitions for 2020 set out in the Waste Framework Directive
  2. New environmental targets – the EU environmental policy framework is largely complete and new environmental targets, including targets on waste prevention and reuse, are unlikely to be needed unless new evidence becomes available that the benefits of new targets would outweigh the costs. Any new environmental targets would require clear and robust justification supported by full impact assessments, including evidence that they would not adversely impact economic growth and that voluntary action would not deliver the required outcomes. This evidence base is not currently in place. Development of new indicators should be the focus ahead of any proposals for new targets, so that these would be demonstrably economically-efficient, cost-effective, realistic and achievable.
  3. Extending landfill bans or restrictions for specific materials at an EU-level, unless there is a clear economic and environmental case to do so.”

It also stressed that Defra believes that the European Commission should find ways to help Member States implement existing targets before setting new targets.

The UK Government also supports “the Commission in focussing effort on assisting Member States to extract the value from waste materials, with a view towards developing a circular economy. The European Commission should determine the barriers in existing legislation to reuse, recycling and recognising the value from waste products. For example, focussing on recyclate quality throughout the supply chain will help maximise the environmental and economic benefits of reprocessing raw materials”.

It also wants to see the European Commission reduce regulatory burdens for businesses, improve data comparability across the EU, allow flexibility for local solutions and develop alternatives to targets such as sharing best practice and guidance on direction or travel.