In early July 2018 the EU’s Circular Economy package came into force. This is made up of four new EU Directives which amend existing directives on waste management, landfill, packaging and packaging waste, end-of-life vehicles, waste batteries, and waste electrical and electronic equipment. An array of binding waste management targets are set in relation to reuse, recycling and landfill. This article provides an overview of the new package. Subsequent articles will provide further detail on discrete aspects of the package.

Circular

Essentially the policy aims to tackle the current economic model which dominates the use of resources. This is largely linear in nature (i.e. make, use and dispose). Broadly (there are several other arguments) it is argued that this model is highly inefficient and is not sustainable. The packages seeks to drive further exploitation of resources via reuse, recycling etc. This in turn requires more attention to product design, business models, economic (dis)incentives and waste management infrastructure and services.

What is amended?

The package sets binding recycling and waste reduction targets and more stringent rules on waste management. The four directives in the package are:

  • Directive (EU) 2018/851 amending the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC).
  • Directive (EU) 2018/850 amending the Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC).
  • Directive (EU) 2018/852 amending the Packaging and packaging waste Directive (94/62/EC).
  • Directive (EU) 2018/849 amending the End-of-life vehicles Directives (2000/53/EC), the Batteries and accumulators Directive 2006/66/EC and the WEEE Directive (2012/19/EU - waste electrical and electronic equipment).

Under the revisions to the Waste Framework Directive, Member States will have to ensure they recycle at least 55% of their municipal waste by 2025. This target rises to 60% by 2030 and 65% by 2035. There are a number of other requirements which we will cover in a subsequent article.

Under the revisions to the Landfill Directive further pressure will be exerted to divert waste from landfill. The target is to cut landfilled municipal waste to 10% by 2035. This is particularly relevant to those EU Member States which are still reliant on landfill.

Member States will be required to ensure that 65% overall of product packaging is recycled by 2025, and rising to 70% in 2030 (within this there are individual packaging materials targets; for example, the target is 30% for wood, 55% for plastic, 75% for glass and 85% for paper in 2030).

The package includes new rules on the treatment of old cars, used batteries and waste electrical and electronic equipment, and a non-legally binding target to halve food waste in Europe by 2030.

Implementation

EU Member States have two years to incorporate the circular economy package into national legislation, with another two to three years to start implementing changes. Of course in light of Brexit, it remains to be seen exactly what this will mean for the UK.

Commentary

This package has been many years in the making and very well sign posted by the EU. It represents another significant step in waste management policy and law. We doubt however that anyone will be naïve enough to suggest that these measures alone will turn the EU economies into circular economies in a short space of time. Other significant measures will be required (including economic (dis)incentives) and these may arise from the experience gained over the next few years. Particular areas which we suspect will come under increasing attention include a greater concentration on product design (to enable higher quality products to be produced from end of life goods/waste) and levelling of the playing field between use of raw materials and use of waste derived materials.