This week, saw MEPs in Strasbourg vote for a resolution demanding binding recycling targets for plastic waste. It was in response to the European Commission’s Green Paper on plastic waste, published in March last year.

Members of the European Parliament have voted for a target of 80% waste collection across the EU, and will also demand a review of the current packaging waste directive to be carried out.

Currently, member states are only required to recycle 50% of their household waste by 2020.

The new resolution will also call upon the European Commission to phase out the land-filling of plastic waste by 2020.

Environmentalists hailed the vote as a positive step towards a 0% waste policy. Italian rapporteur, Vittorio Prodi, said that the Parliament “has shown the way to deal with the huge problem of the detrimental impact of plastic waste on the environment and human health.”

Sig. Prodi, who last year published a report on the European Strategy on plastic waste in the Environment, said that the resolution meant “closing the loop” and creating a “circular economy.” He said the resolution would, “help to clean up our seas and land, while creating more job opportunities.”

The European plastics trade body, Plastics Europe said that the resolution was well in line with their policy of sending 0% waste to landfill by 2020.

Executive director, Karl Foerster, said “plastics are too valuable a resource to be carelessly discarded or buried in landfills….we call for a strong enforcement of the current EU waste legislation to reduce to zero the amount of recyclable and high-calorific waste going to landfill.”

Plastics are a largely unexploited resource, which when recycled can be adapted for use in so many different industries. It’s thought that by enforcing this legislation, Europe could save up to €72bn a year. It’s also thought that the proposals could give up to €42bn to recycling firms across Europe.

Earlier this month, a report from Bristol based waste consultancy firm, Eunomia, found that nearly 84% of those asked believed that the European Commission should be doing something about recycling targets.

The British government had questioned the need to change current EU targets, claiming that some member states would not be in a position to achieve the recycling targets by 2020. Last November, the UK government asked “we are aware that in poor economic times, a number of member states are not currently on course to meet 2020 targets.

The government called for the EU to support member states in reaching the current target rather than introducing new ones.

This was also a view held by waste industry trade body, the Environmental Services Association (ESA). The ESA’s policy advisor Roy Hathaway said in September, “in an EU of 28 Member States, there are huge variations in recycling levels, financial resources and political will to change.”

Despite these appeals, the Commission is continuing its plans to encourage higher recycling levels across Europe, with plans for the proposals put forward by the commission expected to be completed in the spring, later in the year.

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