10% Landfill target works against Circular Economy

Zero Waste Europe releases today a Policy Briefing which analyses in depth the new Landfill Directive, part of the Circular Economy Package adopted in 2018.
Peter von Bechen, pixelio.de

Specifically the landfill minimisation target, a key element which could contradict the overarching principles of the EU Circular Economy Agenda.

The target obliges Member States to limit the amount of municipal waste due to be landfilled to 10% or less of municipal waste generated at any given year by 2035.

As the briefing describes, meeting the target is extremely challenging and the way it’s defined and must be calculated (in any given year and defined as a percentage) may cause unwanted consequences.

The first challenge is the lack of emphasis on waste reduction which translates into a paradox: it doesn’t matter how much waste you produce, it only matters the 10% of it, since the percentage would anyway have to be calculated in any given year on the remaining waste.

The second consequence is the potential interest to invest in waste incineration so as to minimise landfilling.

“This could consequently create a lock-in situation, with waste compelled to go to incineration, rather than reuse or recycling, therefore contravening the principles and strategic goals of the Circular Economy Package, which gives a clear priority to reducing waste and maximising material recovery“, commented Janek Vähk, Climate, Energy and Air Pollution Coordinator, Zero Waste Europe

Both consequences work against the real ultimate goal of minimising tonnes of waste.

Zero Waste Europe recommends amending the Landfill Directive in two complementary ways, in order to align it with the overarching principles and strategic goals of the EU Circular Economy Agenda:

Set the landfill target with reference to a baseline year, instead of “any given year”. This would reward the efforts on waste reduction, which are placed higher up in the waste hierarchy, and should be regarded as “Plan A” for sustainability.

Adopt a landfill target in kgs of waste per person per year, instead of a percentage,
so as to reward those areas (communities, local authorities) who are implementing progressive waste management strategies to minimise the generation of residual waste.


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