To become the resource efficiency champion it wants to be, the European Union must put in place a recycling super-highway. Many of the items that are discarded today, especially when it comes to packaging, end up in landfills or incinerators – even though they are recyclable. These must be recycled. EU citizens want to recycle. Here is how to do that.
Firstly, the EU should invest at least EUR 25 billion* in new and better collection and recycling infrastructure over the next decade. This boost will help ensure that the EU meets its real objectives** and that the countries that still lag behind can catch up with the more advanced. Recycling should be a European value. The same high standards should apply across the EU.
In parallel, the EU should setup a competitive framework to reduce the complexity of materials used in products which will need to be recycled. This could be achieved, for example, by ensuring that Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) charges are calculated using a multiplier that takes into account the number of materials used or the product’s recyclability.
Taken together, these efforts should significantly boost recycling and make recycled materials much more accessible across Europe. This would be a win for the economy and a win for the environment.
To ensure the long-term success of Europe’s recycling ambitions, future disbursements of EU development funds should be tied to the attainment of real recycling targets. These should also be accompanied by collection targets.
* On average, each of the EU’s 500 million citizens generates around 500 Kg of municipal waste per year. EUR 25 billion would represent only 10 eurocents per kilogramme of waste generated.
** With the recent update to the EU’s waste rules, the EU has set the bar higher when it comes to recycling objectives from 2020 onwards. Until recently, a big portion of recycling occurred outside the EU. With the recent Chinese ban on EU waste, this should now be treated in Europe and more capacity will be needed to do so.